Coronavirus & Employment
Published 23 March 2020
The current crisis raises a lot of queries around employment rights. Given the circumstances surrounding this crisis are changing on a daily basis we recommend you check the most up to date government guidance and any financial support you may be entitled to as an employer as it is likely to impact upon the options you may have so this will require careful consideration.
We have identified below a number of employment issues that may arise;
1) Concerns around employees working from home
The employee must be able to do their job from home to benefit from home working. Employees who are not fulfilling their duties and completing their work at home may be managed through either capability or disciplinary procedures depending on the circumstances and reasons for poor performance.
2) Lay off
A lot of employers have seen a significant drop in business, especially those in the hospitality sector. If you are, despite the availability of any financial assistance, unable to retain employees and are considering temporary lay off without pay you need to be mindful that there is no right for you to place employees on unpaid lay off without a provision for this in your contracts of employment.
If there is no contractual provision in the employment contracts then you require the employee’s consent. You also need to consider an employee’s entitlement to guarantee pay which is statutory.
Remember an employee remains employed during any lay off period, and a lengthy lay off (which is likely to be required in this scenario) may give rise to an employee’s right to seek their own statutory redundancy entitlement.
3) Reduction in hours
This correlates with the lay off provisions and whether the financial assistance is available to you to avoid this. Again you must have contractual provision to do this otherwise you require the employee’s consent.
4) Parental commitments of employees
Employees who cannot work due to childcare commitments may be entitled to emergency leave to care for dependants. This leave is unpaid, unless you have through written contracts, or via custom and practice effected a contractual term that provides pay. This is not intended to be long term however, so whilst it may cover short term school closures, it is not intended for longer term issues likely to be the case here.
Employees may however be entitled to parental leave in the longer term. Again parental leave in this scenario is unpaid unless your contracts or custom and practice have effected a contractual term to the contrary. Parental leave is also time limited.
In the unfortunate event that you are considering redundancies, remember that redundancy must be the last resort. You should therefore have looked into and availed of any financial support to avoid this. You would also need to follow a proper redundancy procedure.
Given the nature of this crisis, regular changes in government guidance and assistance, coupled with the complexity of employment law generally we would encourage you to contact us regarding your own situation so that we may best advise you. We are mindful that this situation requires urgent consideration of both legal and practical implications for your business in both the short and long term so please do not hesitate to contact MKB Law’s Employment team for advice.
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.