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Emergency Leave

Emergency Leave

Employees are allowed to take time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care.

Employers should grant a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the emergency, but there’s no set amount of time as it depends on the situation.

On the 20th March 2020 the government announced a measure to close schools until further notice following the outbreak of the coronavirus within the UK. This will likely mean that many employees will be forced to take emergency leave.

How many people are affected by this announcement?

Millions of families will be affected by the announcement, creating gaps in the workforce as parents stay at home. It is expected that around 7 million children will be affected by the school closures.

The government have issued a list of key workers, who will be offered support from their local schools and nurseries during this period to ensure they can still provide a service to the public during this time.

These are exceptional circumstances and both employers and employees should be taking reasonable steps to prevent the risk and spread of the virus.

Who are Key Workers

  • Health and social care – all NHS staff, including administrative and cleaning workers, plus support and specialist staff in the health and social care sector. This also includes those working in supply chains including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment;
  • Education and childcare – Nursery, teachers – including teaching assistants – and social workers;
  • Food and other necessary goods – food chain workers, including those involved in production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of goods;
  • Key public services – postal workers, those required to run the justice system, religious staff, as well as those responsible for managing the deceased, and journalists providing public service broadcasting;
  • Local and national government – local and national government workers in admin roles “essential to the effective delivery” of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services, including payment of benefits;
  • Utility workers – employees needed to keep oil, gas, electricity, water and sewerage operations running. Staff in the civil nuclear, chemical and telecommunications sectors. Those in postal services and those working to provide essential financial services;
  • Public safety and national security – police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilian staff and armed forces personnel, fire and rescue staff, and workers responsible for border security, prisons and probation;
  • Transport – those keeping air, water, road, and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating.

What does this mean for employees who are forced to take emergency leave?

If an employee is able to work from home in some capacity then they should be paid as normal. If the employee has to reduce their hours, but are still able to work from home then you are able to alter their pay to this effect.

An employee may choose to take time off as annual leave, in which case they would be paid as normal. However, the announcement of the school closures did not give an end date, with some speculation around schools potentially not reopening until September. With this is mind it is doubtful an employee’s annual leave will last for the period required.

If an employee in unable to work from home then they can be given unpaid emergency leave. Emergency leave is normally meant to cover a few days whilst alternative arrangements are made. However, given the current situation the government has said that children should not be left with older grandparents or older relatives who may be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. As a result, given employees with children will be forced to stay at home employers should be flexible where possible.

Should it be necessary, employers can also consider offering a shorter working week or other flexible resourcing arrangements, communicating the business reasons to employees. Employers may wish to consider short-time working and lay-off working arrangements .

If you are considering lay-off arrangements, the government announced on Friday (20th March) It was announced that they will pay 80% of salaries for employees who are kept on by their employer that would otherwise have been made redundant or laid off. The job retention scheme will cover wages of up to £2,500 gross per month. In order to be eligible for the JRS the employees’ employment status will change to furloughed, which means they are no longer able to work.

If you would like further guidance or support on absence management or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk Copyright Clover HR

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