Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Businesses – Relating to COVID-19

During these unprecedented times Clover HR want to provide you with as much support and advice as we possibly can.

As such we have put together a Frequently Asked Questions and Answers sheet, which we will be adding to on a regular basis.

Rest assured we are here to support you and your business, whilst we get through this tough time together.

Q1). Should we deep clean our offices?

Try to reduce the spread of infection by providing soap and hand sanitiser gels with alcohol, especially in communal areas like kitchens and coffee areas. Provide employees with hand sanitisers if available. Increase the frequency and intensity of office cleaning; consider a deep clean; think about frequent wiping down of communal spaces such as kitchens, handrails on stairs, lift buttons, door handles, etc. Some workplaces are choosing to ban handshakes.

Q2). How do we pay people?

As normal and per the terms of their contracts of employment with you.

Q3). Can I implement short term working or start to lay employees off if I need to?

We have published a blog on Short-time Working for more information on this subject (the link is below for you). However, if your business is severely affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation you may need to look at introducing temporary measures in order to protect the workforce and the business. These measures include moving to short time working (where employees work less than their regular contractual hours, for example a three-day week). If the situation continues you could also consider lay-offs (where an employer asks employees to stay at home and not attend work or be paid for a temporary period). Employees with at least one month’s service who fall within the criteria will be entitled to a small fixed statutory guarantee payment to partially compensate them for the reduction in salary. Employees who are affected for longer periods may be entitled to redundancy pay.

Q4). Can you confirm what arrangements we should be taking regarding sickness pay and leave?

If NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, the Government’s new measures mean they are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one. This includes individuals who may be a carrier of COVID-19 who may not have symptoms and will also apply to people caring for those in the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate. Keep your employees up to date with any changes to your processes around reporting absence, medical certificates and fit notes. Government advice is to show discretion in asking for written medical evidence. It will also introduce a temporary alternative to the current fit note in for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak whereby those in self-isolation can obtain a notification via NHS 111 to use as evidence for absence from work. Be mindful of any other Contractual Sick Pay arrangements that you have in place should be honoured during this period.

Q5). What measures should be following if we are asking employees to work from home?

We have published some guidelines regarding this on our blog page on our website and our social media channels (link below for you). We have tried to make these reflective of the present circumstances; that home working needs to be established quickly and on a temporary basis.

Q6). Can we enforce leave for employees who cannot work from home i.e. drivers, but continue to let those that can work from home do so? 

You can tell your staff when to take leave and restrict when leave can be taken. The notice period for this needs to be at least twice as long as the leave they want their staff to take. There may be rules regarding this in individual contracts of employment. If you are doing this differently for different groups of employees, you need to ensure that it is not discriminatory.

Q7).  What if I need to send people home as a precautionary measure?

Employees are following the reasonable instruction of their employer and should get their normal pay.

Q8). What do I do when schools close and I cannot go to work as I need to look after my child/children?

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 all employees (regardless of their length of service) have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work without notice to deal with particular unexpected emergencies affecting their dependants.

It covers a wide range of situations, but it must be a genuine emergency that the employee was not aware of in advance.

It is the right to time off only for dealing with the immediate crisis. If the employee needs more time off, then this is better dealt with via annual or parental leave.

As a general rule, if the employee asks for more than one or two days off to deal with the crisis, then it is probably better dealt with by means other than emergency dependant leave.

Many employees would be able to work from home and employers would have to expect there to be some disruption to a person’s ability to work as normal, depending on the child’s age. Employees may choose to take this time off as holiday so normal processes and pay apply. If an employee is unable to work from home, they could be granted unpaid emergency time off or unpaid parental leave.

Q9).  Will my business be able to reclaim the SSP that I have to pay to employees in these exceptional circumstances?

The government are looking at bringing forward legislation to allow small and medium sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The main points on this are as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

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

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