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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Contents

The workplace and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the laws on working.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official sources, so you can check the current situation.

Furloughing and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The UK government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows businesses severely affected by coronavirus to avoid redundancies by instead putting you on furlough leave and ensuring you're paid 80% of your salary (capped at £2,500 per individual).

The information below is correct as of 2 June 2020.

In a nutshell:

  • The scheme applies to UK businesses, charities and recruitment agencies.
  • The first step for your employer to apply is to put you on furlough leave, which requires your agreement and a change to the terms and conditions of your contract. They'll therefore need to put something in writing for you to sign.
  • Currently, the scheme runs until 31 October 2020, which is the date by which all furlough leave must end. However, the last date that you can start furlough leave for the first time is 10 June.
  • Until 30 June, if furloughed, it must be for at least 3 weeks. From 1 July, it must be at least 1 week.
  • While furloughed, you can't work for your employer. This will change from 1 July, at which point they can allow you to return on a part-time basis while still claiming from the scheme – however, from 1 August, they'll be required to make a contribution to your wages (see below).
  • Employers can make claims to HMRC using an online portal.
  • Claims can be backdated to 1 March, although there's some uncertainty around the rules for claiming as far back as that – it's possible, but not certain, that if you've already been put on unpaid leave since 28 February, your employer can retrospectively put you on furlough leave.

Changes to the scheme

From 1 July 2020, furloughed staff will be able to return to work part-time ('flexible furloughing') and, from 1 August, employers will have to pay a percentage of the salaries of their furloughed staff. Further information about these changes is expected to be published on 12 June. The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June.

Changes to grant payments

From 1 August, the level of government grant provided through the scheme will be tapered, as follows:

  • In August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay the employer's minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions in respect of that 80% (unless you've chosen to opt-out or to stop saving into a workplace pension scheme), plus the employer's National Insurance contributions in respect of that 80%.
  • In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay 10% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500). Employers must also pay the employer's minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions in respect of that 80% (unless you've chosen to opt-out or to stop saving into a workplace pension scheme), plus the employer's National Insurance contributions in respect of that 80%.
  • In October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay 20% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500). Employers must also pay the employer's minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions in respect of that 80% (unless you've chosen to opt-out or to stop saving into a workplace pension scheme), and the employer's National Insurance contributions in respect of that 80%.

Flexible furloughing

From 1 July:

  • Employers can bring you back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim under the scheme for your normal hours not worked. To be eligible for the grant, employers must agree with you any new flexible furloughing arrangement and confirm that agreement in writing. For worked hours, you'll be paid by your employer subject to your employment contract and employers will be responsible for paying the tax and NICs due on those amounts.
  • Employers can claim the grant for the hours you're not working, calculated by reference to your usual hours worked in a claim period. Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours you'd be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked. When claiming the grant for furloughed hours, employers will need to report and claim for at least one week. This is a minimum period and those making claims for longer periods will be able to do so.

Closure to new entrants

The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From 1 July, the scheme will only be available to employers that have previously used the scheme for staff they have previously furloughed for a full 3-week period prior to 30 June.

This means that the final date by which an employer can furlough you for the first time will be the 10 June, in order for the current 3-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June. Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims for the period up to 30 June.

From 1 July, claim periods will no longer be able to overlap months. Employers will be able to make their first claim under the changed scheme from 1 July.

Qualifying for the scheme

Your employer must:

  • be a UK business that's severely financially affected by coronavirus;
  • have created and started a PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020;
  • have a UK bank account; and
  • not receive any public funding (though there are some exceptions to this).

What does 'severely financially affected' mean?

This hasn't been clearly defined and interpretations will vary. However, GOV.UK guidance states that the scheme:

"...is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy. However, all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government recognises different businesses will face different impacts from coronavirus."

We can't be certain, but this seems to suggest a fairly broad interpretation will be acceptable.

What will the scheme pay?

  • In June and July, the government will pay 80% of your regular wage up to a cap of or £2,500 per month, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on the subsidised wage.
  • In August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. From this point onwards, your employer will have to pay the employer's minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions in respect of the 80% (unless you've chosen to opt-out or to stop saving into a workplace pension scheme), plus the employer's NICs in respect of the 80%.
  • In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Your employer will pay 10% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500), plus the NICs and pension contributions as per August.
  • In October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Your employer will pay 20% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500), plus the NICs and pension contributions as per August and September.

Guidance on both the scheme and furloughing are available on GOV.UK

Furlough leave

Here are some FAQs about the key aspects of furlough leave.

What is furlough leave?

It's a new form of leave in UK employment law. It essentially means a leave of absence that both you and your employer agree to. It's meant as a temporary period during which you're required not to work.

Which types of staff can be put on furlough leave?

Any of the following, on any type of contract, provided you're paid via PAYE and were on your employer's payroll (and HMRC were notified of this on an RTI submission) as of 19 March 2020:

  • Employees (including directors with service agreements)
  • Workers under a contract to provide services to your employer (provided your employer isn't your customer/client)
  • Agency workers (including those employed by an umbrella company)
  • Apprentices
  • Salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships; and
  • Company directors (without a service agreement) and other salaried directors of their own personal service companies. For annually paid directors, there must be an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020 relating to a payment of earnings in the 2019/20 tax year.

It doesn't apply to self-employed staff.

There are some exceptions to the 19 March on-payroll requirement – see below.

What about staff who've already been let go?

Your employer can still furlough you if you were on payroll as of 28 February 2020 (and HMRC were notified on an RTI submission) and:

  • were put on unpaid leave or unpaid sabbatical after 28 February; or
  • were made redundant, or stopped working for your employer (e.g. resigned to take another job that later fell through), after 28 February 2020. However, your employer must rehire you first. You don't have to have been rehired before 19 March. This includes situations where you've been given a redundancy notice but haven't yet officially left the business, so long as the reason for your redundancy is connected to the pandemic, otherwise it's currently unclear if you can be furloughed.

If you were given notice of redundancy before 28 February for reasons unconnected to the pandemic, it's currently unclear if you can be furloughed.

If you were on unpaid leave or unpaid sabbatical on or before 28 February, you can be furloughed after the agreed or contemplated duration of your leave/sabbatical has ended.

A person on a fixed-term contract can be re-employed, furloughed and claimed for, if either:

  • their contract expired after 28 February 2020 and an RTI payment submission for the person was notified to HMRC on or before 28 February 2020; or
  • their contract expired after 19 March 2020 and an RTI payment submission for the person was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020.

If the person's fixed-term contract has not already expired, it can be extended, or renewed. Your employer can claim for them if an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020.

What about TUPE?

A new employer can claim under the scheme for employees of a previous business who were transferred under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations after 28 February 2020.

How are staff put on furlough leave?

Your employer can only do it if you both agree to it – your employer needs your agreement because it'll change the terms of your contract.

They must discuss using the scheme with you beforehand. If they intend to use the scheme for 20 or more employees from one place of work, they'll probably need a collective consultation process.

Your employer must not discriminate when selecting which staff to furlough. But it's likely that they'll be able to justify furloughing staff who are disabled and have high-risk underlying health conditions, or older staff in high-risk groups.

Can furlough leave be rotated or used more than once?

Yes, your employer can rotate it among individuals, or put you on it more than once (provided each instance is for the minimum period). But, remember, that the last day you can be put on furlough for the first time is 10 June.

Can staff do any work while on furlough leave?

Flexible furloughing will apply from 1 July 2020.

Before then, you're not allowed to work for your employer while on furlough leave. You can do volunteer work or training, as long as this doesn't provide a service to your employer or generate any revenue for them.

Union or non-union representatives may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However, in doing this, they must not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer or on their behalf.

Can my employer recover payments for the apprenticeship levy or student loans from the scheme?

No, these cannot be recovered from the scheme and your employer must continue to pay them.

Can my employer recover from the scheme any statutory family leave payments?

No, they need to reclaim these in the usual way from HMRC. This applies if you're currently on maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave or parental bereavement leave.

However, if you were furloughed and then started one of these types of leave on or after 25 April 2020, your employer may need to calculate your average weekly earnings differently for the purposes of the statutory payments for these types of leave. GOV.UK contains links to specific guidance on this for each of these types of leave. The key point is that your eligibility for statutory pay shouldn't be affected by being furloughed.

Your employer can claim through the scheme for any enhanced maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or parental bereavement leave pay that they offer as part of your contract.

If you're getting Maternity Allowance while on maternity leave, you should not get furlough pay at the same time. If you've agreed to be put on furlough, contact Jobcentre Plus to stop your Maternity Allowance payments. If you agree to be put on furlough and end your maternity leave early, you will need to give at least 8 weeks' notice and you will not be eligible for furlough pay until the end of the 8 weeks.

Can my employer 'top up' the remaining balance to 100%?

Yes, but they do not have to.

If they do, they'll have to pay the amount of your earnings that's not covered by the grant (the top-up amount), plus employer National Insurance contributions and automatic pension enrolment contributions on the top-up amount. The amounts could be substantial if your gross wage is more than £2,500 per month.

What if staff have more than one employer?

Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

Can staff be put on furlough leave while on sick leave?

You shouldn't normally be furloughed if you're on sick leave for a short time. If your employer has a business reason to furlough you, you can be furloughed as long as they stop paying you sick pay. Or, they could wait until your sick leave ends before furloughing you.

If you become sick while furloughed, you retain your right to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This means that furloughed employees who become ill must be paid at least SSP. It is up to your employer to decide whether to move you onto SSP or to keep you on furlough, at your furloughed rate.

If you are moved onto SSP, your employer can no longer claim for the furloughed salary. Your employer is required to pay SSP, although they may qualify for a rebate for up to 2 weeks of SSP. If instead they keep you on furlough at the furloughed rate, they remain eligible to claim for these costs through the furlough scheme.

Can staff use their annual leave while on furlough leave?

Yes. If this happens, you must be paid your full normal rate of pay (or if your pay varies, your average pay in the previous 52 working weeks, or 12 working weeks for employers in Northern Ireland). This will include any contractual overtime, commission or fees. It will mean them having to 'top up' the 80% grant by paying the additional 20%.

In some circumstances, your employer can refuse or cancel your leave, or require you to take leave while on furlough. For more information, see GOV.UK.

If you usually work bank holidays, then they can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If you usually take the bank holiday as leave, then they would either have to top up your usual holiday pay, or give you a day of holiday in lieu.

Will annual leave and continuous employment accrue while on furlough leave?

Yes.

Can employers continue with any pre-existing disciplinary action while staff are on furlough leave?

Yes. There is guidance from Acas about conducting disciplinary and grievance procedures during the pandemic, including against furloughed staff.

How to calculate claims

Your employer should firstly calculate 80% of your salary. Their calculation should include any regular, contractual payments that you must be paid. E.g.:

  • Wages
  • Compulsory overtime
  • Fees
  • Commission or bonuses
  • Monetary benefits

If you've been paid variable payments due to working overtime, your employer can include these payments when calculating 80% of your wages, as long as the overtime payments were non-discretionary. Payments for overtime worked are non-discretionary if your employer is contractually obliged to pay you at a set and defined rate for the overtime you've worked.

There's uncertainty, though, about which other payments of this type are covered by the scheme. A right to an annual bonus of a fixed amount would, for example, be covered, but this isn't very common. Bonuses are more usually paid if you or the business hit certain targets. Earlier government guidance suggested these payments would be covered, but more recent guidance suggests that they are not. The same applies to commission payments, where the payment varies depending on the amount of sales made.

Your employer can't include payments that you aren't contractually entitled to. This includes discretionary payments (e.g. tips, bonuses, commission) or other payments that you only receive if they decide that you should, or if payments are conditional on something being done. Also, your employer can't include any non-monetary benefits, like taxable benefits in kind, such as:

  • Company vehicles
  • Private health insurance
  • Non-business travel
  • Entertainment expenses
  • Other business assets that have significant personal use

Calculations differ depending on whether your pay is fixed or varies.

Fixed pay

They should use your actual salary before tax, paid in the last salary period ending on or before 19 March, to calculate the 80%. If they've already based their calculation using 28 February (which a previous version of the government guidance said they should), they can still use that date for their first claim.

Variable pay

If they've employed you for 12 months before the claim, they can claim the higher of either:

  • the same monthly amount paid last year in the equivalent month(s); or
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.

If they've employed you for less than 12 months, they can claim for an average of your monthly earnings since you started work. If you've been employed for less than a month, they should use a pro-rata calculation for your earnings so far to claim.

Claiming for a member of a Limited Liability Partnership

Payments can only be included if they are:

  • fixed; or
  • variable, but based on the overall amount of the profits or losses of the LLP; or
  • not affected by the overall amount of the LLP's profits or losses.

Claiming for employees returning from statutory family leave

This includes employees returning from maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave, parental bereavement leave or unpaid parental leave. Your salary should be paid based on earnings received before going on family leave, and not earnings you received while on family leave.

Claiming for employees or workers returning from a period of sick leave

Your salary should be paid based on earnings received before going on sick leave and not the sick pay received while absent on sick leave.

Claiming for those returning from a period of unpaid leave or unpaid sabbatical

Your salary should be paid based on earnings you would have received had you not been on unpaid leave/unpaid sabbatical.

See the government's guidance to get an idea of the calculation.

What if 80% of pay is less than the National Living/Minimum Wage?

This is allowed, but if you need to complete job-related training while on leave, your employer must pay you at least the National Living/Minimum Wage for the time spent doing it.

Similarly, if you're an apprentice, you can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and continue to train while furloughed. However, your employer must pay you at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage as appropriate for all the time you spend training. This means your employer must cover any shortfall between the amount they can claim for your wages through the scheme and your appropriate minimum wage.

National Insurance and pension contributions

Once your employer has worked out how much they can claim for you, they must use the figure to work out the amount of employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions they're entitled to claim for you.

See the government guide on working out 80% and its example calculations document.

After your employer has claimed

Your employer must pay to you all of the grant that they receive for your gross pay. They can't charge you any fees.

If they're unwilling or unable to pay your salary, they must immediately return your grant to HMRC, including the employer national insurance contributions and pension contributions they received.

Your wages will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual.

When the scheme ends

When the government ends the scheme, your employer must make a decision, depending on the circumstances, about whether they can continue to employ you.

If not, they can consider putting you on short-time working or lay off, unpaid leave, or if necessary, start a redundancy process.

Grants from the Coronavirus self-employment income support scheme

This is a UK-wide scheme to provide support for the self-employed (including members of partnerships). The scheme is split into 2 grants: you must apply for the first by 13 July. Applications for the second will open in August. You can claim 1 or both of the grants, provided you qualify.

Qualifying for the scheme

To qualify you must:

  • be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership;
  • have submitted your self-assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-2019;
  • have traded in the tax year 2019-2020;
  • have trading profits of £50,000 or less, which are more than half of your total income for either the tax year 2018-2019 or the average of the tax years from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 (inclusive);
  • be trading when you apply (or would be except for coronavirus);
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-2021;
  • have lost trading profits due to coronavirus; and
  • confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

Different criteria apply if you have loans covered by the loan charge or you're a farmer claiming farmers' averaging relief.

How much can you claim?

First grant: you can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits. This is paid in a single sum that covers 3 months' worth of profits. It's capped at £7,500 in total.

Second grant: you can claim a taxable grant worth 70% of your trading profits. This is paid in a single sum that covers 3 months' worth of profits. This is capped at £6,570 in total.

Both grants are calculated based on your average trading profit over the 3 tax years from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019.

Different rules apply if you have not submitted self-assessment tax returns for all 3 years.

See GOV.UK for more.

Extra Scottish government support

The Scottish government has set up the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund to support self-employed people who aren't covered by the UK scheme. Managed by Local Authorities, the scheme will give grants of £2,000.

If your job is at risk

Coronavirus is an economic crisis as well as a health crisis – if your employer isn't able to furlough you and you're at risk of losing your job, our Workplace disputes section has information to help you check that your employer is following a fair process. There are sections on unfair dismissal, redundancy, temporary lay offs and employer insolvency.

Extension to the right to carry over annual leave

The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations allow employees/workers to carry over up to 4 weeks' unused holiday leave into their next 2 holiday years where the impact of coronavirus means that it has not been reasonably practicable to take it in the correct leave year.

Your employer should consider various factors when deciding whether it was reasonably practicable for you to take leave; e.g.:

  • whether the business has experienced a significant increase in demand
  • the disruption to the workforce caused by coronavirus and the options available to cover the essential activities
  • your health
  • whether there is scope for you to take your leave later in the leave year
  • the extent to which you taking leave would impact on wider society's response to, and recovery from, the coronavirus situation
  • the ability of the rest of the available workforce to provide cover for you.

Your employer should do what they reasonably can to enable you to take as much of your leave as possible in the year to which it relates and, if leave is carried forward, to allow you to take that carried-forward leave at the earliest practicable opportunity.

If you're furloughed, guidance suggests you shouldn't generally be allowed to carry forward leave because you can take it during your furlough period. However, because the holiday pay that you must be paid may be higher than the amount covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it may not be reasonably practicable for you to take your leave if your employer is unable to fund the difference.

Remember, the law states that the purpose of taking holiday is to rest, relax and enjoy leisure time. This is unlikely to apply to you if you're self-isolating. It's debatable whether it applies during social distancing/lockdown measures. If your employer is forcing you to take leave during the lockdown, it's possible they're doing so unreasonably.

Amendments to right-to-work checks

Right to work checks can now be made:

  • Via video call; or
  • By job applicants and existing workers sending scans or photos of documents via email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals.

Your employer must still make the check and use the Employer Checking Service if you can't provide acceptable documents. The government has also updated its right to work guides.

Health and safety

Where your employer was not required to close or is now allowed to reopen, they continue to be responsible for your health, safety and welfare (including that of non-employees, such as contractors) and for preventing harm to any visitors to offices and buildings. There's also a legal obligation on you to cooperate with them on this.

We have more general sections on both Employers' responsibilities and Employees' responsibilities.

If you contract COVID-19 and it can be traced to your workplace (which is possible if, for example, your employer experiences an outbreak), you could potentially make a personal injury claim against them. They could even be vicariously liable for further infections in your household.

They could also be investigated and prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive – and that applies even where there's no infection, if they're found not to be following safe guidelines.

Government guidance

The UK government has published sector-specific guides on working safely amid coronarvirus.

These guides cover a range of different workspaces. The full PDF versions (available in each guide under Download this guidance) contain a tick list of potential actions your employer might need to take. There is also a poster that they'll be expected to display in the workplace to show they've complied.

In Scotland, the Scottish government has published its own sector-specific guidance.

A key objective for all businesses will be keeping staff at least 2 metres apart wherever possible. There is extra guidance is available for businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Also see the HSE and HSENI websites for the latest information and advice.

Coronavirus risk assessments

Complying with the government guidance will not absolve your employer of liability – they'll need to show that they've carried out a risk assessment that adequately considers the impact of you returning, and that they've carried out all of the actions arising from it.

The government guides give some details on how your employer should do this and also points to guidance from the HSE. They'll need to consider the key hazards and risks associated with returning to the workplace and provide practical solutions for how they can be removed or reduced.

Your employer should be creating supporting documentary evidence of how they've conducted the assessment.

Ideally, they should also consult with you and any relevant trade union before finalising the assessment.

Your employer shouldn't let COVID-19 distract them from other safety considerations. In particular, they must not implement unsafe coronavirus solutions – e.g. redistributing work in ways that could lead to stress or physical injury from overwork; or having staff work alone at unsafe locations or times of day.

All employers with over 50 members of staff are expected to publish the risk assessment on their website.

Homeworking health and safety

The UK government and all the devolved administrations have said that staff who are able to work from home should continue to do so. This advice seems unlikely to change any time soon.

Your employer has the same health and safety duties to you when you're at home as they do when you're in the workplace, though you must take reasonable care of your own health and safety.

It's particularly important at this time that they consider and monitor your mental health.

If working from home is jeopardising your health or safety in some way (e.g. it's having a serious impact on your mental wellbeing), they could give you the option of returning to the workplace if it will help – provided they've followed the government guidance (see above).

Homeworking risk assessments

Ordinarily, they'd visit you at home to perform a risk assessment, but that's not practical in the current situation. They could ask you to assess yourself by sending you a questionnaire about your home workstation – they can then tell you what action to take (if any).

They should review the assessment if your circumstances change (e.g. if you move home, change the room you work in, or they give you new equipment to use).

More on homeworking is below.

Washing facilities

Your employer is legally required to provide adequate toilet and washing facilities. This includes:

  • Enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them
  • Hot and cold running water
  • Enough soap or other washing agents
  • Hand towels (preferably disposable) or a hand-dryer
  • Toilet paper
  • Drinking water

Individuals with disabilities must be able to easily access the facilities.

If possible, your employer should try to provide extra handwashing stations around the workplace.

Mental health

Acas have published guidance for employers and employees on managing mental health during the pandemic. It suggests that employers may consider appointing a mental health champion or setting up a mental health support group.

Your employer should be in regular contact with you and try to create an environment where you feel able to be open and honest about how you're feeling.

Reporting of COVID-19

Your employer must make a report under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations when:

  • An unintended incident at work has led to a member of staff possibly or actually being exposed to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  • A member of staff has been diagnosed as having coronavirus and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
  • A member of staff dies as a result of workplace exposure to coronavirus.

See RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 for more.

Temporary relaxation of drivers' hours

Demand for the delivery of goods has understandably risen considerably. The Department for Transport has temporarily relaxed the enforcement of drivers' hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales.

Government guidance states that the relaxations aren't limited to particular sectors or journeys, but the intention is that they should be used when transporting essential goods by road (e.g. medical equipment/supplies, essential food/hygiene items) and only where necessary.

See Drivers' hours: rules and guidance for more.

The Health and safety Executive has stated that all drivers must have access to welfare facilities in their workplace. This is a legal requirement and they must be available during the hours they work, which can be late at night. See Arrangements for driver welfare and hours of work during the coronavirus outbreak for more.

Homeworking

The number of people working from home has soared during the pandemic. Below are some of the issues both you and your employer will need to think about while you're working at home.

Equipment

There is, generally, no legal obligation on your employer to provide you with the equipment necessary for homeworking. Whether or not they do can depend on whether you already have it, such as a PC/laptop and an internet connection.

If you don't, they can provide the equipment to you - and this might be preferable if there are security or legal compliance risks, or if you need specific items to perform your duties.

Note that the law requires your employer to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled homeworker. This means they may need to provide such workers with suitable equipment (or reimburse their cost of obtaining it). On a related point, a fact sheet on the Access to Work scheme gives information on the extra support you can get if you're disabled and need to work from home due to coronavirus.

If you do use your own equipment, ensure that it is properly maintained with the latest software updates so that it doesn't cause security vulnerabilities and compromise your employer's data protection obligations.

Costs

You may incur increased costs because you work from home, such as electricity and heating. But there isn't a legal obligation on your employer to pay or contribute towards this.

If you haven't chosen to work from home voluntarily, you can claim tax relief on your extra costs. This could be paid by your employer as tax-free allowance or you can claim it yourself.

Health and safety

Your employer remains responsible for your health and safety while you're working from home. More information on this is set out above.

Temporary changes to criminal record checks

England & Wales

The Disclosure and Barring Service has temporarily changed its guidelines for ID checking and subject access requests.

Also, people in eligible roles will be given free-of-charge DBS checks and/or a fast-track emergency checks.

They have also published factsheets and updated guidelines.

Scotland

Disclosure Scotland has suspended the payment of fees for urgent applications of certain priority workers, until 12 June. Any urgent applications can be made online.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

This scheme will repay UK businesses the statutory sick pay (SSP) they've paid to eligible workers.

Rules of the scheme:

  • You must be eligible for SSP – i.e.: earning an average of at least £120 per week and been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including any days you're not working, e.g. the weekend).
  • You must have received SSP because you had coronavirus, or because you couldn't work due to self-isolating at home, or because you are shielding in line with public health guidance.
  • Your employer must have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created on or before 28 February 2020 and fewer than 250 employees.

Payments will be limited to a maximum of 2 weeks, starting from the first day you are sick.

Claims will be limited to recovering no more than the current SSP rate of £95.85 per week and your employer won't need a fit note from your doctor.

Work expenses

There's new guidance for employers on How to treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during coronavirus.

There's also clarification on Which expenses are taxable for staff working from home due to coronavirus. Linked to this, the government have announced a planned tax and NIC exemption for coronavirus-related reimbursed home office expenses, which will apply from 11 June to amounts reimbursed on or after that date but before the end of the 2020-21 tax year.

Telephone and video Employment Tribunal hearings

In England, Wales and Scotland tribunal hearings are either being postponed or conducted by telephone and video conferencing due the pandemic.

There is a guide on HMCTS telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak.

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