COVID-19 FAQs for businesses

Last updated 02/04/2020

Can I temporarily lay employees off or reduce their hours?

In order to lawfully exercise lay-off or short-time working, the contract of employment must have a clause allowing you to do so. In this situation, your employees would not receive their normal pay and depending on the length of the lay-off or short-time working, they may be able to claim for redundancy pay. 

I have had to stop trading due to the coronavirus. What is the government doing to help me meet my wages bill?

To encourage employers not to lay people off or make redundancies, the government has announced a Furlough Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that allows all employers to claim back 80% of an employee’s or worker’s wages subject to a maximum of £2,500 per employee per month.

You will need consent from your employee to put them on the Furlough scheme (i.e. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme), unless you have a clause in the employment contract saying that you will not pay wages if there is no work,  and also their consent to receive 80% wages (subject £2,500ct to the cap) for the time being. This consent should ideally be done in writing to avoid any future unlawful deduction from wages claim for the other 20%.

If your employee refuses to accept the 80% pay then you may be in a position to make them redundant (or utilise a lay-off clause if you have one).

Once you have an agreement in writing, you should then register them with HMRC once the process is up and running. This process can be backdated to March 2020 – This scheme will commence on 1 April but be backdated to 1 March.

DAS customers have access to templates and guides on www.dasbusinesslaw.co.uk to help with the furlough process which can be accessed via the activation code in your policy provider's documentation.

Visit DAS Businesslaw  Registration guide

It is advisable that you take legal advice if you have any concerns. HMRC is currently in the process of setting up the process. For further information visit the government COVID-19 business support pages.

What is the position now if my employees are unable to take annual leave?

On 27 March the Government amended the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) to allow workers to carry forward unused holiday for up to 2 years where they have been unable to take it due to Covid-19.

I need to close my company, what do I do?

In this situation, you may need to place your employees at risk of redundancy. You will be required to consult with employees and consider ways of avoiding dismissals by way of redundancy. Your employees may be entitled to redundancy; this is based upon their age, length of service and weekly pay.

DAS customers have access to templates and guides on www.dasbusinesslaw.co.uk to help with the redundancy process which can be accessed via the activation code in your policy provider's documentation.

Visit DAS Businesslaw  Registration guide

If an employee contracts COVID-19, what do I pay them?

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is payable if an employee has contracted COVID-19. The contract of employment may provide for enhanced pay.

The government has also announced that small employers (fewer than 250 employees) will be reimbursed for any SSP paid in respect of the first 14 days of sickness related to COVID-19

What do I pay my employees if schools close?

Your employees have a statutory right to unpaid time off to deal with disruption relating to schools.

What do I pay my employees if they have been medically advised to self-isolate?

Employees will be entitled to SSP if they have been medically advised to self-isolate (the contract of employment may provide for enhanced pay). This also applies to employees who are self-isolating as a result of members of their household who have COVID-19 symptoms.

What can I do if my employee refuses to attend work due to fears about coronavirus?

It is likely that many employers will face this dilemma. A quick resolution to this issue would be to ask the employee to work from home if appropriate. If this is not possible and the employee could reasonably be asked to continue working then it is possible for you to consider disciplinary action for unauthorised absence which would be unpaid.

However, employers should consider whether the employee has a disability as any action taken could be regarded as discriminatory.

Additional COVID-19 government guidance for for employers and businesses can be found here.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.