COVID Update: Key Developments That May Affect You

Advice, All Members, COVID-19

As you’ll no doubt have read in the press, the Government has made several key announcements on how it plans to address the rising number of Covid-19 cases and how it plans to mitigate the effect on jobs.

1. The Job Support Scheme

This scheme, as the Government describes it, “is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to Covid-19, to help keep their employees attached to the workforce. The company will continue to pay its employee for time worked, but the burden of hours not worked will be split between the employer and the Government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job.”

Whilst further guidance on the scheme has yet to be published, we do know that it will open on 1st November 2020 and will continue until April 2021. The Government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap of £697.92 a month, with the employer also contributing a third. Employees must work at least 33% of their usual hours and be paid their normal contractual wage for hours worked.

For time not worked, employees will be paid up to two-thirds of their usual wages, funded equally by the Government and the employer.

Whilst employers are claiming the grant, they cannot make employees redundant, or put them on notice of redundancy.

Advice To Members

Whilst the scheme is a welcome move which will hopefully negate the need for redundancy in most, it’s clear that the scheme could lead to a number of problems such as:

  • Employees being asked to work longer hours, despite knowing that their employers will be making claims under the Job Support Scheme (this would be clearly fraudulent).
  • Problems or inaccuracies when calculating pay; the scope for problems here is obvious due to the complexity of the scheme.
  • Employee who work 33% of their usual hours will end up receiving 78% of their normal wages (unless they are affected by the cap). How will the employer deal with the remaining 22% owed to the employee?

Whatever issues the Job Support Scheme throws up, our Advice Team will be here to help you 24 hours a day on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1). We’ll keep you informed of key developments as the Government produces further guidance on the scheme ahead of its launch.

2. Face Masks For Workers

The Government extended its legislation on the wearing for masks to include staff working in:

“1. A shop, but not including premises providing legal or financial services.
2. Enclosed shopping centres.
3. Restaurants with table service, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs.
4. Bars, including bars in hotels, or members clubs.
5. Banks, building societies, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and undertakings which by way of business operate a currency exchange office, transmit money (or any representation of money) by any means or cash cheques which are made payable to customers.
6. Post offices.
7. Community centres, youth centres, members clubs and social clubs.
8. Public areas in hotels and hostels.
9. Concert halls, exhibition halls, conference centres or other public halls.
10. Cinemas.
11. Museums, galleries, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms and other indoor parts of tourist, heritage or cultural sites.
12. Bingo halls.
13. Public libraries and reading rooms.
14. Casinos.
15. Theatres.”.

Advice To Members

The Regulations make clear that staff (working in one of the above environments) who do not wear face coverings will be liable to a £200 fine; the employer is not liable for the fine. So it is your responsibility to wear a face covering whilst at work. Ideally, employers will provide suitable face coverings for staff, but they may not be the case but it’s important to wear a covering where the rules require you to do so.

3. COVID-19 Testing In The Workplace

The Government has also published guidance for COVID-19 testing in the workplace, where employers want to instigate their own internal testing programmes for staff. Workplace testing is voluntary (unless someone is exhibiting symptoms, when a test from the NHS Test and Trace service must be sought), but it’s clear that in some businesses, such a testing programme could be a very useful tool to help prevent outbreaks.

Advice To Members

The Government has made it very clear that “The NHS Test and Trace service is for those who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been advised to take a test by a medical practitioner or public service. Employer and third-party healthcare providers wishing to provide a test to staff must not advise individuals without symptoms to get a test from the limited supply offered by Test and Trace, but may offer alternative private provision”.

So in other words, your employer should not ask you to get a test from the NHS service if you are not displaying symptoms. If you are instructed by your employer to get tested using the NHS service and you’re not displaying symptoms, please contact the Advice Team straight away on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1).

Before they implement workplace screening programmes, the Government has strongly advised employers to explain key information about the testing programme, such as why they’re implementing it, whether it’s mandatory, what happens when test results are known, what will happen to the data gathered and what the consequences will be if an employee refuses a test.

Employers must behave reasonably towards all staff, so if your employer has implemented a testing programme and is behaving in a manner that you believe is unreasonable, please contact us straight away on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1).

4. New Coronavirus Regulations

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 have just come in to force and stipulate that it’s an offence for an employer to knowingly permit a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where that individual is self-isolating (including those who live with someone who has tested positive).

Advice To Members

If your employer knows you have tested positive or that you live with someone who has tested positive, your employer must not allow you to work in any location other than your home. Any failure to follow this rule will lead to a fine (starting at £1,000) for the employer. If you have to self isolate and you are asked to work anywhere other than your home, please contact the Advice Team immediately on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1).

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