Published 3rd November 2020
What does lockdown mean for workplaces?
After a very eventful weekend, we’re sure you are aware we are now expecting to re-enter a national lockdown on Thursday. So, what will this mean for employers and employees?
Since parliament has not yet approved the lockdown, there are still a few questions about what we can expect but, for now, here’s what we know:
- Everyone should stay at home and only attend their workplaces if they cannot work from home. Examples the Government gives of roles where employees might not be able to work from home are which will remain open and people can attend wor factories and in the construction industry k.
- After the very short-lived Job Support Scheme (which we are expecting to come back after lockdown when the regional tiered approach is expected to be re-introduced), we are now back to furlough.
Is Furlough back?
Yes, furlough is back, just when we thought we had seen the back of the furlough scheme; we have recently just published a blog reflecting at the end of furlough as it came to an end in October.
As we now welcome back the furlough scheme, it will be broadly the same as before;
- The flexible furlough will be permitted (where employees are able to work some hours and are furloughed for unworked hours), alongside full furlough (where employees are unable to work any hours).
- 80% of wages up to the cap of £2,500 can be claimed under the Scheme. This is more generous than the JSS where employers had to contribute 20%. Employers can still top wages up to 100% if they wish.
- Employers will pay employer NI and pension contributions.
- To be eligible, employees must have been on the payroll by 30 October 2020, but they don’t need to have been furloughed before.
- Employers and employees can agree to extend notices of redundancy so that employees remain eligible for furlough.
- Other financial support is available for businesses – ask your accountants what this looks like.
Can employees cancel annual leave?
Employees should only travel where absolutely necessary; this means employers will likely see a lot of cancelled annual leave requests. Whilst employers can refuse to give this holiday back, they should bear in mind that this may divert from the purpose of annual leave and employees could dispute such decisions on those grounds.
Do vulnerable employees need to shield?
The Government is asking the extremely clinically vulnerable not to go into workplaces even if they cannot work from home. There is limited enforceability here, but employees may be able to rely on ss44 Employment Rights Act where an employee can refuse to return to their place of work where the workplace poses a serious and imminent risk of danger.
Lockdown and mental health
Whilst we are concerned about the economy and the potential impact on our clients’ and connections across the UK, we are also very concerned about the mental health impact which this lockdown may have. It’s easy to see that this lockdown won’t be like the last one; it’s winter, it’s dark, and (perhaps most importantly) a lot of people thought or hoped that we were through the worst of it. We are going to write a white paper on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.
In the meantime, the following are the blogs we have already published on particular issues you might face during the lockdown, and the mental health impact it could have:
- Suicide Prevention – Keeping the conversation going
- Life in lockdown – How has it impacted the Thrive Tribe
- Life in Lockdown: The Distressing Rise in Domestic Abuse and How Employers Can Help
- Life in Lockdown: NHS Staff and Possible PTSD After COVID-19
- Life in Lockdown: The Impact of Grief and Employees’ Rights
Our coronavirus helpline remains open at email@example.com. Please do reach out if you are worried about anything employment-law related.