In a response to the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government implemented a number of financial support packages including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
The CJRS was implemented in March 2020, originally paying 80% of furloughed employees wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employees would not work for the period that they were furloughed.
The CJRS was due to close on 31 October 2020, to be replaced by a new initiative, the Job Support Scheme (JSS). However, following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 31 October 2020 that England must enter into a second national lockdown, the extension of the CJRS was also announced.
Additionally, the Prime Minister’s announcement impacts on advice on working from home.
While we await further government guidance, many employers will have issued notice of redundancy, in anticipation of the CJRS closing. Agreement with employees will, therefore, need to be urgently sought if employers intend to rescind notice of redundancy and move employees onto furlough instead.
Employees will need to be issued with urgent updates on the position, confirming that any agreement to transfer onto JSS arrangements cannot now go ahead and employees will either be asked to
As at the start of the CJRS, employee agreement will be needed if an employee’s employment is not already covered by furlough arrangements. Please do contact me, or your usual TLT contact, if you require assistance with drafting a new furlough agreement or if you original furlough arrangements need updating.
In September 2020, the government guidance changed, so that those who could work “effectively” from home were required to do so. That advice has not, strictly speaking, changed following the announcement on 31 October 2020. However, it seems that there has been a shift in emphasis, as the guidance states that workers should only travel to work if they cannot work from home – for example, if they work in construction or manufacturing.
It seems likely that employers must now permit homeworking, despite holding any views that it is not as effective as working in the office.
Clinically vulnerable people are advised to be extra careful to follow the rules and ensure that frequently touched areas in their workspaces are cleaned.
Those who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus, i.e. people with serious health conditions, are advised to work from home. If such employees cannot work from home, the government has advised that they do not attend work. These employees may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance. Comprehensive government guidance on the matter is expected imminently.
Employers must give serious consideration to whether tasks can be fulfilled at home and if there is an absolute necessity for employees to attend the workplace. Employers should be particularly mindful of whether clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable employees may be classed as disabled. If they are, reasonable adjustments should be considered to facilitate the employee’s working environment at home.
The government’s guidance on the new national restrictions is available here and a press release on the furlough scheme extension is here. Further updates and guidance are expected imminently. We will keep you updated via these Briefings and our dedicated Employment Law Twitter feed @TLT_Employment
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at 3 November 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.
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