On Monday 4 January, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers increased the UK’s COVID alert level from 4 to 5 (the highest level) which signifies a threat that the NHS could be overwhelmed with COVID cases.
Earlier that day Nicola Surgeon announced that Scotland would be entering a new lockdown from midnight Monday until at least the end of January. This means it will only be permissible to leave home for an essential purpose such as essential shopping, exercise, and caring responsibilities.
She stated that anyone who can work from home “must do so” and it will only be an acceptable reason to leave home to attend work if that work “cannot be done from home”. Schools will mostly run via online learning. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not go to work if they are unable to work from home. Their shielding notification letter will act as a fit note for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) purposes.
On Monday evening, Boris Johnson announced further measures in England. The key points to note are:
Although the draft lockdown regulations were not available at the time of writing, the Prime Minister announced to Parliament this afternoon that it would only be a permissible reason to leave home for work purposes where “people absolutely cannot work from home” which seems a much tougher line than previous guidance on working from home “effectively”.
This swift move into lockdown has resulted in a lot of confusion around certain issues – particularly when it comes to employees with childcare challenges, caring responsibilities and those who must shield.
Our experts have reviewed current guidance and updates that have been published since the new lockdown has been announced. Here, they highlight the most important points that employers need to know.
With the reintroduction of shielding, it’s important to clarify how shielding, furlough and SSP work in conjunction. The key points are:
With Monday night’s announcement on school closures, whether you can put employees on furlough who can’t work because of childcare issues has become a hot topic.
It’s always been the case that employees with childcare issues could be put on furlough, but as in the case of shielding employees, it wasn’t clear whether they could be put on furlough simply because their childcare issues prevented them from coming into work even where work was available for them.
HMRC’s guidance on the furlough scheme confirms :
“Your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed if they are:
It’s clear that the world will be living under the shadow of COVID-19 for some time to come, as the government continues to find ways to tackle the rise in cases over the winter months. With so many businesses forced to close their doors and put their employees back on the furlough scheme, we understand that this is a stressful time for many.
If you want to discuss the HR and Employment Law implications of the lockdown and the furlough scheme and get the guidance of our team of experts, you can call our advice line 24/7 on 0345 844 4848.
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