Coronavirus National Crisis – Employee Rights
What rights do you have if you can’t work because of Covid-19?
With schools closed and estimates that up to a fifth of the UK working population could be off sick at the height of a Coronavirus epidemic, what rights do employees have if they can’t attend work?
The recently introduced Furlough scheme (Coronavirus National Crisis – Furlough Leave) doesn’t necessarily apply to those who can’t attend work because they are (for example) vulnerable and therefore need to self isolate or have child care commitments due to school closures. So what are the options if you fall into these categories? Here’s what you need to know:
- All employees should be allowed to work from home where possible, and if they are from a vulnerable group, display symptoms, or are living with someone who displays symptoms, then they should not be attending work, even if they would usually be required to do so.
- Those individuals, who are unable to attend work due to displaying symptoms, living with someone who displays symptoms or being directed as vulnerable by the Government, should all qualify for sick pay, either company sick pay or SSP.
- Statutory sick pay is £94.25 and applies to those who earn at least £118 per week before tax. In normal circumstances, sick pay starts on the fourth consecutive day that you are unable to work. However, this week it was announced that employees will receive statutory sick pay from the first day that they are sick or self-isolate because of Coronavirus. Many organisations offer their staff sick pay which goes beyond the statutory minimum. Speak to your employer.
- Agency workers, casual worker and workers on zero hours contracts are likely to be entitled to receive at least statutory sick pay.
- Employees may be able to arrange to take time off as holiday or unpaid leave (but employers do not have to agree to this).
- Dependants leave is a right an employee has to take a reasonable amount of time off to care for dependants in an emergency. The amount of time off must be “reasonable” – for example, you might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, you can book holiday or request parental leave (see below). There is no statutory right to pay for dependant leave. However, some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy. If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets Coronavirus symptoms, you should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a minimum for this time.
- Parents who have been with their employer for a year or more also have a right to request parental leave. Parental leave is unpaid and limited to 18 weeks for each child. A week must be taken at a time and a maximum of 4 weeks can be taken a year in respect of each child. Whilst an employee takes parental leave their employment rights will remain protected, including their annual leave entitlement and right to return to work. Usually 21 days notice must be given in order to take parental leave but employers may be willing to waive this in the current circumstances.
- There are protections in place for employees who exercise their right to take emergency time off to care for dependants or parental leave. It is unlawful for your employer to dismiss you or subject you to any other detriment if you exercise these rights.
If you require advice in relation to the above please contact our free helpline on: 01904 528 310
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