COVID-19: What’s Happening In UK Employment Law

Vinson & Elkins LLP

Vinson & Elkins LLP

Employers around the world are facing similar challenges, dealing with government-mandated shutdowns, school closures, sick and self-isolating employees, homeworking arrangements, and drops in productivity and demand. This post highlights some of the UK-specific developments in employment law.

  • The UK government amended the law to extend statutory sick pay to workers who are self-isolating in accordance with government guidance. Statutory sick pay is relatively modest statutory minimum payment of £92.25 per week for up to 28 weeks. Self-isolating employees are also now eligible to receive statutory sick pay from the first day of absence (in other circumstances, there are three “waiting days” before the payments kick in). For smaller businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the government plans to refund the cost of up to 14 days’ statutory sick pay per employee. Any additional sick pay provided by employers above the statutory minimum are not covered by these measures and will continue to be subject to any applicable terms in employment contracts or sick pay policy.
  • Unprecedented measures are being taken in the UK to help employers retain their employees. These legislative efforts are still being developed and implemented, but the UK government has announced a new “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” to help pay a portion of the wages of employees who remain on the payroll but are temporarily not working due to the virus outbreak. Under this scheme, the government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per worker each month. Various other measures are also being proposed to help employers, including grants and tax relief.
  • At present, the government’s plans do not cover the self-employed, including those working in the “gig economy”. There is considerable political pressure to address this gap and further developments are expected.
  • Advice for UK employers and employees has been published by the UK government on its official website and also by the statutory body ACAS.

In addition to keeping up to date on official government measures and guidance, UK-based employers are also grappling with existing laws to understand how they apply in circumstances that might necessitate site closures, homeworking, reductions in force, and furloughs. Further posts on these topics will be coming.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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