The information in this blog is correct as at 2 April 2020. For the most up-to-date Employment Law and Health & Safety advice to support your organisation through the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our Coronavirus Advice Hub, which is updated daily and contains a variety of free guidance notes, letter templates, checklists, risk assessments and more.
Employment law is constantly evolving, with a steady stream of new case law meaning that best practice changes all the time.
However, rarely has there been so many changes in such a short space of time than there has been recently due to COVID-19.
As employers put measures in place to preserve their workforce and their business, here are two recent developments that you will need to be aware of.
1. SSP waiting days scrapped
In usual circumstances, statutory sick pay (SSP) is not paid immediately; the first three days in any period of incapacity for work are treated as qualifying days or ‘waiting days’, with employers obliged to pay staff from day four.
However, in a bid to contain the outbreak, and in response to pressure from the CBI and TUC, the government announced at the beginning of March that it would reconsider SSP rules, including the proposal to make SSP payable from day one.
Legislation has now been introduced to enforce this change, with retrospective effect from March 13. This means that anyone who has been off work from that date due to COVID-19 (and receiving SSP) will be entitled to an additional three days’ pay at the current SSP rate of £94.25 per week.
The amended right to receive SSP from day one applies to:
This is a temporary measure introduced so that workers are not penalised for acting on instructions to self-isolate. Normal SSP rules will be reinstated once this measure is no longer required.
1. Holidays lost to COVID-19 able to be carried over
Rules surrounding the carry-over of annual leave from one year to the next have also been relaxed in light of the current pandemic.
Most workers will be entitled to a minimum of 28 days’ (5.6 weeks’) holiday each year; however, only 1.6 weeks of this entitlement (the additional amount of leave granted under UK law on top of the four weeks given to workers under EU law) can be carried between leave years – if agreed by the employer and employee – meaning workers must use it or lose it.
The Working Time Regulations have now been amended so that the remaining four weeks’ annual leave can also be carried over into the next two leave years – if, and only if, “it was not reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year as a result of the effects of the coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)”.
Prior to this change, failing to ensure workers take their statutory leave entitlement could land employers with a fine. This change will therefore relieve employers of this obligation so that those affected by COVID-19 can exercise greater flexibility when granting leave. Importantly, this will mean that employers in key industries such as food and healthcare are not left short-staffed during the crisis, and workers who contribute to the national effort against COVID-19 don’t lose out.
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