The current health situation is wholly unprecedented and so there is no accurate guidelines to go by from past experience. The Government is intervening in an effort to support employers and employees on a scale never seen before.
On that basis, please note that this information below is given in the good faith but the situation is constantly evolving and so it is always wise to check the Government’s own website along with other helpful sources of advice such as ACAS. ACAS operates a free helpline 0300 123 1100.
Traditionally the rights set out below only apply to employees and not workers or the self-employed.
However, it is not always easy to tell if you are an employee or not. There is a lot of caselaw in this area and it is very complicated. Just because your contract says that you are not an employee does not mean that is correct in law. The way your job is described is not solely determined by the label attached to it between you and the company.
Alternatives to Redundancy: Lay-off and short-time working
In basic terms, laying off employees means that the employer provides employees with no work (and no pay) for a period while retaining them as employees; short-time working means providing employees with less work (and less pay) for a period while retaining them as employees.
It is a “temporary” solution to the problem of no or less work rather than the permanent solution of dismissal.
Your rights in connection with lay-off or short-time working
These may differ depending upon what your contract says. Subject to meeting relevant statutory conditions, if you are laid off or put on short-time working you will be entitled to apply for a statutory redundancy payment in certain circumstances. Alternatively, you may be entitled to be paid a statutory guarantee payment by your employer.
There will be a breach of contract where the employer lays off employees or puts them on short-time working without the contractual right to do so.
You have been laid off for a week if you are not entitled to any remuneration that week because your employer does not provide work for you. However, if you decline work so that no work is actually done, that does not mean that work has not been provided. If you are not available for work anyway, for example because of illness, you will not be treated as being laid off. This is something which the Government may look at in the current climate.
The statutory scheme effectively gives you the ability to determine whether you have been kept on lay off for an unreasonable period, by allowing you to claim a statutory redundancy payment after the prescribed period has elapsed.
You have been put on short-time working for a week where due to the decrease in work provided for you by your employer (i.e. work of a kind which under the contract of employment you are employed to do) your remuneration for the week is less than half a week’s pay (Section 147(2) Employment Rights Act 1996).
If the employer provides a contractually guaranteed fall-back rate of pay that exceeds half a week’s pay you will not be subject to statutory short-time.
Most employees do not have an implied right to be provided with work but do have an implied right to pay.
If your contract permits lay-off or short-time working it will constitute a breach of contract for an employer to lay you off or put you on short-time working without pay when they do not have an express or implied contractual right to do so. The situation may be different if there is a custom and practice in the industry of short-time working or laying people off.
If your contract does not permit lay-off or short-time working, the employer will be in fundamental breach of contract entitling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal. However, this may well be an unwise move in the current climate as it may be better to claim redundancy. We would never recommend to anyone that they resign from a job.
Where an employer needs to deal with an unexpected downturn in its business or unforeseen circumstances but does not have a contractual right to lay employees off or put them on short-time working, the employer may wish to consult with them (and with trade unions or other representatives, where appropriate) to try to agree a temporary reduction in pay and benefits.
Under normal circumstances, employees and their representatives would be unlikely to agree to such measures. However, where the alternative is closure and job losses, they may be more willing to reach an agreement.
Statutory sick pay and lay-off or short-time working
There appears to be nothing to prevent an employee who has been laid-off or put on short-time working from applying for statutory sick pay (SSP). However, they will need to meet the eligibility requirements to qualify for SSP.
To be eligible for SSP, you must have a day of incapacity for work (which sits within a period of incapacity for work). When an employee has been put on short-time working they may fall ill, or deemed to be ill, so as to be unable to do work with they would otherwise reasonably be expected to do under that contract. From 13th March to 12th November 2020, those who are self-isolating in accordance with public health guidance on the Corona virus, and who are unable to work as a result, will be deemed to be incapable of work for these purposes.
If there is a dispute as to entitlement to SSP, you must apply to the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team for a determination.
The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 (Coronavirus Amendment Regulations) introduced a new regulation 2(1)(c), with effect from 13thMarch 2020 which provides that a person is deemed incapable of work where self-isolating and therefore is unable to work.
The stay at home guidance states that if an individual lives with others and they or someone in their household has symptoms of COVID-19, all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house becomes ill.
The Social Distancing Guidance which was first published on 16th March 2020 “strongly advises” employees to work from home if they are aged over 70, pregnant, or have a specified underlying health condition, including chronic respiratory diseases, chronic heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes and those with a weakened immune system.
If you have been in employment for 2 years or more and you are made redundant then you are entitled to redundancy pay. The legal minimums are set out in legislation. There is a government calculator online which sets out how much you are entitled to: https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay
Your contract may state that you are entitled to more and so it is worth checking that.
If you are made redundant then you are also entitled to notice. This can either be worked or paid in lieu. As a minimum then this should be one week’s pay for every complete year’s service up to a maximum of 12 weeks although again, your contract may entitle you to more and so it is essential that this is checked.
The Government through the Insolvency Service guarantees certain payments on a statutory basis. Depending on your situation, you can apply for: a redundancy payment, accrued but unused holiday pay, outstanding payments like unpaid wages, overtime and commission and notice pay.
In circumstances whereby 20 or more people are made redundant at a single establishment then there are certain consultation requirements placed upon employers. Failure to meet these can entitle you to an award of up to 90 days’ pay. If the employer goes insolvent you are still entitled to claim for this from the Government although your award will be capped at the statutory maximums. This is a complicated area and it may well be worth seeking further advice from sources such as a trade union or specialist solicitor.
Making Employment Tribunal Claims
There are very strict deadlines on making claims to the Employment Tribunal. However, before they can be submitted it is a requirement that you contact ACAS to commence Early Conciliation. This only takes a few of minutes online and can be started here: https://tell.acas.org.uk/find-a-solution-to-your-employment-dispute
This must be done within 3 months minus one day from the date of your dispute e.g. your dismissal/ redundancy. If this is not done then it islikely that you claim will be time-barred and you will not be able to pursue it.
Thereafter the time limit to submit your claim to the Employment Tribunal varies depending upon how long you are in Early Conciliation for as this stage of the procedure “stops the clock” in respect of your Employment Tribunal deadline. At the end of the Early Conciliation period you will be issued with a certificate from ACAS. You will always have at least one calendar month from when this is issued to make your claim to the Employment Tribunal. This can also be done online: https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunals/make-a-claim
If you require employment advice please contact firstname.lastname@example.org– these are currently being undertaken on a fortnightly basis by telephone.