COVID-19 – Employment Law changes (24th April 2020)
Updated HMRC guidance on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
- Rehiring employees and placing them on furlough
The updated guidance makes clear that employees who have been dismissed for any reason since 28 February 2020 can be rehired and placed on furlough. If employees stopped working for their employer after 28 February to go to a new role, which subsequently fell through for COVID-19 reasons, they could be re-hired by their previous employer and then furloughed.
- Working for another employer whilst on furlough
Employees with two jobs can still work for one employer while on furlough from the other. An employee who is placed on furlough is also able to start a new job with a different employer.
- Multiple periods of furlough
The previous guidance stated that employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. The updated guidance clarifies that employees can be furloughed multiple times, i.e. they can be furloughed, brought back to work, then re-furloughed. However, each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 weeks.
- Annual Leave
The updated guidance does not address whether employees can take or be required to take annual leave during furlough and, if so, what remuneration they are entitled to for that leave period. Updated Acas guidance suggests that furloughed employees can still request and take holiday in the usual way but does not state whether they should be paid their normal remuneration or the furlough rate.
- Sickness absence
The updated HMRC guidance also leaves some questions unanswered with regard to CJRS, sick leave and statutory sick pay (SSP). The guidance is clear that employees who are already receiving SSP cannot be furloughed until they return to work. However, it does not address the situation of an employee who becomes sick whilst they are furloughed.
Carry-over of statutory annual leave
The Government have introduced legislation relaxing the usual rules that annual leave entitlement must be taken in the holiday year to which it relates.
The new rules state that where it is not “reasonably practicable” for a worker to take some or all of their four week statutory annual leave entitlement under the Working Time Regulations, as a result of the effects of COVID-19, the worker is entitled to carry forward any untaken leave into the next two leave years. The new rules do not only apply to keyworkers or key worker industries.
Emergency volunteering leave
This is a new form of leave for those individuals who wish to volunteer to help out during the coronavirus crisis. The volunteer jobs involve delivering shopping to vulnerable people, transporting patients to and from hospital, driving medicines and equipment to NHS and care facilities; and checking up on isolated individuals by telephone.
Employees on furlough leave are able to volunteer, as are employees and workers who are in active work. However, those working for small employers with fewer than ten employees, civil servants, those working in the legislature, and police officers cannot take the leave.