Posted by David Israel, Partner
3 big questions on your employment rights during Coronavirus lock down
The Coronavirus outbreak has caught many employers off guard and in the weeks that have unfolded there have been a few hero employers and unfortunately a few villains. Here, David Israel, Partner and Employment Lawyer speaks to TalkRadio about some of the big questions regarding your employment rights during this difficult time.
This interview was originally broadcast by TalkRadio.
Question: People have a lot of concerns about their jobs. Tell us about what the biggest issues are for employees right now? What are people coming to you about?
Answer: The situation has been evolving over the past week. Most businesses have been hit and are working hard to find ways of making adjustments. Businesses have been looking at furloughing. They’ve also been looking at salary cuts, which directly impacts individuals – whether they agree or don’t agree to it. There are some working at home issues and then obviously there’s the point of redundancies. So people have been looking at the while tranche of what they can actually do to keep their businesses afloat.
Question: If people are being furloughed or not being paid, where does that put them with their employment rights?
Answer: In the event that you’re furloughed, you’re not expected to do work but then you would be entitled to 80% of your salary up to the £2,500 per month cap (under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme). In the event you are paid based upon your output, those that are on zero hours contracts, they may find themselves in a different position. However, even then those people who are on zero hours contracts if they are furloughed the Government has said they will be looking at the average pay they received over the past few months so it’s not doom and gloom for everybody. Some people may find themselves in a situation where they say “there’s no work for you so we’ll pay you on what you do per day, you’re not doing anything at the moment so therefore we’re not actually obliged to pay you”.
What I am finding however is that most employers are trying to take reasonable steps to keep the business afloat and keep people on board and trying to be as flexible as they can be.
Question: What about people who are being told to go to work but you’ve not been given the personal protective equipment you need… if you feel you’ve been told to go to work and you feel it is unsafe or if you feel I could work from home in line with the Government advice, what are your rights there?
Answer: If you can work from home, the Government advice is very clear. You should be working at home. If you employer turns around and says “we want you in the office” and you can turn around and say “I can work from home and I can do everything I need to do in the office at home, then any reasonable employer would turn around and say yes, that’s fine. If you’ve been asked to go into the office, and you feel it’s unsafe, the employer still has a duty to maintain your health and safety and your welfare. The social distancing rules still apply. Most reasonable employers would turn round and say, well if you’ve got concerns, say you are living with one of the people in the vulnerable group then they are going to be more flexible about not going into the office. However, ultimately if they are insisting you go in and you don’t feel it’s safe because the work environment is absolutely packed, then you are going to be in a dispute situation. Most people don’t want to be looking forward and be thinking they’ve got a potential claim against their employer, but that would ultimately be the situation where you say you cannot go in, you’re not keeping me safe and I may have to resign and bring a claim in due course.
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