The current coronavirus crisis is putting workers at risk, both financially and in terms of their health and wellbeing. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves in this crisis. Below we have set out the areas of employment law that we feel are most relevant. In doing so, we hope it will help workers to get organised enabling them to defend themselves and stay safe during the pandemic.
We should stress that, by themselves, employment laws offer little protection. Rather than relying on employment laws, we should use them as an aid to organising and as a means of putting pressure on management.
This information has been put together by workplace activists rather than lawyers. The aim is to promote workers’ organisation and self-defence in the current circumstances. In the meanwhile, SolFed remains active in our workplaces and supporting other struggles. We are available through our usual communication channels. Get in touch and let’s share experiences and resources.
See below extracts on relevant pieces of law at work during the COVID-19 outbreak.
*We are updating this information regularly and welcome comments and collaborations*
Workers Furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme
Last update: 7th of August
-The Job Retention Scheme is now closed for new applicants.You can only be furloughed if you have been previously furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between the 1st of March and the 30th of June.
-Flexible Furlough: From the 1st of July, employers can bring furloughed workers back for any amount of time and any shift pattern. If your boss puts you on flexible furlough they should:
- Pay you for the hours worked at your normal rate and they can claim for the rest of the hours to the Job Retention Scheme.
- Flexible furlough needs to be agreed with you and written agreement should be made available.
- The flexible furlough agreement needs to be consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws.
-Scheme withdrawn:The Job Retention Scheme ids due to be fully withdrawn by October the 31st. In then meanwhile, employers’ contributions to the furlough wages are due to increase:
- From August the 1st: the grant will cover 80% of the furlough wages. Employers will have to pay ER NICs and pension contributions.
- From September the 1st: the grant will cover 70% of furlough wages. Employers will have to pay ER NICs and pension contributions and at top up at least to the 80% of the furlough wages.
- From October the 1st: the grant will cover 60% of furlough wages. Employers will have to pay ER NICs and pension contributions and at top up at least to the 80% of the furlough wages.
What is being furloughed? When your employer send you home because there is no work for you or they are not able to operate but, to avoid redundancies or unpaid lay-offs, classifies you as a “furloughed worker” in order to access the “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”
You can be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme:
- If you have been sent home because there is no work for you due to the pandemic
- If you have been told to self-isolate by the NHS
- If you have to look after someone or you are shielding someone
Who is eligible: All workers paying PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax are eligible. That includes workers on Zero-hours or agency workers…
- You must have been on the payroll before March the 20th of 2020.
- You are still entitled to be furloughed if you are on long term sick leave.
How it works: You have to agree with your employer to be classified as a “furloughed worker” under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
If you have been classified as a “furloughed worker” you are still employed and you are kept on the payroll.
Pay: You are entitled to 80% of your wages with a cap of £2,500 per worker per month, backdated from March the 1st.
Your boss can choose to pay you the difference but does not have to by law.
How your wages will be calculated:
-If you have been working for a year or more you can claim whichever is higher:
- Your wages for the same month last year
- Your average monthly wages last year
-If you have been working for less than one year then the amount will be calculated from your average monthly wage since you started
-If you have started in February 2020: your monthly wages pro-rata
Bonuses, commissions and fees are not included as wages.
- If you are furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, your holiday entitlement will continue to accrue. If you take holiday pay whilst furloughed, this should be paid at the normal rate.
- If you have been on unpaid leave after the 28th of February you can be furloughed instead.
- If you were on unpaid leave on or before the 28th of February you can be furloughed from the date you agreed to return to work
If you have more than one job:
- You can be furloughed in more than one job and can keep working in others that you have not been furloughed in
- You can be furloughed in all of them
- The £2,500 per month cap applies to each individual job.
Working while furlough: You cannot undertake any work for your employer while furloughed unless you are place on Flexible Furlough (see above).
Training while furlough: While furlough you can be asked to carry out some training in which case you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.
Claiming Universal Credit:
- If you are earning less because you are furloughed you may be able to claim UC
- If you are already claiming UC, you can keep doing so, but your UC payments may vary
Last update: 2nd of July
What is sick pay? If you are unable to work because you are sick, you may be entitled to sick pay. Same rules apply if you are isolating or shielding.
Contractual Sick Pay: Your Employment Contract may include some terms on being off sick and sick pay. These terms can only improve your statutory rights (see Statutory Sick Pay).
Check your Contract of Employment, including company’s policies or any information that you have been given in this respect.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): In absence of Contractual Sick Pay, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
• You need to earn £120 or more to qualify
• You need to have been off-sick for 4 days in a row (including non-working days)
• You need to claim within 7 days from the first day you cannot work
Pay: £95.85 per week for up to 28 weeks. The payments will start from the 4th day you are off sick.
Fit note: You may be asked for a letter from your doctor, a “fit note”. You are only obliged to provided it from the 7th day you are off-sick.
Casual workers: If you are on a casual, agency, zero-hour, part-time or short-term contract you are still entitled to statutory sick pay if you work part-time or on a fixed-term contract.
• Agency or casual workers: if you’re working on an assignment when you get ill, you might be entitled to SSP until that assignment ends. If you’d already agreed to another assignment, you might be entitled to SSP till the end of that future assignment. If you’re not working when you get ill, you won’t be entitled to SSP.
• Zero-hours contract: you can still get SSP just as long as you earn more than £120 a week on average.
If you have more than one job: If you have more than one employer you could be entitled to sick pay from each one. Treat each employer as if they were your only employer and claim SSP off each.
COVID-19 special measures: You are entitled to SSP if you have COVID-19 symptoms, if you are self-isolating or if you are shielding someone.
• If you have been classified as clinically extremely vulnerable, you can claim SSP from the 1st day (instead of from the 4th).
• You can claim SSP if you have to self-isolate because:
+You or someone in your support bubble has shown COVID-19 symptoms
+You have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that you’ve been in contact with someone with coronavirus
• You cannot get SSP if you’re self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason.
For further information follow this link
Claiming your Statutory Sick Pay:
If your boss refuses to pay you Statutory Sick Pay If you think you’re entitled to statutory sick pay but your employer says you're not and refuses to pay it, you should contact HM Revenue and Customs:
Telephone: 0300 200 3500 | Textphone: 0300 200 3212 | Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. Alternately you can phone HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team | Telephone: 03000 560630
You can also get in touch with us here at the Solidarity Federation
What if I am not entitled to Sick Pay
Shockingly the Office for National Statistics estimates that there are 1,766,000 jobs done by adults in the UK that paid less than £120 a week. Some 70% of these jobs are done by women.
There are also some 5 million people classed as self-employed, many of which work in the “gig economy” and are bogusly classed as self-employed. For these people, the only option during illness is to claim benefits with all the delays and difficulties this entails.
Your rights under UK employment laws are pretty pathetic. The way to improve pay and conditions is not through relying on weak employment rights but by workers coming together and demand full pay while off sick, instead of having to rely on the pathetic £95.85 SSP. Why not get together and demand full pay while off sick with the Coronavirus. If you are interested in starting to organise in your workplace, get in touch with us here at Solidarity Federation for support and advice.
For further information:
-Your rights at work during the coronavirus pandemic
Full rights at work guide elaborated by Manchester-SolFed
-The right to refuse work that is unsafe
United Voices of the World guide on Section 44 and the COVID-19
Article for care workers elaborated by Brighton-SolFed
-PPE and agency workers
Article on the Personal Protection Equipment by Manchester-SolFed