There are a number of measures that employers can utilise in order to keep their business going and limit the financial impact during this period:
Utilising home working
For those employers with the ability to allow staff to work from home this is a measure which can be utilised to keep operations running despite the requirements of self-isolation. Employers can ensure that staff who have work laptops, mobile phones etc. take them home so that they can continue to work even if they are required to self-isolate or the employer is required to close temporarily.
Lay-off and short term working
Employers may decide to shut down or reduce production temporarily and seek to lay off staff or introduce short-time working during that period. Laying off employees means the employer provides 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. Such measures allow employers to save money in the short-term whilst retaining a workforce they may need again in the future. It is also an alternative to redundancy. The statutory definitions of lay-off and short-term working must be met in order for an employer to be able to utilise these measures without paying staff, in addition there must be an express provision in the contract of employment allowing an employer to lay off employees or put them on short-term working without pay.
For further information on when employees should receive sick pay see our article Coronavirus – What Employers Need to Know.
For employers who don’t have express contractual provisions allowing them to lay off employees or put staff on short-term working without pay, an alternative may be to contractually reduce working hours for staff and consequently reduce the employer’s pay-bill. Ideally, this change should be made with the agreement of the employees, introducing changes unilaterally could result in breach of contract or unlawful deductions from wages claims. However, if the measures are presented as an alternative to redundancy and are temporary this may induce employees to agree to the changes.
An employer can tell staff when to take holiday if necessary. If an employer decides to close the business for two weeks, then employees could be required to take holiday during this shut-down period. There are specific requirements which an employer must meet in order to utilise this measure, for example staff must be told at least twice as many days before the holiday as the amount of days of holiday staff are required to take, so if they are required to take 14 days holiday they should be given 28 days’ notice. Employers should be mindful of the fact that this may affect staff who have already booked or planned holiday or have used or are close to using their holiday entitlement for the year.
If employers are in a position where they need to make employees redundant, they should still consult with staff, and consider alternatives to redundancy, to ensure that the redundancy process is fair. All employees with over 2 years’ service will be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment.
For more information please contact a member of our Employment Team