Coronavirus – How can our People Services team help your business with the challenges it is facing?

25 / 03 / 2020

Employers are facing an unprecedented set of circumstances as Covid-19 sweeps the country. Whilst the primary objective is, and should be, to halt the spread of the virus and to save as many lives as possible, we are acutely aware of the economic impact this will be having on many businesses and the pressures being faced by employers and their staff alike.

Wedlake Bell remains fully functioning and able to assist with any legal queries you may have in relation to the Coronavirus and how it impacts your workforce.

Below we have listed some of the questions we have received in recent days from employers. In each case we have been able to provide rapid advice to help those businesses address their fears in a calm, well-informed manner.

Employer Duties

  1. Do I have to allow employees to work from home?
  2. Can an employee refuse to work for fear of contracting the virus?
  3. Can/should I tell workers if one of their colleagues has tested positive for Covid-19?
  4. Can I ask an employee if they have had the virus?
  5. When the anti-body test becomes available can I force my employees to take it and share the results with me?
  6. How should I communicate these temporary changes to staff?
  7. What are my employer duties with regards to keeping my staff safe and reducing their exposure to risk?

Paying Employees

  1. Can I temporarily stop paying my staff ?
  2. What is the government’s Job Retention Scheme (furlough)? and how do I make use of it?
  3. How do I choose which employees to furlough?
  4. Do I need to pay my staff if they need to stay at home with their children?
  5. Can I reduce my staff’s pay if their working hours have been reduced?
  6. How do I monitor my staff whilst they are working from home?
  7. Do I need to pay staff who are self-isolating?
  8. Can I send my staff home on unpaid leave if they have symptoms?
  9. Can I put benefits on hold?

Continued Employment/Terminating Employment

  1. Can I terminate the employment of my staff if I no longer need them as a result of a reduction of business/trade during this pandemic, even if I think things will pick up?
  2. How do I choose which staff to retain?
  3. Do I have to apply for a grant under the Job Retention Scheme rather than make staff redundant?
  4. What are the alternatives to redundancy?
  5. Is it discriminatory if I need to terminate the employment of a mother who is unable to work as she has to look after her children?

Helping Employees Find Work Elsewhere

  1. My employees aren’t needed at the moment, I want to help them find temporary work with other companies which are trying to recruit temporary workers. What risks do I face if I get involved with this process? Will I become a “recruitment agent”?

Pensions & Life Assurance

  1. Do I need to continue paying auto-enrolment employer pension contributions?
  2. What about my employees’ obligation to pay employee auto -enrolment pension contributions?
  3. Can I reduce pension deficit contributions to my trust-based final salary pension scheme?
  4. Can I reduce my future service pension contributions to my trust-based final salary pension scheme?
  5. What should the trustees of my trust-based final salary pension scheme be aware of in relation to the pandemic? What should I be discussing with them at the moment?
  6. Will life cover be continued for staff If so, will this be at the same level or a reduced level?

We have an incredibly well-experienced, approachable and commercial People Services team who cover all aspects of employment, pension, employee benefit and immigration work in the UK and overseas. Our clients range from small start-ups to large, multinational companies. If you are struggling to decide how best to react to the personnel challenges faced by your business during these unusual circumstances please get in touch to see how we can help you.