By Pauline Hughes, Trainee Solicitor
In the last week, as the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has placed significant restrictions on our lives, we have seen the following legislative changes:
The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020. From an employment law perspective, the key measures are as follows:
Statutory sick pay (SSP):
- SSP will be payable from the first day of absence for an employee whose incapacity for work is related to coronavirus. This applies to any period of incapacity for work related to the coronavirus on or after 13 March 2020.
- HMRC has been given the power to refund an employer’s payment of SSP in the above circumstances. HMRC will draft Regulations setting out the detail of this in due course.
- The Chancellor announced on 17 March 2020 that funding would be available for employers who have less than 250 to recover two weeks’ SSP per each eligible employee.
Emergency volunteering leave:
Emergency volunteering leave is a new concept allowing workers to leave their primary job and temporarily volunteer in the health or care sector. The following is of note for employers:
- Workers are entitled to be absent from work on leave for the period specified in an emergency volunteering certificate (EVC), issued by an appropriate authority.
- To qualify for this leave, no later than three working days before the first day of the leave period, the worker must notify their employer in writing of their intention to be absent from work and provide their employer with a copy of the EVC.
- Workers can take only one period of leave in each volunteering period. The period of leave set out in the EVC must be either two, three or four consecutive weeks and must begin and end in the same “volunteering period” (i.e. an initial 16 week period, beginning on the date that the relevant section and schedule of the 2020 Act come into force, but further periods can be set thereafter).
- Employers are not entitled to refuse a request for this leave, unless they have less than ten employees.
- Employers are not required to pay workers their normal wages or salary during this period of leave.
- That said, workers absent on this leave have the following rights: to benefit from their terms and conditions that would have applied had they not been absent (except in relation to pay), to return to the job that they did before the leave on no less favourable terms and conditions and to protection from detriment and dismissal for having taken the leave.
Carry forward of annual leave
On 27 March 2020, the Government has confirmed that existing regulations will be amended so that workers can carry forward up to four weeks of annual leave to the next two holiday years, where they have been prevented from taking the leave due to coronavirus.
Gender Pay Gap reporting
Separately, it has been confirmed that with effect from 24 March 2020, qualifying employers will not be required to comply with their gender pay gap reporting deadlines for this reporting year (2019/2020).
If you wish to discuss these changes, or you need support on any other employment law matters, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team on 0141 331 5150.