Aga Khan Economic Planning Board for the United Kingdom
COVID-19 Advice for Employers and Employees
(Last Updated: 4 April 2020)
The Economic Planning Board’s mandate is to support the Jamat with their economic wellbeing. The purpose of this FAQs document is to provide guidance to employers and employees regarding workplace policies and practices in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The Jamat is advised to regularly refer to reliable communication channels including your workplace and government to understand the most up to date guidance available.
The advice is being reviewed and updated regularly. We are monitoring government updates and when legal changes happen but we strongly recommend that you check the links below for the most up to date advice:
• Advice for employers and employees: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
• Entitlement to sick pay - https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/cymraeg/work/rights-at-work/sick-pay/c...
• Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you want to discuss your options on sick pay
• Workplace guidance - https://www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/diseases/pandflu.htm#ref6
• Advice for UK employers: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/health-safety/coro...
The government has produced the following guidance available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-bus... to assist employers and businesses in providing advice to their staff on:
• the novel coronavirus, COVID-19
• how to help prevent spread of all respiratory infections including COVID-19
• what to do if someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in business settings
• what advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas
• actions to take if staff come into contact with someone who is self-isolating or is a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19
In case coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK, employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff.
It's good practice for employers to:
• keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
• make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
• make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace develops the virus
• identify vulnerable individuals in the workplace and record any relevant data associated with these individuals
• promote health and wellbeing
• make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
• provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
• consider if protective face masks might help for people working in particularly vulnerable situations
• consider if any travel planned to affected areas is essential
• be flexible with deadlines and adjust targets e.g. change hours to allow for childcare
Good Practices on Mental Health
• Talk openly about mental health
• Create a supportive environment
• Identify Mental Health Champions in the workplace as a source of support
• Encourage employees to stay mentally and physically active
• Signpost individuals to organisations who offer help and support
You should let your employer know as soon as possible if they're not able to go to work. Your workplace's usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus.
To check whether you are entitled to sick pay, speak to your employer or visit the www.citizenadvice.org.uk.
As the spread of the virus continues, employers are likely to face the following situations:
• If employees have been told by a medical professional to self-isolate:
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): In the Budget on 11 March, the Government announced a range of new measures around SSP. If NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, they are entitled to SSP. This includes individuals who may be a carrier of COVID-19 who may not have symptoms, and will also apply to people caring for those in the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate. . If someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. The Government has also announced that Statutory Sick Pay will be made available from day one (instead of from day four) for those affected by coronavirus when self-isolating. These provisions will become law in the forthcoming COVID-19 Bill. The Budget also announced measures whereby employers with less than 250 employees can claim a refund for COVID-19 related SSP costs (up to two weeks per employee).
Medical evidence for SSP: Employees can currently self-certify for the first seven days, and Government advice is that employers should use discretion around the need for medical evidence for absence where an employee is advised to self-isolate in the current exceptional circumstances. In the 11 March Budget, the Government announced it will introduce a temporary alternative to the current fit note in the coming weeks for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak whereby those in self-isolation can obtain a notification via NHS 111 to use as evidence for absence from work.
An alternative option to providing sick pay is to allow people who are asked to self-isolate to work from home wherever possible, and continue to pay as normal.
• If an employer sends people home as a precaution: Employees are following the reasonable instruction of their employer and should get their normal pay.
• If employees choose to self-isolate but have not been advised to by a medical professional, and have no symptoms: Employees who voluntarily self-isolate without symptoms, and without their employer’s agreement, could be required to attend work by their employer. However, employers should take people’s concerns seriously, especially if there are underlying health conditions, including mental ill health.
• If an employee’s children are sent home because of school closure: Many employees would be able to work from home and employers would have to expect there to be some disruption to a person’s ability to work as normal, depending on the child’s age. Employees may choose to take this time off as holiday so normal processes and pay apply. If an employee is unable to work from home, they could be granted unpaid emergency time off or unpaid parental leave.
If an employee does not want to go to work
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're afraid of catching coronavirus. This could particularly be the case for those who are at higher risk.
An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone. For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that people can avoid using public transport.
If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this. If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action.
Find out more about absence from work.
Lay-offs and short-time working
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.
If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure. Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.
Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' of up to £29 a day from their employer.
This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.
Find out more about:
• lay-offs and short-time working
• your nearest Jobcentre Plus on GOV.UK
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
An alternative option to laying off staff is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This is a temporary Government scheme open to all UK employers for at least 3 months (from 1st March 2020). It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus.
Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period.
The scheme is open to all UK employers that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020.
The scheme covers all types of employees including (full-time, part-time, agency and zero-hour contract workers). Employees must also be consulted and agree to be furloughed.
Employers can access the scheme through an online portal and employers can decide whether or not they wish to supplement employees’ salary over the 80%.
For more information about the scheme, click here
Self-employment Income Support Scheme
If you are self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus, the government has introduced a Self-employment Income Support Scheme on 26th March 2020, that will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months.
You can apply if you:
• have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
• traded in the tax year 2019-20
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
• have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment.
Note: You cannot apply for this scheme yet. HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. For more information, click here
Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.
If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before. This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:
• explain clearly why they need to close
• try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
Rules on carrying over annual leave to be relaxed:
The government has announced that workers unable to take all of their statutory annual leave this year will be entitled to carry it over into the next two leave years. Currently, the statutory annual leave entitlement for most workers who work a five-day week is 28 days’ holiday (including bank holidays). The new regulations will allow up to four weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next two leave years. This will ensure workers do not lose their leave entitlements and will provide businesses with flexibility at a time they need it most. These changes will amend the current ‘Working Time Regulations’ which apply to almost all workers. For more information click here.
If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a 'dependant') in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus.
A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help. There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, everyone in the household must self-isolate for 14 days and they should receive statutory sick pay as a minimum for this time.
Find out more about time off for dependants.
Managing employees who have Coronavirus
The government has now introduced measures (starting 23 March) requiring that people should only leave home under a list of 'very limited purposes'. This means people should only travel to and from work where work absolutely cannot be done at home. Employers can refer to the homeworking questionnaire and the remote working top tips to manage a widespread move to working from home. Employers should be mindful of anyone who may be more vulnerable due to age, pregnancy or a pre-existing condition and prioritise flexible arrangements for them during this time.
You can find information on the business support measures introduced by the government on the government website.
Furthermore, if an employee is asked to self-isolate or is suspected of having contracted the coronavirus the employer should probably communicate this to the other employees. There is probably no absolute legal obligation to do this, but an employer does have a duty of mutual trust and confidence and a duty to take care of all employees’ health and safety.
Revealing the name of the infected employee should certainly not be done without the employee’s permission. Revealing details of an infected employee, including their medical situation without permission could amount to a breach of their data protection rights or right to privacy.
If someone has coronavirus symptoms at work
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:
• tell their employer immediately and go home
• avoid touching anything
• cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
• use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
The unwell person must self-isolate at home for 14 days if they live with others, or 7 days if they live alone.
You can get more advice or help by either:
• using the NHS 111 coronavirus service website
• calling 111, if you cannot access the NHS website
• calling 999, if someone is seriously ill or life is at risk
It’s best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone or computer to access these services.
If someone with coronavirus comes to work
If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close, but they should follow cleaning advice.
See advice for cleaning workplaces on GOV.UK.
If you live in Scotland or Wales, keep up to date with your government’s coronavirus advice on:
• Health Protection Scotland (HPS)
• Welsh Government
Last reviewed: 4 April 2020
Please find below a summary of support for businesses for COVID-19, provided by an external source. For further information, please visit https://www.sterlingrees.com/covid-19/
The advice is being reviewed and updated regularly, and relevant links can be found at the beginning of this document to read the most up to date information.