As you are aware, on 4th January Boris Johnson announced another national lockdown across the UK, lasting for at least 6 weeks, forcing many businesses to close and parents to once again ‘home school’ their children.

During the first lockdown in 2020, we issued guidance on how to address common issues that may arise from school closures, shielding individuals and a reduction in business. Again, many of our clients and friends are needing to make adjustments to accommodate parents and clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) employees during this time so we have put together this refresher guidance that we hope will help navigate the way through these, once again, unprecedented times.

Do I have to allow my employees to work from home?

The current guidance is clear if you can work from home then you should. If employees can carry out their roles from home, you must have a strong and valid business reason for asking employees to attend the premises under the current guidance.

Employees who are unable to carry out their work from home can still go to work as long as the premises are COVID-19 safe.

If employees are required to attend the premises and refuse to do so, due to the current guidance, then one of our dedicated consultants can talk through your options and give you the best advice and support with dealing with the situation.

Many of my employees have childcare responsibilities, do I have to furlough them?

Those with caring responsibilities are in a very difficult position again and having to juggle work with home-schooling. It is important to remember that the current situation is not of their making and they will almost certainly be just as worried as you are about missing work.

Although the right to be furloughed extends to parents, due to the school closures, you are under no obligation to furlough parents if you can make reasonable adjustments to allow them to continue to work. We urge you to deal with the situation in a reasonable and fair way.

If working from home isn’t an option, we encourage you to be flexible and listen to your employees concerns while attempting to resolve the situation.

I have an employee who is CEV, what should I do?

Individuals who are CEV are being told to stay at home. If it is possible, we are encouraging employers to furlough these individuals, if they cannot work from home.

If furlough isn’t an option, they may be entitled to SSP or Universal Credit.

Can I still get access to the CJRS?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30th April 2021 and employers who are eligible can access the scheme to get financial support for those employees who have been furloughed.

The scheme covers 80% of employees normal salary with pension costs and NI contributions being paid by the employer. The scheme is open to anyone who was on the RTI between 20th March and 30th October 2020.

For more information on the scheme, one of our dedicated consultants are available on our helpline from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday.

What happens if I don’t follow the latest guidance?

The government have now published a website where employees can register a complaint against their employers should they feel that they have not been treated fairly during the coronavirus pandemic.
The website is accessible to anyone and the individual does not need to be employed by the company for a complaint to be registered.

It is important to remember that employees who feel that they are being treated unfairly or discriminated against can make a tribunal claim against their employer.

We are working through extremely difficult times, like no other on record, so we encourage our clients to speak to one of our consultants if they are unsure about how to deal with any of these situations.

The government will be releasing further guidance shortly and we will keep our clients updated when more information becomes available.

As always, if you need our help with this or any other HR advice then do call us on 01536 215240.

About the Author: Carla Cifaldi

Carla Cifaldi
Carla is Gateway's Senior HR Consultant. She holds a Level 7 CIPD Diploma in HR and is continually seeking further opportunities to develop her knowledge which demonstrates her commitment to increasing her expertise and providing the best service to our clients. Outside of work, Carla’s passions are her dogs, handbags and her hot tub – probably not the most compatible mix!