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Employment law guide

Coronavirus and employment law in the UK

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force from 1pm 26 March 2020 and give legal backing to the list of business closures and to the limited reasons people can leave their home during the emergency period.

The legislation is here.

Schedule 2 Parts I and 2 list the businesses which must remain closed. Part 3 is the businesses that may remain open. The list of businesses which can remain open is limited.

Government guidance on business closures.

A business operating in contravention of the Regulations will be committing an offence.

Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate. Businesses and premises that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines.

The public can only travel "... for the purposes of work ... where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work ... from the place where they are living".

Health and safety

Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.

An employer who fails to ensure safety by following the Government advice and guidance regarding the possibility of its workers being infected by Covid-19 risks being in breach of statutory and common law duties.

Statutory sick pay

The law on SSP has been changed to cover people who self-isolate because of coronavirus and to make it payable from the first day of a period of entitlement.

The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force on 28 March 2020 and suspend the limitation, set out in section 155(1) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, that Statutory Sick Pay is not payable for the first three qualifying days in a period of entitlement.

They also amend the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 (“the 1982 Regulations”) to specify when a person isolating by reason of coronavirus is deemed to be incapable of work, by inserting a Schedule into those Regulations which specifies when a person is deemed to be incapable of work because the person is staying at home.

This includes persons with symptoms of coronavirus staying at home for 7 days, and persons living in the household of a person with symptoms of coronavirus staying at home for 14 days.

Get an isolation note (NHS website).

Reduction in hours or salary, redundancy or lay off

Where a business has to shut down, on a temporary or permanent basis, or has suffered a downturn in work, there are a number of options open to employers:

Furlough employees

The Government has given employers a further option to continue to employ staff they have no work for due to Covid-19 and to "furlough" them. This means they remain employed and the employer pay their wages and claim 80% or up to £2,500 a month back from the Government.

The Government support pages for employers are here:

Government support for businesses (gov.uk)

Job Retention Scheme Guidance (gov.uk)


Other information

The emergency measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020:

The Coronavirus Act 2020

General Government Guidance on Coronavirus:

Coronavirus guidance at gov.uk

If you think you have Coronavirus symptoms, do not go to work, stay away from other people and get advice from the NHS website:

NHS website - Coronavirus symptoms