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An employer may want to plan in case they need to close the workplace temporarily. This might be a difficult time for both employers and staff. It’s a good idea to make sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.
Lay-offs and short-time working
In some situations, an employer may 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 may be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.
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 10 days, they should tell everyone at least 20 days before.
This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should explain clearly why they need to close and try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans.
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, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a minimum for this time. They will also need to follow self-isolation guidance on GOV.UK.
As schools in Northern Ireland are closing this will have an affect on care and working arrangements. This may be an anxious time for parents, and employers will need to be planning cover at work. If employees need emergency time off for child care or to make new arrangements, they can use either:
Employers and employees can consider the following steps:
If an agreement is made, it’s advisable for this to be in writing.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Employment team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.
Michael Black, Employment and Immigration Director, Employment team, Cleaver Fulton Rankin.