Covid–19: Employment Law Update – 26 March 2020

405,000 people answer the call for NHS volunteers

During the government’s daily news conference, the Prime Minister revealed that in the last 24 hours, 405,000 Britons have responded to the call for NHS volunteers. NHS volunteers will make phone calls to check on vulnerable people and deliver food and medicine to them.  Employees will now be able to take unpaid leave from their normal jobs to fill the volunteer roles while accessing a fund that will compensate them for loss of earnings.  Employees who take emergency volunteer leave will be entitled to the benefit of all of the terms and conditions of their employment which would have applied if the employee had not been absent, with the exception of pay.

Government poised to announce further relief for self-employed

The Prime Minister fielded more questions today on emergency relief for the UK’s self-employed. Boris Johnson said the UK’s self-employed workforce is complex with many different types of arrangements in place.  As such, working out a package to address those various arrangements has taken more time but details of measures are expected to be announced on Thursday 26 March 2020 by the Chancellor.

Further update – Coronavirus and UK immigration

All non-EEA nationals who are presently in the UK and whose leave has expired or will be expiring but are unable to leave due to the impacts of the Coronavirus, will be able to request an extension of their visa. The announcement is found in a guidance document issued by the Home Office.  The same document also states that individuals may be able to switch to a long-term UK visa.  For further details please see yesterday’s update from our Head of Business Immigration, Sundeep Rathod.

477,000 workers apply for Universal Credit

The Department for Work and Pensions say that 477,000 people have applied for Universal Credit in the past nine days and they were redeploying thousands of civil servants to help process the claims. For further details, click here.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal closes

Clients with cases before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) are advised that the President of the EAT has announced that due to the rapidly changing circumstances created by the current pandemic, the EAT will not be conducting any hearings (including telephone or Skype hearings) from Wednesday, 25 March 2020 until Wednesday 15 April 2020. Any appeals lodged with the EAT during this period can only be lodged by email.

The Supreme Court goes remote with video conferencing

The Registries of the Supreme Court is now operating remotely and the building is closed until further notice. Hearings are now being conducted via video conferencing facilities and clients who have listed hearings can expect their solicitors to be contacted with the necessary information. Further details from the Supreme Court are available here.

Health & safety in UK supermarkets

Supermarkets are installing protective screens and limiting shoppers in store following government calls for an immediate increase in safety efforts. Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are among those installing Perspex screens, while rival Waitrose is closing checkouts where two assistants sit back to back. Sky News reports.

The workplace in numbers

The Evening Standard has published the results of a YouGov survey on the impact of the Coronavirus on Britain’s workplace. A sample of 3,000 people contacted between Monday 23 March 2020 and Tuesday 24 March suggested:

  • 5% of those questioned have lost their job
  • 9% have had their hours reduced
  • 51% of people said they now felt worse about the state of society
  • 32% feared for their future
  • 83% expect the economy to be weakened for a few years or longer
  • 11% think the economy will bounce back fast
  • 87% felt that the public needed to take the lockdown more seriously
  • 90% said they would stick to government advice even if they disagreed with it
  • 60% said they went outside on Sunday, though mostly for shopping and exercise
  • 42% said they were now working from home full time and 12% some of the time
  • 24% said they felt more lonely than useful, 26% that they were sleeping less than usual and 19% that they were eating less

Should you require any assistance with your employment arrangements during this difficult period, do not hesitate to contact the co-head partners of our employment department.  Ewan Keen can be reached at 020 3206 2724 or ewan.keen@smab.co.uk or Tamara Ludlow at 020 3206 2739 or tamara.ludlow@smab.co.uk.