Coronavirus, Furlough and Legal Employment Rights
by Mike Roberts, Managing Director, LegalShield UK
The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic irreversibly upended our lives, and the pending second wave looks set to accelerate these changes. The anxieties felt by Britain have been unrelenting for just shy of seven months now and as we look towards the government furlough scheme ending, replacing this with The Job Support Scheme, these anxieties are being divided not only by concerns for loved ones but how far this scheme will be effective and whether they can still protect themselves from unemployment.
This crisis reinforces that both employers and employees need to be much more proactive when it comes to understanding their workplace rights and the legal aspects of employment. LegalShield’s own survey found that a stunning 80% of Brits have very little knowledge of their employment rights. This knowledge gap, coupled with the ongoing disruption caused by the Coronavirus, has left many people in a precarious situation and unsure of the proper course to take or where to seek guidance.
The below responses address employment related questions and concerns being felt in the current climate:
Will I lose my job when the furlough scheme ends?
This is a concern being expressed by many people now, unfortunately the answer is not straightforward. It depends on the business for which you work, how it is responding to the pandemic and how your role has changed in your absence. However, The Job Support Scheme has now been brought in to replace the furlough scheme, offering workers three quarters of their normal salaries for six months but this is only applicable to ‘viable’ jobs. But, if this is something you are worried about, talk to your employer as soon as possible. During this conversation you should address the viability of your current role, providing constructive solutions for its need and be open to an offer of a new position that you might be suited for. Employers will, broadly speaking, look to help their staff as much as possible.
If I lose my job when the furlough scheme ends, am I still entitled to a redundancy package?
Yes. If you have been on furlough during the pandemic, you have the same redundancy rights including redundancy pay. The amount however depends on what contract you are on and whether you have been working on the Flex Furlough Scheme. If you are on furlough and being paid less than usual, your redundancy pay is based on what you would have earned in typical circumstances. If your pay has been different each week, the weekly pay must be worked out by using the 12 weeks leading up to the day you got your redundancy notice – pay must be topped up to 100% for any hours were furloughed.
If I am made redundant, will I work my notice period or finish with immediate effect?
You are contractually required to work your notice period (unless your contract says otherwise). You will continue to be paid as normal throughout this time. In practice, if you are being made redundant, your employer will normally pay you a lump sum instead and allow you to leave immediately but this will depend on the circumstance in which you are being made redundant.
Will I have a chance to discuss alternative options with my employer?
You are entitled to a consultation with your employer if you are being made redundant. Such a discussion would involve speaking to them about why you are being made redundant and whether there are alternatives to redundancy e.g. a move into a different department.
This usually takes the form of a face-to-face meeting with a manager and a HR representative, but it can also take place over the phone or on a video call if you both agree to it and is more likely given the current climate.
By law you must meet at least once, but, depending on your questions or requests, you may meet several times. The number of employees being made redundant at the same time affects the nature of the consultation.
If your employer is making up to 19 people redundant, there are no rules about how they should carry out the consultation, but any more than that and the collective redundancy rules apply.
The Covid-19 crisis has been an unprecedented time for everyone. While there is so much uncertainty, what is important is being as informed as you can be when it comes to all aspects of your personal and professional life.
It is also vital for people to take the time to understand their rights fully and to understand how to best preserve them. LegalDefence is an effective tool to connect consumers with legal experts quickly and at an affordable cost. It can help to inform consumers about their rights, making sure that they have access to the professional guidance needed to navigate their employment rights and in doing so giving them peace of mind.
LegalDefence membership now includes a legal review of your standard employment contract to help alleviate contract concerns at such an uncertain time. Whether you want your existing contract reviewed or you have pressing questions before signing a new contract, LegalDefence can now offer direct guidance to assist and empower its Members and their family.