COVID-19: Top Issues Facing UK Employers

April 29, 2020

When the UK government’s job retention portal, where UK employers can seek to recover wages of furloughed employees, went live, it received 67,000 claims within 30 minutes. The challenges employers are facing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are clear. Amid an evolving situation, we have seen seven iterations of government guidance—sometimes contradictory—on the Job Retention Scheme and additional information from both HM Treasury and Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

High on the agenda for employers are logistical and practical questions related to furloughing, eligibility, salary, holidays, remote working, and what comes next in terms of the end of the lockdown. Key to consider are not just the legal implications, in case of future claims from an employee or group of employees, but also the potential reputational repercussions if any action were taken to adjust policies on these issues. Employee consent should always be sought before changing employment terms.

While there are a number of things for employers to consider during this time, they will need to plan for reopening and introducing employees back into the workplace. When this time comes, a one-size-fits-all approach is not advised, and businesses should instead decide who can return to the workplace on an individualized basis.

Employers should bear in mind some key considerations on returning to work:

  • Initiate and train employees on social distancing measures
  • Review new and existing policies including around furlough, leave, benefits, and plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Screen employees, noting that employers need employee consent to conduct health screenings
  • Provide personal protective equipment
  • Make workspace modifications such as spacing out desks

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