Coronavirus Employment Update 27/03/2020

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 27 March 2020
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We have a number of employment news articles related to the Coronavirus this week including:

Coronavirus Act 2020

Draconian emergency powers to help ministers deal with the covid-19 pandemic have become law, as the Queen granted the legislation royal assent.  It comes after both the Lords and the Commons passed the unprecedented 329-page bill in just three days, bringing into force the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The published act:  

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on Wednesday 25 March 2020. The Act brings in emergency measures related to Covid-19 and the resulting pandemic. Employment-related changes include:

  • Modification of the statutory sick pay system. SSP will be payable from the first day of sickness or self-isolation and should be funded by HMRC. Although self-isolation is now covered by SSP rules, changes to social security legislation is required to allow payment for the first three days of absence;

  • 'Emergency volunteering leave' is introduced. It enables emergency volunteers in health or social care to take unpaid time off work and receive compensation for loss of earnings and expenses from the state. Over 400,000 people signed up for this in the first 24 hours of its launch, so it will impact on many employers. Although employers are not required to pay volunteers, there seems to be no provision for blocking their right to leave work and volunteer, provided the employee provides the employer with three days' notice and a copy of their volunteering certificate, which they will have received in advance from an appropriate public authority. All employee benefits, bar remuneration must be safeguarded and employee volunteers are protected against detriment and dismissal. Unlike other provisions in the Act, which are time-barred under a 'sunset clause', these employee protections have no automatic expiry;

  • The SSP changes and emergency volunteering leave provisions both require secondary legislation to bring the proposed changes into law. 

We hope to have more information on this and the job retention scheme of compensation for employers who have to lay-off employees at our webinar on 3rd April wil Mark McAllister of the LRA and Seamus McGranaghan of O'Reilly Stewart. Register now:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Q&A

Kiera Lee, Mills Selig answers key questions in relation to the proposed job retention scheme:    

Recently Published Government Guidance on the Scheme 

The guidance is comprehensive and outlines who a claim can be made for under the scheme (employees - full and part-time; those on agency contracts or zero hours contractss).  Main areas:

  • Who can claim
  • Employees you can claim for
  • Work out what you can claim
  • What you’ll need to make a claim
  • Claim

Daniel Barnett has written an excellent summary on the Scheme which can be found here

Guidance available here 

Government Announces Support for the Self Employed

NIC-ICTU Warmly Welcomes Chancellors Statement On Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme    

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

A series of FAQ's for small business is available here:  

Homeworking and the Coronavirus - How Do I Handle It?

Rachel Richardson, Tughans, considers how homeworking can be implemented in the current Coronavirus outbreak:

A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Homeworking  

CIPD Guidance on responding to the Coronavirus  

NHS Launches Online ‘Isolation Notes’ Service For Employees  

The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 which amend regulation 2(1) to provide that a person who is isolating himself from others in accordance with advice on coronavirus disease effective on 12th March 2020 is deemed to be incapable of work, are published. These Regulations amend that date to 16th March 2020.      

The Discretionary Support (Amendment) (COVID-19) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020. 
These Regulations amend the Discretionary Support Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 (S.R. 2016 No. 270) (“the 2016 Regulations”).  Regulation 2 amends regulation 12 of the 2016 Regulations to provide for a grant for short-term living expenses to assist claimants affected by COVID-19 or who are advised to self-isolate because of it and to exempt such cases from the restriction of only one grant in twelve months.

Companies to receive 3-month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19:    

COVID 19 Benefits Factsheet - Ulster University Law Clinic have produced this useful factsheet to outline employee benefits options during the Coronavirus outbreak:   

School Closures and Key Workers:

Northern Ireland Executive ministers are involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.

Executive publishes list of essential businesses:  

Employment Tribunals NI - Presidential Guidance

We mentioned the Guidance from the Presidents of the Tribunals in GB last week and this week the President of the NI Employment tribunal has issued guidance.  Having regard to the need to limit the scope of any risks to health during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the need to maintain the administration of justice, the President of the Tribunals has issued the guidance which includes: 

  1. Preliminary hearings will continue by telephone conferences.
  2. All hearings listed up to the 1st May will be postponed. 
  3. No additional hearings will be listed before the 1st May.

More here:  

Thirteen Tips To Make Self-Isolating Easier

For How Long Does Coronavirus Live on Inanimate Surfaces and Why You Shouldn’t mix Bleach with Other Cleaning Products  

Guidance On The Execution Of Wills During The COVID-19 Crisis

As the stark reality of the impact of the Coronavirus is realised the Government takes steps to prepare for the inevitable loss of life:

County Down Army Base To Be Used As A Mortuary

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Commencement No. 1) Regulations 2020

These Regulations bring into force, immediately after these Regulations are made, sections 18, 19 and 21 of, and schedule 13 to, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (c. 7) to ease the requirements around certification and registration of deaths and still-births in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and to modify the requirements for cremations in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

This article is correct at 27/03/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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