Coronavirus Act 2020 – Key employment provisions

The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 25 March 2020. The Act makes changes to existing legislation to allow public bodies UK-wide to respond effectively to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The measures are temporary and will only be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.  The Act doesn't make provision for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme . More information about that is expected shortly.

Although most of the Act comes into force straight away, the parts relating to employment law do not.  We will need to wait for regulations to be made before we know the finer details and before anything changes on the ground.

However, here is a broad overview of the key employment provisions:

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay

  • SSP will be able to be claimed from the first day of sickness (rather than the fourth, which is the usual rule). This will have retrospective effect from 13 March 2020. The aim is to ensure people comply with the request to stay at home if they or anyone in their household has symptoms.
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP paid for the first 14 days of any COVID-19 related sickness absence. This will have retrospective effect from 14 March 2020 and should lessen the financial burden on small employers.
  • Changes have already been made to the SSP rules to extend eligibility to those who cannot work because they are self-isolating on Government advice to prevent the spread of the virus.

Emergency volunteering leave

  • Employees and workers who want to volunteer to help health and social care services with the response to the outbreak may take a period of unpaid leave from their current jobs in order to do so (subject to a few exceptions).
  • Leave can be taken in blocks of either two, three or four consecutive weeks leave. One period of leave is allowed every 16 weeks.
  • An employee who takes emergency volunteering leave will remain employed and subject to all of the terms and conditions set out in their contract, except for pay.
  • Volunteers will be reimbursed for loss of earnings, and for travel and subsistence, through a UK-wide compensation fund. Pension rights will also continue unchanged.
  • It is hoped these provisions will increase the available health and social care workforce to ensure the best possible care is provided to those in need.

Changes to Employment Tribunal proceedings

  • The availability of video and audio link facilities in Tribunals will be increased to enable proceedings to take place without the parties needing to attend in person. This will give judges more options for avoiding postponements and continuing to progress cases.

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