Employment Law FAQs

Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page on Employment Law. Here you will find the latest guidelines that apply for your practice and employees during the current Coronavirus outbreak

This is an exceptionally difficult and rapidly evolving situation and we wish to reassure members that the MDDUS stands ready to assist, advise and support our members. Doctors should ensure they remain aware of the latest guidance from the relevant government and health departments and follow those guidelines. You should be cognisant of GMC guidance ensuring that this continues to be followed. We anticipate that GMC will be producing clarification and FAQs to facilitate this as matters evolve. At all times you must prioritise the needs of your patients and should be in a position to justify your actions, if later called upon to do so.

  • How do I know my employees are classed as key workers for childcare purposes?

    The guidance below sets out what childcare and learning provision we expect to be made available to key workers during closures of school and day care of children, including early learning and childcare (ELC), services to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. 

     

    It is clear that healthcare workers in a medical and dental setting will included as part of these schemes. 

     

    UK Government:  “Health and social care

     

    This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.”

     

    Scottish Government:  

     

    Category 1 – Health and Care workers directly supporting COVID response, and associated staff; Health and Care workers supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; Energy suppliers (small numbers identified as top priority already); staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff.

     

    Category 2 – All other Health and Care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (e.g Fire, Police, Prisons, Social Workers, etc), as well as those supporting our Critical National Infrastructure, without whom serious damage to the welfare of the people of Scotland could be caused.”

     

    Further guidance can be accessed here:

     

    English Government Guidance

    Scottish Government Guidance

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  • Do I pay and employee if they are off work with the coronavirus?

    The practice’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone potentially has coronavirus and employees should be reminded to alert the manager as soon as possible if they’re not able to come to work.

    Employees who self-isolate are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP). Note that the Government have announced SSP is to be paid from day one, rather than day four. It would be good practice to provide contractual sick pay in such circumstances. Be aware these employees may be unable to promptly provide a sick note/fit note if required to self-isolate for 14 days (employees are not required to self-certify for the first 7 days).

    Those self-isolating due to coronavirus for more than 7 days can get an online self-isolation note from the NHS website and NHS mobile phone app (see link below).

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  • What if an employee refuses to come to work due to the coronavirus?

    Some employees may not be ill, but may not wish to come to work through fear of contracting coronavirus. Or an employee may wish to stay home to care for someone who is unwell. There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.

    If an employee refuses to come to work then the employer needs to speak with the person to see if there is a genuine concern. If there is not, then the employee would not be entitled to sick pay but could apply for annual leave (subject to the usual approval processes).

    Discuss any concerns with the employee and try to reach a mutually agreed arrangement. Although not always practicable in clinical practice, one option could be to offer flexible working. Be clear that if an employee refuses to attend work without good reason, this could result in disciplinary action. Close
  • What should I do to minimise the risk to employees?

    Send information and guidance to staff informing them of any actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace. This should highlight relevant guidance from Government/the NHS on the importance of hand-washing and of disposing of used tissues etc. 

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  • What if an employee has to self -isolate because someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms?

    Employees and workers must receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they require to self-isolate because someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms.

    If someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. Employers might offer more than SSP, contractual sick pay, but this is a decision for them to make.

    Further guidance can be found here.

     

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/

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  • What happens if my child’s school closes and I need to look after them?

    Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations relating to coronavirus such as if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed.

    There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or practice policy.

    The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation and they can also request annual leave.
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  • What happens if my business is closed or on a reduced service?

    If your practice is forced to close or reduce its service then you should consider whether there is any work that some or all of your employees could carry out from home. This could mean asking employees to carry out tasks that do not fall within their ordinary job description by agreement. 

    Where that is not possible and staff would need to be laid off (per the contract) or made redundant, the employer may instead place the employee on “furlough leave” and apply to the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme introduced on 20 March 2020.

    This scheme allows employers to claim a grant from HMRC to be reimbursed to cover 80% of the wages of employees who are not working but kept on the payroll, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for each employee, in circumstances where the alternative was to lay off the staff (or make them redundant). The government will reimburse the employer for wages paid, not pay the employee direct. However, for medical and dental practices, whether government funding is being made available, is still to be confirmed. We will update this FAQ as soon as more information is made available. Where an employer is facing short term cashflow problems there is state assistance available for that.

    Details are awaited from the government and we will update this note when the details are available on the government website: COVID-19: support for businesses 

    The scheme will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and will be open for at least 3 months.

    Employers would need to designate the affected employees as “furloughed” and notify them of that change. Please email advice@mddus.com if you wish a copy of our template Furlough letter. The guidance states that normal employment law principles still apply, so staff should be asked to agree to the furlough arrangements. They are likely to do so if the alternative is redundancy or lay off without pay.  Employees who are “furloughed” would not be able to carry out any work. 

    HMRC are still in the process of setting up payments system and we expect that the Government will set out more details about the scheme shortly. It is hoped that the refund system will be operational by the end of April.

    This advice is given by Caroline Carr

    Partner and Accredited Employment Law Specialist in BTO Solicitors LLLP Close
  • What if I have an employee who is in a vulnerable category? 

    Employees in the vulnerable category (including individuals over 70, women who are pregnant and individuals under 70 with an underlying health condition) are recognised as being at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

    While there is no blanket ban on such individuals attending work (should they choose to do so), these employees should be permitted to work from home where possible and the employer should take all reasonable steps to facilitate that, which could include incurring cost (for example for remote working equipment or licences).  Where they are working from home, pay will continue as normal.  If the employer fails to take reasonable steps to allow home working, arguably normal pay should be paid until such steps are taken.

    Where an employee could work from home but refuses to do so without good reason that may justify withholding pay entirely.

    Of course there are some jobs that simply cannot be done remotely, and the question arises as to whether vulnerable staff staying at home per government advice should receive full pay, sick pay, or no pay.   Employers might take the view that vulnerable staff should not, due to the inability to work from home, be encouraged to come to work and jeopardise their health, suggesting that at least some pay should be due.

    The government has not been clear on what pay, if any, is due for this situation so it is a decision for the practice to take.

    Until such time as advice and clarity is provided by the government, the safer approach for practices would probably be to deem such persons to be entitled to SSP and, if applicable, company sick pay and to advise such staff that the situation (about pay) will be reviewed when government advice is issued. There is of course nothing to stop an employer paying such staff SSP topped up to full pay and deeming such staff to be sick and reclaiming the SSP element later.

    This advice is given by Caroline Carr, Partner at BTO

    Partner and Accredited Employment Law Specialist in BTO Solicitors LLLP

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  • What advice can you give me if I have to make my staff redundant? 

    Employees who have less than 2 years service are not entitled to redundancy pay and if you have to reduce staff then potentially looking at employees who have less than 2 years service may be a good starting point. Any decision to terminate must not take into account any protected categories as part of The Equality Act 2010.

    If you have employees who have 2 years service or more then there is a legal process of consultation and selection that is required to be followed.

    Employees with two or more years’ service are entitled to statutory redundancy payments. It is important to check your contracts with regards to any entitlement to additional redundancy pay.

    Statutory redundancy pay depends on the employee’s age and length of service as follows:

    • Half a week’s pay for each complete year of employment below the age of 22
    • A full week’s pay for each complete year of employment between the ages of 22 and 40
    • A week and a half’s pay for each complete year of employment above the age of 41

    Statutory redundancy pay can be given for a maximum of 20 years' employment with only full years of service taken into account.

    If you require further assistance on redundancy please contact an employment law adviser at MDDUS on 0333 043 4444 or email advice@mddus.com

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