Can employees on fixed-term contracts be furloughed?
Yes. Their contracts can be renewed or extended during the furlough period without breaking the terms of the scheme.
If the employee’s contract has not already expired, the contract can be extended or renewed. The employee may be furloughed provided that they were employed on or before 30 October 2020. You must also have made a RTI submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.
If the employee’s contract expired on or after 23 September 2020, the employee can be re-employed and furloughed. Please note that the employee must have been employed by you on 23 September 2020 and you must have made a RTI submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.
Increased hygiene measures should be introduced to limit the spread of infection. Increase the frequency of cleaning, particularly higher risk contact points such as door handles. Avoid the use and sharing of hardcopy in favour of electronic documents; avoid sharing of tools and work equipment; increase the availability of handwashing facilities and hand sanitisers; issue anti-bacterial wipes and tissues to staff, and remind everyone to maintain good personal hygiene practices, including regular hand washing. Prominent and repeat signage will be vital in reminding workers of these steps they can take to protect themselves.
PPE – e.g. disposable gloves and face masks – are not currently legally required in the UK, but especially where social distancing might not be possible, it may be necessary to make appropriate PPE available to staff. If so, you will need to make sure there is enough available train everyone so it used properly and provide for safe disposal of used items.
MOST IMPORTANTLY – communicate with your people; invite their input and suggestions and act on them. Communication and participation in the process of a safe return to work are going to be crucial to its’ success.
Monitor for illness: train managers how to spot the symptoms of COVID-19 and have a clear process if someone is potentially infected. Continue to remind staff to only come into work if they are well and not experiencing any symptoms. A number of businesses are planning on using testing and screening methods, such as temperature checks. Remember, these steps create data privacy considerations which you will need to consider.
Do not forget existing health and safety obligations, such as maintaining sufficient numbers of fire marshals and first aiders on-site. Employers should also be aware that the Health and Safety Executive must be notified under RIDDOR of any workplace incidents that lead to exposure to COVID-19 and any cases where there is “reasonable evidence” that it was caused by exposure in the workplace. Be aware that workers are being encouraged to report to HSE failures of their employers to keep them safe from the threat of the virus.
As above, people must not leave their home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ and travelling should be limited to their local area. Employees may leave their home and local area to travel for work if they cannot reasonably work from home. You should attempt to reduce the number of journeys they make.
Parties still need to comply with the various Protocols that apply and will be expected to exchange information in the usual way. Court proceedings can be issued electronically.
The CMA sees only limited circumstances in which a full refund would not be given. The CMA accepts that where public health measures prevent a business from providing a service or the consumer from receiving it, the business may be able to deduct a contribution to the costs it has already incurred in relation to the specific contract in question.
This view reflects a relatively complex area of law under which parties are released from obligations under a contract if performance of that contract becomes impossible or illegal. This is called “frustration” of the contract. Under a law passed during World War II, a party to a contract that is frustrated who has incurred expenses is permitted, if the court thinks fit, to retain an amount up to the value of those expenses out of any money they have been paid by the other party.
The CMA’s view, however, is that this will not happen often, and that deductions from deposits will be limited.
It has now changed. Instead of being 3 weeks, it is now technically any period. However, 7 days is the minimum claim period you can now make.