Can I dismiss an employee who refuses to return to work?
Potentially. The first question is why the person is not able to return, as their individual circumstances will be very relevant in terms of whether they can be safely dismissed.
Employers should ask themselves 2 questions in this situation:
- Have I done everything I am required to do in order to make the workplace safe for the individual to return; and
- Is what the employee saying reasonable?
If the answer to question 1. is no then a dismissal is unlikely to be fair. However, even if the answer to question 1. is yes, then there is still question 2. to address. If the employee has reasonable grounds as to why they are unable to return to work, e.g. due to health issues, childcare responsibilities etc then the dismissal is unlikely to be fair. It is only if you can answer yes to question 1. and no to question 2. that you can have some confidence in the potential safety of the dismissal.
Dismissals based on objections to returning to work on health and safety grounds will very often be risky and are highly fact specific, therefore please contact one of the employment team for further advice prior to dismissal.
If your visa has expired or will do before you are able to safely leave the UK, you can apply for “Exceptional Indemnity” by contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Team. You will need to provide evidence as to why you cannot leave, which could include a positive Covid-19 test or evidence of being unable to make travel arrangements to leave the UK in time.
You should note that “Exceptional Indemnity” does not extend your leave, but temporarily protects you from adverse action being made against you as result of overstaying your visa.
Transparency is considered to be central to the philosophy of the COP. The guidance provides details on issues concerning transparency of proceedings and involvement/attendance of P. Whilst there will be some difficulties with ensuring that remote hearings are accessible to the public as an ‘open court’, provisions have been made for the continued presence of the press where the facilities can accommodate this.
Payments of the Community Infrastructure Levy (“CIL”) are tied to commencement of development, and where an instalment policy is in place, the instalments are usually tied to periods of time following commencement rather than build out rates. Therefore where a development has commenced, payments of CIL are likely to fall due in respect of a site notwithstanding that the site may have temporarily closed or build out rates have slowed.
New regulations now in force, provide some additional relief for those developers with an annual turnover of £45 million or less. Such relief will allow the Council to defer payments, disapply late interest charges, and refund late interest charges that have already been levied since 21 March 2020.
For those developers that cannot benefit from the new provisions, unless a Council has adopted an exceptional circumstances relief policy the regulations do not provide for any relief to be provided in instances where payment of CIL will create viability issues. Most Councils have not adopted such a policy, and in those circumstances the CIL liability will remain due in accordance with the payment schedule on the demand notice.
Councils are at liberty to amend their instalment policies in accordance with their own internal procedures, and the Government is encouraging Councils to explore this option to provide some relief to developers. However this will only assist in respect of any prospective instalments where the development commences after the new instalment policy has been adopted.
For those developers whose annual turnover exceeds £45 million, the Government seems to be taking the view that such developers can afford their CIL liabilities regardless of the current climate. The only concession the Government has proposed is to encourage Councils to make use of the existing discretion they have in respect of the imposition of surcharges for late payments.
Employers should ensure that apprentices are paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW//NMW) as appropriate (and taking into account the new rates which will take effect from 1 April 2021) for training carried out where their wage received through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme does not cover this.
An extension to the traditional business interruption insurance, “contingent business interruption insurance” often covers areas such as business interruption due to damage to property of a customer or suppliers. Nonetheless, proving loss can be problematic.
Claims for loss of use of the property may be possible as a result of forced business closure due to lockdown. Accordingly policies should be carefully reviewed to see if cover is available.