How does COVID-19 affect Right to Work checks?
All employers have a duty to prevent illegal working, and carrying out proper Right to Work checks are a fundamental part of this. In light of Covid-19, the Home Office has brought in some temporary measures for employers to use to carry out the requisite Right to Work checks. Failure to follow these could lead to enforcement action and penalties.
Many businesses that supply directly to consumers have been concerned to understand their legal position in relation to services that have been cancelled, or that they have been unable to perform, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in particular how to deal with deposits paid by consumers for such services. With some degree of restriction on the hospitality and tourism sectors likely to remain in place for some time, such questions will remain important for the foreseeable future.
Overall it is our experience that the Courts are quickly adapting in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic and making pragmatic decisions. The Judges seem live to the difficulties currently been faced by practitioners dealing with litigation and they are applying the new guidance.
The Courts are also mindful of pressures on NHS frontline staff and are taking steps not to put additional pressures on them at this time, including in our experience vacating an imminent Trial.
Hopefully, further guidance will provide additional clarification on this, but it is difficult to see how a charity whose operations have been significantly curtailed because of the Covid-19 restrictions, cannot furlough employees and access the scheme, in particular where they have several different income streams. For example if a charity’s retail or fundraising operations have been significantly curtailed due to the restrictions, then it would appear unfair for it not to able to rely on the furlough scheme to assist in the funding of the employment costs associated with this part of the charity.
However, it might be prudent, where there are services that are publicly funded and employees working within those services cannot undertake their normal work, to consider if they can do different roles to work on Covid-19 activities. If there is no such work available then the guidance does appear to allow the furloughing of employees and such organisations to access the scheme.
In our experience, the funding streams and work undertaken by the organisations that could fall into the third category identified above can be exceptionally diverse and we would strongly recommend that you take advice before making such decisions about furloughing employees.
Employees on Flexible Furlough can engage in training during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.
Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time.
Yes. Government guidance now confirms that employers can be required to take holiday during a period of furlough, so long as they are given minimum notice to do so. The notice required is double the length of the holiday.
Employers are also able to cancel employees’ holidays (or require them not to take holiday) if they are on furlough, for example if they are not in a position to pay the additional 20% top up to their normal wages (or more where they earn in excess of the £2,500 monthly cap on furlough payments). Again, employers are required to provide a minimum period of notice of cancellation, which in this case, is the length of the planned holiday.
Employers can ask employees to take or cancel holiday with less notice but they would need to get their agreement to do so.
Government guidance has been updated to state that “Employees should not be placed on furlough for a period simply because they are on holiday for that period.” If a period of furlough happens to coincide with an employee’s holiday then you should ensure that there are business grounds to support furlough being used in that instance so that it isn’t just being used as a means to fund holiday utilisation.