What should I do about non-urgent repairs?
As discussed above, Covid-19 will inevitably deplete the workforce of housing providers in the foreseeable future. It would be prudent to consider making short-term policy changes to deal with this situation and manage the expectations of tenants going forward. A key policy change to consider is the extension of the standard lead-time for completing all non-urgent repairs and inform tenants of this change.
Such a change will also reduce pressure on landlords and front-facing staff.
As above, employers must protect the interests of their staff, particularly regarding health and safety. Extra care should be exercised when assessing the level of emergency of a repair on a case by case basis. All efforts should be made to reduce the number of attendances at properties by repair staff, whilst keeping all tenants safe.
As ever, communication is key – the pandemic cannot be used as a blanket excuse for abstaining from all duties and obligations. Housing providers must take a pragmatic approach in safeguarding customers whilst considering the interests of is workers. Maintaining lines of communication with all parties remains paramount.
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.
The financial implications of having to repay all deposits and advance payments could be very serious for some businesses. As an alternative to a refund, many are offering customers the opportunity to re-book at a later date, or a voucher that can be redeemed against a subsequent booking.
The CMA’s view on this practice is that consumers can in many situations be offered alternatives of this type, but they should not be “misled or pressured” into accepting this. Their view is that a refund should be an option that is just as clearly and easily available. The CMA also points out that any restrictions that apply to credits, vouchers, re-booking or re-scheduling, such as the period in which credits must be used or services re-booked, must also be fair and made clear to consumers.
The full CMA guidance re “The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, consumer contracts, cancellation and refunds” can be found here.
Employees who are unable to work because they are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) can be furloughed after 1 July 2020, as long as you have previously submitted a claim for them in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June.
An employer which is aware that a worker or agency worker is or ought to be self-isolating, should not knowingly allow that worker or agency worker to leave the place that they are self-isolating in (“the designated place”). To do so without reasonable excuse would amount to an offence which could result in the employer being issued with a fixed penalty notice.
The value of the fixed penalty varies depending on if it is the first or subsequent fixed penalty notice to be issued:
|First fixed penalty notice||£1,000|
|Second fixed penalty notice||£2,000|
|Third fixed penalty notice||£4,000|
|Fourth, and any subsequent fixed penalty notice||£10,000|
The fundamentals of risk assessment remain the same as for any other foreseeable risk.
Focus on risk controls which reflect Government guidance; social distancing (2 metres) and avoiding contact with occupiers if possible, high-quality PPE – disposable overalls, gloves and fluid repellent surgical face masks, ready access to antibacterial wipes for surfaces, tools and equipment and plentiful hand sanitizer.