What will happen with inquests during the coronavirus outbreak?
The Chief Coroner adopts the approach taken by the Lord Chief Justice in that no physical hearing should take place unless it is urgent and essential business, and it is safe for all involved. If a hearing is to take place, social distancing must be maintained. All hearings that can take place remotely should do so, if it is not possible for social distancing requirements to be met. The expectation is that some hearings will go ahead, most notably Rule 23 hearings. Coroners are reminded that they must however conduct any remote hearings from a court. Decisions as to the most appropriate approach will be left to the senior coroner in that jurisdiction.
As we have already seen, some inquests will be adjourned, most notably those with multiple witnesses and/or a jury.
The guidance stresses the need, when dealing with medical professionals, for coroners to recognise their primary clinical commitments, particularly in these high-pressured times. This could mean avoiding or deferring requests for lengthy reports/ statements and accommodating clinical commitments if clinicians are called as witnesses.
The guidance encourages proactive reviews of outstanding responses to Prevention of Future Death reports and extending timescales for Trusts to respond.
The Chancellor announced:
- A new “job retention bonus” for employers to access for furloughed employees subject to certain conditions being met – see below for more information.
- A “Kickstart scheme” which will directly pay employers to create jobs for any 16-24 year old at risk of long-term unemployment.
- Incentives for employers to take on apprentices.
As a result of the CJRS being extended, the Job Retention Bonus will no longer be paid in February 2021.
Lawful processing conditions – You will need to consider which processing conditions you are relying on (remembering that you need both an Article 6 condition and an Article 9 condition – this is the part of the GDPR which deals with special category data). As a lot of the data you collect will be about employees, you can’t use consent so you will have to find another lawful reason under GDPR which allows you to process the data.
Appropriate policy document – When you are considering your Article 9 processing conditions, remember you must also have an “appropriate policy document” in place.
Processing record – Finally make sure your processing record is up to date with information on what data you collect and use.
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.
Follow up to date UK Government advice. This can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19
For best practice and more detailed information; consult the HSE’s website at https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
Failing to follow the guidance is likely to be regarded as failing to take all reasonably practicable steps.
Employees on any type of employment contract including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero hours and foreign nationals who are eligible to work in the UK on any visa can be furloughed subject to the following excluded categories:
- Anyone who was not employed prior to 30 October 2020
- Anyone for whom you haven’t made a PAYE Real Time Information submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.
- Employees who are working but on reduced hours or for reduced pay
- Employees currently receiving SSP (see FAQ on SSP and self-isolation below)
- Public sector employees
- Employees of businesses or organisations in receipt of public funding for staff costs (except for those who are not primarily funded by the government and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the Covid-19 response)