01 Apr UK Lockdown – Your Vital Questions Answered
As employers of domestic and household staff it is essential that you understand how the UK lockdown affects your working relationship with staff.
At The Graham Agency, we have been inundated with important questions from staff and employers desperate for information during this unique time. It may assist your staff relationship to understand what currently concerns them.
We have enlisted the help of our own advisors, Hine Legal, specialists in employment law who were named in The Times “Best Law Firms 2019” top 200 list with a special commendation in employment law. *
We put staff’s most asked questions to them and they have provided us with their answers in italics, which we publish below.
I’m a live-in housekeeper; can my employer insist that during my downtime I stay within the bounds of his property during this pandemic?
When you say downtime if you mean short breaks or lunch breaks probably yes. If it is non-working time, no but they can insist on you following the government guidelines.
What is the punishment for breach of the rules imposed by law and my employer?
It is a question of which rules. If the government guidelines then there are fines. Otherwise normal employment laws and rights apply.
If I contract symptoms which may be the virus, do I have to stay at home, by law?
The government advice is that you should stay at home and self-isolate. You will be entitled to statutory sick pay if you do so.
If I am worried I have a cold or similar but it doesn’t produce virus symptoms and I don’t go into work, can my employer stop my pay in law?
If you display any such symptoms (and they are wide ranging) you should not go into work and deem yourself sick or self-isolating. Your employer should pay you Statutory Sick Pay from day one and you will get more if your contract provides for more generous sick pay.
*Statutory Sick Pay ( SSP ) is paid if you’re too ill to work and is currently £94.25 per week. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. If you cannot work while you are self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you could get SSP for every day you’re in isolation.
If I contract the virus and self-isolate, am I entitled to get paid in law and how do I claim my pay?
You are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay). However if you can work from home and do so you should be paid full pay.
I work for a doctor (a key worker) and he says I have to go and work at his home as usual because he is in an essential job, is he correct?
If this would not place you at risk it would appear to be a reasonable request.
As a domestic worker, do my boss and the family have to maintain two metres separation from me & vice versa by law?
If you live in the household then you would be regarded as one family. If not and if you cannot maintain the separation then you may have to stay away. It may be you become a furlough worker.
I work as a carer for an elderly person, can I, by law, do their shopping and run urgent errands for them?
Yes subject to the government advice.
Might my pay when I am sick etc depend on the terms of my employment contract?
Yes it would. All employees are entitled (assuming they meet the earning requirement of £118 per week) to Statutory Sick Pay. Your contract may provide for more so yes you need to check your contract.
If I don’t have the virus and my employer doesn’t want me in, where do I stand pay wise?
If you are fit and able to work and can do so from home then you are entitled to be paid. If you can work but the employer does not allow you to then the employer may be in breach of your contract. You could become a “furlough” worker.
*The government is operating the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which offers employers grants from HMRC to cover 80 per cent of wages for staff who are on the payroll but not working because of the outbreak, up to a maximum of £2,500 per worker per month.
Employees can only be furloughed for the duration of the Job Retention Scheme, which lasts for three months starting from 1 March 2020. The scheme could also be extended if the government deems this necessary.
Employees must be consulted and agree to be furloughed as it is a change to the terms and conditions of their employment and therefore still subject to existing employment law.
What is the position if my employer insists on me attending work? Can he/she insist in accordance with any contract of employment?
Yes unless to do so would breach government guidance.
I have had 10 days off in 5 months, the last few days for a cold/cough. The employer is not happy as I have had lots of time off. I feel ok now but do not want to go back to work or indeed go out. I am scared I will catch it and give it to my family or my employers family (the employer has two young children – one only a couple of months old). What is the position in law please?
The Employer should do a risk assessment and assess the risks. You should raise your concerns and discuss the situation. Have you any symptoms, can you work from home, do you need to isolate etc. It is a discussion and getting to the right solution.
I live-in, can my employer insist that on days off that I do not leave the home (so reducing the possibility of catching the virus)?
No – but they can insist you follow the government guidelines.
We are pleased to play a role in assisting you to understand the issues which are concerning domestic staff.
The Graham Agency, keeping you informed