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Protecting Businesses and Employees During COVID-19

A reduction in demand for work means employers may need to make cutbacks. The COVID-19 outbreak is causing this reduction on a massive, unprecedented scale and that means more businesses and employees than ever are concerned about the effect it’ll have on their livelihoods. In this situation, laying-off and short-time working are two options for employers that could be alternatives to redundancy. But these alternatives aren’t automatic and don’t take away employee rights.

Lay-Offs and Short-Time Working

The term ‘laying-off’ is used where employees are not provided with work by their employer, and this is expected to be temporary. In contrast, ‘short-time working’ refers to when employees don’t get their contracted amount of paid work, for example by being asked to work a reduced number of paid hours in the week.

Guidance For Employers

While employers have a general right to ask employees not to come into work, it’s best not to rely on this alone and use a proper procedure during lay-offs, short-time working, or redundancy. Your employment contracts will be the starting point to determine what sort of procedures you should follow or have already agreed to follow. Employers should discuss any lay-off or short-time working situation as far in advance as possible. Employees are more likely to be receptive if they understand you are trying to prevent permanent redundancies or closure of the business. You may even be able to ask employees whether any of them would volunteer to be laid-off or put on short-time working. They may also take annual leave during the relevant period. A fair selection process is essential to prevent any claims, as these could be especially devastating in already difficult times for employers.

Have You Been Affected?

Employers should ensure that laying-off and short-time working are handled carefully.  This is because a failure to comply with legal requirements could result in employees making claims for breach of contract, unlawful deduction of wages, unfair dismissal or discrimination. We can provide advice based on your current contracts and situation to help you make the best decision for your business now and in the long-term. If you’re in any doubt as to your right to lay-off employees or put them on short-time working, you should seek independent legal advice.

Quickly Access Relevant Contracts, Advice, and Policies

Kidwells Solicitors can help your business with:
  • Employment contracts
  • Understanding your responsibilities and rights regarding your employees
  • Lawfully updating your current contracts
  • Advising on the best, lawful procedures for lay-offs, short-time working, or redundancies
  • Relevant employment policies, such as working from home guidance
  • And other employment and human resources matters
For Employment & HR matters, contact our Head of Client Employment & HR, Kate Wargen to discuss your concerns. If you have a business in need of regular legal advice, ask about our Legal Shield Service. Please note that while this blog was correct at the time of writing, the COVID-19 outbreak and the government response is evolving quickly. Our team is at hand and up-to-date with the latest changes and concessions that affect employers and employees. Contact us for the latest advice and for information on how it applies to you. We can provide advice on contracts, employee rights, business contingency, employee policies, and other applicable Employment & HR legislation. These contingencies will help protect your business now, as well as in the future. Just call 01432 278 179

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