• This Bill is currently only in draft form however it is presumed that the main principles will remain unchanged from now until Royal Assent in order to expedite the process. 
     
    The Bill seeks to cover five key areas:

    1. Increasing available health and social care workers
    2. Ease the burden on the frontline workers
    3. Contain and slowdown the virus
    4. Manage the deceased with respect
    5. Protecting and supporting the people

    We have highlighted below key sections to note within the Bill that might have an impact on your business and guidance on what you can do to combat this.

    s35 Temporary closure of educational institutions and childcare premises

    • This enables the Secretary of State and the Welsh Ministers to give a direction to restrict the attendance of children at the specified premises.
    • As declared by the Prime Minister on Wednesday 18 March 2020, all schools have been closed ‘until further notice’ apart from for children of ‘key workers’ who will still attend.
    • Key workers‘ have been defined by the government guidelines and include job roles such as doctors, nurses, delivery drivers and religious staff.

    Action point for employers:

    Consider your working from home and flexible working policies and whether employees with children can work from home and work flexibly, to enable them to continue full time work as well as care for their children.

    s37 Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): funding of employers’ liabilities

    This will enable employers to reclaim SSP for employees that have been unable to work due to the coronavirus, in line with guidance from NHS and PHE.

    • This will apply retrospectively from when an employee was unable to work due to coronavirus on or after 13 March 2020.
    • Currently, no mechanism is in place to operate this quickly enough, so government are proposing to pay a rebate to refund small and medium employers in order to combat the short-term financial pressures caused by coronavirus.
    • The rebate is to be capped at two weeks’ of SSP per employee.

    s38 Statutory Sick Pay: power to disapply waiting period limitation

    • This will enable employees to receive SSP from Day 1 rather than Day 4 of sickness if unable to work due to the coronavirus, in line with guidance from NHS and PHE.
    • This will apply retrospectively from when an employee was unable to work due to coronavirus on or after 13 March 2020.

    Action point for employers:

    Take note of all employees who have been unable to work due to coronavirus, check whether this was before the 13 March 2020 and keep a record of SSP being paid out.

    Please note that from 6 April 2020 SSP will increase to £95.85 per week.

    Schedule 6 entitlement to emergency volunteering leave:

    • A worker will be entitled to be absent from work to help volunteer during this pandemic, provided they have been issued an emergency volunteering certificate from the appropriate authority and have provided their employer with a copy of this as well as written notification of their intention to volunteer, and length of time they will be absent as a result.
    • A period will be specified on the certificate for how long the worker will be on emergency voluntary leave – this must be a period of two, three or four consecutive weeks.

    Action point for employers:

    Consider having discussions with employees about whether they are thinking about going on emergency volunteering leave in order to organise a rota to ensure that there are enough core employees in the key areas so that if some employees decide to volunteer, there will be enough members of the team to keep the business running.

    Please note that the powers within the Bill will last for two years from the date it comes into force, however, it will be reviewed by the House of Commons every six months.

    If you require any further guidance or advice on employment-related issues or general advice regarding legal issues in relation to the coronavirus, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Employment team.

    Please note this article was published on 23 March 2020 and was up to date at the time of publication.

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