Covid-19: We’re Not Going On A Summer Holiday
6 months ago
In our latest Covid-19 article, Tony Anderson outlines key employment areas affected by the global pandemic.
I’m sure Sir Cliff Richard had not considered the possibility of a global pandemic grinding world travel to a halt when he sang his 1963 UK number one ‘we’re all going on a summer holiday.’ Fast forward to 2020 and unfortunately it looks like nobody is going on a summer holiday. That backpacking tour through Asia, the retail therapy trip to New York or the Sicilian coastline retreat… all cancelled. A number of employees, whether still employed or placed on furlough, will be wondering about their holiday entitlement and what effect the coronavirus outbreak may have.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, known as Acas has advised that it is important for employees and employers to remain flexible when it comes to holidays and any plans to take or cancel a holiday should be discussed as soon as possible.
The updated HMRC guidance makes clear that holidays will continue to accrue during furlough and that workers can still take holidays during the period that they are furloughed. However, employers should keep in mind that these holidays must be paid at the workers full salary rate in accordance with the Working Time Regulations 1998 meaning that they will have to top up the additional sum not being paid under the Job Retention Scheme.
It is possible that employees could build up a considerable number of unused holidays this year which they may wish to carry over into 2021. Such employees should check their employment contract for provisions relating to carrying over holidays or discuss this with their employer directly. However, the government has introduced temporary measures allowing the following employees to carry over up to four weeks of paid holiday into their next two holiday leave years:
- Those who have had to self-isolate
- Those who have had to continue working and could not take paid holiday
- Furloughed workers who could not reasonably take holidays during their period of furlough.
Importantly, any agreements reached between employer and employee should be in writing. Similarly, some employees may have been forced to cancel trips abroad and would instead like to save these days off. Employers can insist that they still take these holidays but communication between the parties to reach a reasonable agreement is encouraged.
Employers also have the right to insist when their staff take holidays. For instance, they could take the decision to close the office for a week and insist that all their staff take holiday entitlement during this period. If an employer decides to do so, they must inform their staff of this decision at least twice as far in advance as the number of days required for the holiday. For example, if your employer insists that you take a three-day holiday, they must give you at least six days’ notice. Employers can also cancel an employee’s pre-arranged holiday but must give that employee twice the number of days’ notice as the holiday period.
The government has made clear that the above policies in relation to holiday pay will remain under review during the pandemic and could be subject to change.
Whether it be Arizona or Arran, Barcelona or Blackpool – with any luck you’ll be topping up that tan in no time.
The HMRC guidance and the Treasury Direction published on 15 April 2020 contain a number of updates relating to sick pay and furlough during the pandemic.
If an employee has had to self-isolate as a result of testing positive for coronavirus or if they, or a member of their household has displayed symptoms of the disease, they will be entitled to full Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). An employer may pay more than the statutory amount and you should check your employment contract to be sure. There are some eligibility criteria for SSP which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay/eligibility.
Employees who are off sick must continue to follow the usual sickness reporting process. For instance, they can ‘self-certify’ for their first seven days of illness. Thereafter they will be required to obtain an online self-isolation note from the NHS website by visiting https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/.
There is one issue relating to sick pay where the HMRC guidance and the Treasury Direction appear to differ. The HMRC guidance advises that a worker who has taken ill or is self-isolating should not be used as a reason to place that worker on furlough but that the sick employee could still be placed on furlough if it is for business reasons. However, the Treasury Direction states that no employee who is sick can be placed on the furlough scheme until the end of their sickness period. It is hoped that this discrepancy will be addressed by the government in the coming weeks.
Employers can take the decision to move a worker who has become sick during furlough onto SSP. Once this happens, the employer can no longer claim for that workers salary. It is worth bearing in mind that unless the employer offers substantial contractual sick pay then it is likely that the worker placed on SSP will receive significantly less than if they were to remain furloughed.
The government measures in place to deal with coronavirus are constantly developing and are often updated or amended. Rollos are on hand to advise you if you have any workplace concerns.