March 27, 2020 - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Update – What Do the Latest Proposals Mean for UK Employers?

On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson announced that the UK would effectively be going into "lockdown" for a period of at least three weeks, in order to tackle the spread of coronavirus. This means closing all non-essential shops and public spaces and banning public gatherings of more than two people. Individuals are only allowed to leave their house for one of four reasons: shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise per day, medical need or travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.[1] The police will have powers to enforce these restrictions through issuing fines, although, unlike in some other countries, there is not (yet) a requirement for individuals to carry documentation explaining why they are not in their house.

These restrictions will, of course, have a huge impact on every aspect of life and will place employers, employees and the self-employed in a situation that would scarcely have been imaginable even a few weeks ago. The UK Government has announced a number of proposals designed to assist businesses and protect workers – and the self-employed – financially throughout the coming months. Most notably, these include (i) a funded furlough scheme – the "Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme"[2] (the "Scheme"), which will be available to all businesses in the UK to avoid layoffs; (ii) a "self-employed income support scheme"; and (iii) changing the rules on payment of statutory sick pay. The UK Government also announced cash-flow assistance measures to help business during this difficult period.

In this alert, we will:

  • Examine the Scheme in further detail;
  • Explain the latest changes to statutory sick pay rules;
  • Consider the position for self-employed workers; and
  • Provide answers to some commonly asked questions.
Read our client alert.