New worker’s guide to coronavirus released

The initiative by Liverpool SolFed offers stripped-down must-knows about getting by amid State incompetence and bosses’ greed, from furloughs to care rights, sick pay to self-employment. The group will be regularly updating the guide here and welcome people getting involved in the project. The version below was released on April 21st 2020.

The current coronavirus crisis is putting workers at risk, both financially and in terms of their health and wellbeing. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves in this crisis. Below we have set out the areas of employment law that we feel are most relevant. In doing so, we hope it will  help workers to get organised enabling them to defend themselves and stay safe during the pandemic. 

We should stress that, by themselves, employment laws offer little protection. Rather than relying on employment laws, we should use them as an aid to organising and as a means of putting pressure on management.  

This information has been put together by workplace activists rather than lawyers. The aim is to promote workers’ organisation and self-defence in the current circumstances. In the meanwhile, SolFed remains active in our workplaces and supporting other struggles. We are available through our usual communication channels. Get in touch and let’s share experiences and resources.

See below extracts on relevant pieces of law at work during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

*We are updating this information regularly and welcome comments and collaborations — contact [email protected]


Workers Furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme

What is being furloughed? When your employer send you home because there is no work for you or they are not able to operate but, to avoid redundancies or unpaid lay-offs, classifies you as a “furloughed worker” in order to access the “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”

You can be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme:

  • If you have been sent home because there is no work for you due to the pandemic
  • If you have been told to self-isolate by the NHS
  • If you have to look after someone or you are shielding someone

Who is eligible: All workers paying PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax are eligible. That includes workers on Zero-hours or agency workers…

You must have been on the payroll on February the 28th of 2020.

How it works: You have to agree with your employer to be classified as a “furloughed worker” under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

If you have been classified as a “furloughed worker” you are still employed and you are kept on the payroll.

Pay: You are entitled to 80% of your wages with a cap of £2,500 per worker per month, backdated from March the 1st.

Your boss can choose to pay you the difference but does not have to by law.

How your wages will be calculated:

-If you have been working for a year or more you can claim whichever is higher:

  • Your wages for the same month last year
  • Your average monthly wages last year

-If you have been working for less than one year then the amount will be calculated from your average monthly wage since you started

-If you have started in February 2020: your monthly wages pro-rata

Bonuses, commissions and fees are not included as wages.

Holiday entitlement: If you are furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme, your holiday entitlement will continue to accrue. If you take holiday pay whilst furloughed, this should be paid at the normal rate.

Being re-employed: If you have been made redundant after February the 28th and your boss agrees to re-employ you, you can still be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme.

If you have more than one job:

  • You can be furloughed in more than one job and can keep working in others that you have not been furloughed in
  • You can be furloughed in all of them
  • The £2,500 per month cap applies to each individual job.

Working while furloughed: You cannot undertake any work for your employer while furloughed. However, you can be asked to carry out some training in which case you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

You can work somewhere else while furloughed. If you are taking on a new job you will have to complete this form.

Claiming Universal Credit:

  • If you are earning less because you are furloughed you may be able to claim UC
  • If you are already claiming UC, you can keep doing so, but your UC payments may vary

For further information follow this link


If you need time off to care for someone

If you have a relative who is ill or your children’s school is closed, for example, your employer should give you time off. But your employer is not forced to pay you unless your contract requires it.  

However, you can request to be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme (see above).


Sick Pay

Last update: 8th of April

Contractual Sick Pay: If you normally get paid for being off sick, you should get paid for being off during the coronavirus epidemic. If you are unsure, check out your company policies in regards to sick pay. You should also check out all the information you were given when you first started work, it should tell you if you are entitled to be paid for sick leave by your employer.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):

What is sick pay? If you are unable to work because you are sick, you may be entitled to sick pay.

Pay:

  • £95.85 per week for up to 28 weeks.
  • You need to earn £120 or more to qualify
  • You need to claim within seven days from the first day you cannot work

Casual workers: If you are on a casual, agency, zero-hour, part-time or short-term contract you are still entitled to statutory sick pay if you work part-time or on a fixed-term contract.

  • Agency or casual workers: if you’re working on an assignment when you get ill, you might be entitled to SSP until that assignment ends. If you’d already agreed to another assignment, you might be entitled to SSP till the end of that future assignment. If you’re not working when you get ill, you won’t be entitled to SSP.
  • Zero-hours contract: you can still get SSP just as long as you earn more than £120 a week on average.
  • Self-employed workers are not entitled, but may be able to claim the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

If you have more than one job: If you have more than one employer you could be entitled to sick pay from each one. Treat each employer as if they were your only employer and claim SSP off each.

For those with more than one job If you have more than one employer you could be entitled to sick pay from each one. Treat each employer as if they were your only employer and claim SSP off ea


COVID-19 special measures:

  • SSP can be claimed from the first day (instead of from the fourth)
  • You can claim SSP if you have to self-isolate
  • Small and medium sized businesses will be able to claim up to two weeks of Sick-Pay (see link)

For further information follow this link


Claiming your Statutory Sick Pay:

If your boss refuses to pay you Statutory Sick Pay If you think you’re entitled to statutory sick pay but your employer says you’re not and refuses to pay it, you should contact HM Revenue and Customs:

Telephone: 0300 200 3500 | Textphone: 0300 200 3212 | Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. Alternately you can phone HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team | Telephone: 03000 560630

You can also get in touch with us here at the Solidarity Federation

What if I am not entitled to Sick Pay

Shockingly the Office for National Statistics estimates that there are 1,766,000 jobs done by adults in the UK that paid less than £120 a week. Some 70% of these jobs are done by women

There are also some 5 million people classed as self-employed, many of which work in the “gig economy” and are bogusly classed as self-employed. For these people, the only option during illness is to claim benefits with all the delays and difficulties this entails.

Your rights under UK employment laws are pretty pathetic. The way to improve pay and conditions is not through relying on weak employment rights but by workers coming together and demand full pay while off sick, instead of having to rely on the pathetic £95.85 SSP. Why not get together and demand full pay while off sick with the Coronavirus. If you are interested in starting to organise in your workplace, get in touch with us here at Solidarity Federation for support and advice.


Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Last update: 20th of April

What is it? This scheme is for people who are self-employed and have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Who is eligible? You can apply if you:

  • Have lost “profits” due to COVID-19
  • Have submitted your Self-Assessment Tax Return for 2018-2019, are classified as “trading” in the present tax year (2019-2020), and intend to keep “trading” in the next tax year (2020-2021).
  • Have “profits” of less than £50,000 per year, on average.

Rights: You would get 80% of your “trading profits” up to £2,500 from March to May (may be extended).

This will be calculated based on an average of your “profits” from the tax years: 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 (where applicable).

How to apply: You cannot apply yet. HMRC will contact you if they think you are eligible. It looks like payment would be made in one go, in June which will cover March to May.

HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will assess any late returns filed before the April 23rd 2020 deadline in the usual way.

If you have not submitted your income tax self-assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by April 23rd [tomorrow].

For further information follow this link