Coronavirus - Your rights as an employee

What are your rights as employees in the light of the coronavirus pandemic?

Citizens Advice has issued the following information to help answer common questions about people's  employment rights.

The information covers sick pay, being let go from your job, working from home and people's rights if schools close.

Sick pay

If you need to self-isolate:

The government announced in its Budget that those who are eligible for statutory sick pay would receive this for self-isolating, as well as for those who are unwell

 It's worth checking your contract - your employer might have its own sickness policy so you might get your usual pay when you're off sick

 If you're unsure if you're eligible for statutory sick pay, you can check with Citizens Advice

If you are self-employed:

You are not eligible for statutory sick pay if you are self-employed

 If you have to take time off work and you don't get paid while you're off, you might be entitled to claim benefits. If you're already claiming benefits, you might get more money

 If you already get benefits like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, tell the office paying you that you can't work because you're sick. You might be entitled to more money while you're off work

 If you're not claiming any benefits you might be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit to top up your income.

Your rights if you want to work from home:

If your employer requires you to be at work, you don't have a right to work from home just because you're worried about catching Coronavirus, for example if you have to travel to work on public transport. However, you may be able to negotiate arrangements directly if you have concerns about coming into the office.

If you have a pre-existing condition which would make you very vulnerable to Coronavirus such as an auto-immune illness, it might be more important for you to work from home. If your illness means that you're a disabled person your employer would be required to consider this as a 'reasonable adjustment' under the Equality Act 2010.

Can you be let go from your job because of coronavirus?

There could be situations where you are let go from your job because of a business going into administration or having to downsize, which would create a redundancy situation. Even if it's a genuine redundancy and you've received a redundancy payment, it may also be an unfair dismissal in some circumstances and you should get advice about it.

If you're let go because of something related to coronavirus, such as time off work, you need to get legal advice as soon as possible about whether this was fair or unfair, because you only have three months to take action after your employment ends.

Employees with over two years service have the right to claim unfair dismissal, and it will then be for a tribunal to decide whether it was reasonable to dismiss you

If you are a casual or zero hours worker and not an employee, or you are an employee with less than two years service, you can't claim unfair dismissal but you should get legal advice anyway

In either case, even if it was completely unreasonable to terminate your employment, and it means you can claim unfair dismissal, there's no legal mechanism for stopping an employer from sacking you.

What if my child's school is closed?

If you are an employee you have a right, by law, to take a type of leave called 'time off for dependents

This a right to take 'reasonable' time off to take care of an emergency relating to a child or other dependent, including school closures

It's important to note that what counts as 'reasonable' depends on the circumstances - it is a grey area in law as to what might be deemed 'reasonable' in regards to coronavirus

The statutory right is to unpaid time off. Your contract may include a term, or your employer might have a policy that gives you paid time off in an emergency, so you should check these.

Your employer may pay you for a short period of time off, even if it's not a contractual right

Alternatively, you could see if you are able to work from home, change your shift pattern, or take annual leave

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