Employment and Benefits FAQs

NRAS has developed a letter which you can share with your line manager or employer if you are having any difficulties in providing information about why you may need to work from home/self isolate if it is impossible to practice enhanced social distancing in the work place or getting to and from work.

Download here

Q: Where do I stand with my employer if I am designated as being in the shielding group of people?

A: If you are designating in the very, high-risk group requiring shielding but are able to work from home then your employer should be allowing you do to so if that is possible.

However, if your job role is not one that can be done working from home or you are a Key Worker then your employer may consider you for Furlough Leave (see information on the Government Job Retention Scheme)

Q: If I am not in the ‘shielding’ group but it is recommended that I self-isolate due to being  in ‘at risk’ group but I cannot exercise enhanced social distancing at my place of employment e.g. care worker, bus driver, etc. can I be furloughed by my employer?

A: Yes – if you are unable to do your job from home and otherwise would be made redundant your employer should consider utilising the Government Job Retention Scheme)

Q: My employer is insisting I come into work (in a supermarket) unless I am in the ‘shielding’ category and can provide a letter but I am in the high risk group and should be self-isolating what are my rights?

A: If your employer is not wanting to put you on furlough leave but you stay away from work due to government guidance on self isolating for your own and your families protection you can be paid Statatory Sick Pay and you DO NOT need to provide a GPs fit for work note for your employer to claim SSP 

Up to date advice is available for Employees at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees

Up to date advice for employers and businesses available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19

Information available for self-employed people at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-schemes

What is the Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme? (furlough)

This is the government’s key scheme to support employees who cannot work through Coronavirus pandemic.  Registration for the scheme is not open yet but should be open by end April.  Employers’ claims can then be backdated to 1 March 2020 if applicable – they can only be backdated to the date the employee was furloughed from. 

‘If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’.’ - gov.uk 

An employee on furlough leave is paid 80% of their usual wages, up to a monthly cap of £2,500. The Employer can if they are able and choose to do so,  pay the 20% to bring pay up to the full 100%. For some lower-paid employees, if the remaining 20% is not covered by the employer, they may also be eligible for Universal Credit. 

If you’re furloughed, you are allowed NOT allowed to work for your employer who is claiming this funding however you are allowed to work for and be paid by another company. You are also allowed to volunteer to support local help hubs etc. 

The minimum time you can be on furlough leave is three weeks. 

To be eligible for furlough, employees must have been on their employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including full-time employees, part-time employees, employees on agency contracts or employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.  

Q: What if I am off sick due to COVID19 at the time when my employer put other staff on furlough leave?

A: Statutory Sick Pay SSP can be paid for up to two weeks. From the third week, employees can if necessary be placed on furlough. 

A GP note is not required: ‘If the absence is related to COVID-19 and the employee has followed government guidance to self-isolate, there will be entitlement to SSP from Day 1 although the employee must still have been absent for a minimum of 4 days. 

The changes will apply retrospectively from 13 March 2020. 

Employers cannot claim for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments and SSP payments for the same employee. 

Q: What if my employer is insisting on some written evidence that I need to self-isolate?

A: People who need to stay home because of coronavirus can now get an online “isolation” note.

The notes mean people can provide evidence to their boss that they’ve been advised to self-isolate due to the virus and can’t work.

In an effort to reduce pressure on GP surgeries, the notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor or even leaving the house.

Anyone who claims Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance because of coronavirus will not be required to provide a fit note or isolation note.

The new isolation notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online.

Q: Can my employer sack me if I don’t work despite offering proof that I am following Government guidelines i.e have an isolation note or shielding letter?

A: If your employer dismisses you as a result of you being unable to work due to you being the shielding group or high risk group with an isolation note,  then you may have a claim for automatic unfair dismissal.

Discrimination and unfair treatment

If an employee is still being asked to go out to work and they believe they're at risk because they're in one of the vulnerable groups, it's important they talk to their employer.

If they cannot follow guidance on social distancing at work or during travel to work, they should tell their employer they need to follow government advice and stay at home.

It could be unlawful discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy, disability or age if an employer either:

  • unreasonably tries to pressure someone to go to work
  • unreasonably disciplines someone for not going to work

This is changing all the time so it is best to get the most up to date information on the gov.uk website. However, as per Government directives issued Monday 25th March - ALL workers should be, where possible, working from home or if the business is a non-essential and employees can’t work from home because of the nature of the business then on furlough leave.

Key workers should be speaking with their line managers if they are concerned that continuing to work would put them or their colleagues or those people they are interacting within danger of contracting COVID19. 

The government has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19