Covid-19 FAQs: Managing your care workforce
Buyacarehome group members, Royds Withy King have been providing extensive advice to care providers on managing the workforce issues arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic. Here are answers to some FAQs they have received.
Q. Are employees entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if they self-isolate?
Employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are self-isolating because:
- they have coronavirus or symptoms (e.g. high temperature or a continuous cough)
- a member of their household has coronavirus or symptoms
- they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
Q: Are “vulnerable groups” (those aged over 70, with underlying health conditions or pregnant) required to self-isolate?
PHE recommends that staff in these groups, who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. However, they are not advised to self-isolate so, unless one of the circumstances requiring self-isolation applies, are unlikely to be entitled to SSP.
You should carry out risk assessments for pregnant workers, taking into account the risks posed by coronavirus and the PHE social distancing guidance. If you cannot provide a safe working environment, you may be required to medically suspend on full pay.
Q: What changes will be made by the Coronavirus Bill?
The Coronavirus Bill (not yet in force) is likely to introduce the following changes:
- SSP to be payable from the first day of sickness absence with effect from 13 March 2020.
- SSP reimbursement for employers with less than 250 employees for the first 14 days of SSP paid to employees.
Q: How do we get evidence of a worker’s unfitness for work?
The Government has introduced new online isolation notes to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Staff who are advised by PHE to self-isolate can obtain a notification via the NHS website or NHS 111 which they can use as evidence for absence from work. Staff can still self-certify for the first 7 days’ absence.
Q: Can providers benefit from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the Government will reimburse employers with less than 250 employees for the first 14 days of SSP paid to employees.
The Government is yet to publish full details of the scheme but this is what we know so far:
- The intention is to prevent layoffs and redundancies which would otherwise occur because of the coronavirus, by designating employees as “furloughed workers”.
- As a furloughed worker they will remain employed and you will be able to apply for grants to cover 80% of “wages costs” up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
- The grants will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and will be available for an initial three months.
- More detailed Government guidance is essential to clarify many issues such as the precise circumstances in which relevant layoffs or redundancies should arise; whether you can designate workers who are self-isolating and on SSP as furloughed workers, the precise way grants will be paid; what element of total remuneration will be covered; and the effect on employees who have already been made redundant.
Although there is generally a shortage of staff in the sector we are already seeing the scheme being utilised by providers, for example, where occupancy levels have dropped significantly, where day services have temporarily ceased operating, or as a means of reducing overheads at a time of considerable uncertainty.
The law and guidance in this area is changing frequently. This guidance note is correct as of 24 March 2020.
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