Coronavirus: Information for workers

The information below is based on things as they currently stand on the 26th March 2020.

Pay rigths during the COVID-19 crisis: «Job Retention Scheme»

Under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme you will receive 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month. Below is the latest update on how the scheme will work. The situation is changing all the time but as far as we are aware the following is correct as we understand it as of Thursday 24th March.

Which companies are eligible under the scheme? All UK businesses are eligible, including charitable, non-profit, public sector, local authorities and so on.

Which workers are eligible? All workers on P.A.Y.E will qualify for 80% of their earnings. This is likely to include most workers, apart from the self-employed who have yet to receive any real support from the government. The scheme will apply to all workers on the payroll on 1st March 2020. This should include new starters.

How will my pay be calculated? It is still unclear if things like overtime will be included or whether you will receive 80% of your basic pay. The likelihood is that it will be based on your contractual pay which in many cases could include overtime depending on your contract of employment. Pay should be backdated to March 1st.

There is still confusion as to what period will be used to calculate your pay. If your income does not vary from month to month it should be straight forward to work out your pay. However, if your pay does vary it can be more complex. No doubt, the government will announce a set period to calculate pay, for example your average pay for the last 12 weeks or your earnings for the month of February. While awaiting clarification, you should demand that your employer still pays you, for example based on your pay for February or your last pay cheque. You can still ask your employer to make up the other 20% of lost earnings. If the loss of 20% of your earnings puts you in financial difficulties you can try to claim benefits.

Can I work if I am laid off or to use the government’s term “furloughed”? As things stand at the moment you are not allowed to work while being furloughed, though this may change. It is still unclear in regards to the situation if you have two or more jobs. You should ask your employer to be paid under the scheme in any job where you find yourself laid off or “furloughed”. However, if you are laid off in one job and continue to work in another, you should still ask to be paid under the scheme for the job where you have been laid off.

Can my boss ask me to work while I am laid off or furloughed? At present, your boss cannot ask you to work while being furloughed so you can refuse.

Is the scheme voluntary for employers? The scheme is voluntary so your company does not have to participate. However, your employer will get a full refund for any wages paid out, including associated costs. In the meantime, if they are struggling financially they can also apply for a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Therefore, there is no reason why your company should not pay you, other than them being a set of bastards.

Do I have to accept being furloughed? No. You can refuse to accept to be furloughed and request redundancy instead if that suits you. Your employer must ask you if you are prepared to be furloughed, they cannot simply lay you off.

If I agree to be furloughed, does it alter my existing terms and conditions? No, but you should make this clear when you agree to be furloughed. The best way to do this is by email or letter, confirming that you agree to be furloughed but stressing that you wish your existing terms and conditions to continue. This should include continuity of service and leave continuing to accrue during the period that you are furloughed.


What should I do if I have been laid off?

Do not just wait and see what happens. You should contact your employer and request that you be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Also, talk to your workmates, keep in touch with them and get organised. Contact your employer collectively and make demands. Doing nothing will achieve nothing! SolFed is putting together a template for a letter you can use to contact your employer demanding to be furloughed under the government scheme. It should be ready shortly. For a copy contact us.

If you are temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus, and your boss refuses to apply the Job Retention Scheme, the following applies:

  • A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day
  • You should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay during lay-offs. You should check the documents you were given when you first started work, company policies and staff handbook to see if there is any mention of lay-offs. If there is any uncertainty demand to be paid full pay.
  • If your contract states that you are not entitled to pay when laid off you can claim guarantee pay. The maximum you can get is £29 a day for 5 days in any 3-month period – so a maximum of £145.
  • If you’re not an employee, for example, if you’re a temp, you don’t have a right to paid work and so will not be paid if you are laid-off.

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.


Sick Pay

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 companies 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

If you work (and aren’t self-employed), you’re legally entitled to get the governments Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week paid to you through your employer. You can claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) just as long as you have:

  • started work with your employer
  • earn on average at least £118 per week (before tax)
  • follow your employer’s rules for getting sick pay. If there is no laid down procedure you should phone your employer as soon as possible to say you will not be coming to work and never later than 7 days. Always keep a record of your conversation and with who you spoke

(There are some restrictions on getting SSP see below)

The Government has changed the rules so that you can claim SSP from the first day you take off work as a result of the coronavirus. For all other illnesses, you will only get SSP if your sick for 4 full days or more in a row (including non-working days). The government have made it clear that employers need to be flexible. For example, after 7 days of self-certification, you would normally require a sick note (fit note) from your doctor. But given people may be self-isolating for 15 days this may no longer be possible. You should notify your employer if you cannot get to the doctors for a sick note and keep a record of your conversation and also send an email.


If you are on a casual, agency, zero-hour, part-time or short-term contract

You’re still entitled to statutory sick pay if you work part-time or on a fixed-term contract.

If you’re an agency or casual worker and 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.

If you’re on a zero-hours contract, you can still get SSP just as long as you earn more than £118 a week on average.

If you have doubts about whether you are entitled to statutory sick pay, the best thing to do is simply claim the sick pay of your employer and see what response you get back.


For those with more than one job

If you have more than 1 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.


Who is not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay?

You won’t get SSP if you:

  • if you are genuinely self-employed
  • have already had SSP for 28 weeks (and the 28 weeks ended within the last 8 weeks)
  • had Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the last 12 weeks
  • are getting statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance
  • are pregnant, your baby is due in 4 weeks or less and your illness is pregnancy-related
  • had a baby in the last 14 weeks (or the last 18 weeks if your baby was born over 4 weeks early)
  • are in the armed forces
  • are in legal custody (detained either by the police or in prison)
  • are an agricultural worker


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 £118 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 £94.25 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.