Despite the introduction of legislation to ensure that furloughed employees receive full redundancy pay, the government has simultaneously cut back on furlough pay grants to employers and is encouraging a return to the workplace in the face of local flare-ups.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 (Coronavirus, Calculation of a Week’s Pay) Regulations 2020, which came into force on 31 July, ensures that employees who are furloughed receive statutory redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate.
It is important to note that as the legislation only applies to basic statutory redundancy pay entitlements, it does not affect any enhanced redundancy pay to which an employee may be entitled under the terms of their individual contract.
These changes also apply to Statutory Notice Pay to ensure that notice pay is based on normal wages rather than wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Likewise, it applies to basic awards for unfair dismissal cases so that they are based on full pay rather than wages under the CJRS.
However, this new legislation has to be viewed against the backdrop of the reduction in government grant for workers on furlough pay from 1 August. This will continue to be reduced each month until the end of October when it will be withdrawn entirely.
The government is simultaneously encouraging home-working staff to return to their workplace (see weekly LELR 681), despite an increase in the number of people in England testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This shift in messaging has simultaneously allowed the government to pass the buck in terms of workers’ health and safety onto employers and local authorities. As the TUC has pointed out, getting workers back into the workplace requires more than simply ensuring a physically safe environment. It also requires a functioning NHS Test and Trace system and much greater investment in public transport.
In addition, the TUC argues that the government needs to provide much greater support to workers who have to self-isolate by raising statutory sick pay from just £95 a week to a rate that people can actually live on.
To read the legislation in full, go to: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/814/contents/made
To view the ONS statistics, go to: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/31july2020