We are continuing to receive a significant number of enquiries from employees in disputes at work, many of which have a common cause; furlough and lockdown.
Frequent employee complaints to our HR & employment law team have included:
Employees denied the right to carry over annual leave;
Employees forced to take holidays by employers;
Employees worried about redundancy;
Employees forced to return to work and to an unsafe environment;
Employees being on furlough for a significant period of time, i.e. over one full year, which in itself has created uncertainty and anxiety about future job security;
None or very limited contact from the employer making employees feel isolated;
Employees felt forcibly furloughed;
Employees felt forced to accept reduced furlough pay;
Employers confused about furlough, lay-off, short-time working, and redundancy; which are all completely different and have different procedures and entitlements for employees;
Employees seemingly due to return to work (given the furlough scheme is supposedly to assist employers for job retention) yet due to the repeated lockdowns; having this overturned at the final hour and being furloughed again and for an unknown period;
Employees prejudiced with performance targets and bonuses due to the impact of furlough leave; and
Employees flexi-furloughed being unable to realistically carry out their role in the reduced time period and either being expected to work during furlough time or worrying about the impact on their own work performance and standards.
Annual Leave and the Coronavirus Pandemic
An employee or claimant’s position on holidays is dependent on contractual entitlements; company policy; collective agreements with trade unions; principles of custom and practice and the 2020 new law the Government brought in during the Covid pandemic. This is not however straightforward and each dispute or case should be advised upon, based on those particular facts.
Employers’ Duty of Care
Employers have a duty of care to each and every employee. It is irrelevant that an employee has not been actively working in the business because of furlough. An employer is required by law to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
Furlough Leave, Redundancy, and Employees’ Rights
Employers cannot impose furlough leave and reduced “furlough” pay. Unless you expressly agree to this for example by way of your written contract of employment; an employer must consult with you to agree this temporary change to your employment status and pay and obtain your consent. If this did not or does not happen you might have an Employment Tribunal claim for breach of contract and/or unlawful deduction of wages and be entitled to repayment of salary.
Employees might also have a claim for unfair or constructive unfair dismissal and be entitled to compensation as a result of unfair and unlawful treatment by an employer.
It is important you understand your correct employment “status”, whether this be furloughed, laid off, at risk of redundancy etc. If you have been laid off for a particular period, you may be automatically entitled to a statutory redundancy payment and there are specific processes and timescales to follow to register your entitlement.
If you are an employee in a dispute with your employer; or if you have any concerns and wish to at this stage simply understand your position and have legal advice “behind the scenes” so that you are prepared, should you need to be, we can help you.
At our consultations, we will advise you on your legal position, your options, recommend next steps, and answer any specific questions you have. If you feel you could face redundancy we can advise you on your entitlements and, if a settlement agreement has been mentioned to you, we can advise you on the terms and effect of this.
Farleys specialise in all areas of HR and employment law for all levels of employees.
If you require advice and assistance in relation to the law on holidays; furlough leave, furlough pay, compulsory or voluntary redundancy; re-structures and re-organisations; variation of employment contracts; home working; settlement agreements and termination / severance packages, please contact Farleys Employment Law & HR team on 0845 287 0939, by email, or through our online chat below.