Legislation to help tackle the spread of the coronavirus is currently being considered by the government as the UK moves into the ‘delay’ phase of its four-point plan.
According to CIPD, cases of the coronavirus in the UK continue to increase and, unfortunately, show no sign of slowing. Last week, CIPD HR-Inform reported that the government had announced plans to provide statutory sick pay (SSP) to employees who are suffering from the coronavirus from day one, as opposed to the usual day four. It is now understood that this provision is expected to form part of emergency legislation that may have an additional impact upon organisations across the country. Whilst it is still to be confirmed when this legislation will be introduced, with commentary suggesting that a Bill could be presented to Parliament by the end of this month, we now have further information regarding what it will contain.
Volunteers are to be given additional employment safeguards in order to take time out of work to help treat the sick and tackle the spread of the virus. The government estimates that around ‘three million people’ volunteer in a ‘health, community health and social care setting’ and it is expected that their input would be vital should the virus start to spread more rapidly. Whilst individuals volunteer, their jobs would be protected for up to four weeks through measures that the government is expected to consult businesses on.
A move into the ‘delay’ phase could also lead to recommendations regarding social distancing, which could involve such steps as encouraging employees to work from home, closing of schools and cancelling of pre-arranged conferences and events. Whilst school closures will likely result in additional requests for time off for dependants, and we have seen several schools closed across the UK already, the government is currently not advising these measures as a country-wide, general response. However, this could be subject to change going forward.
Meanwhile, plans are expected to be put into place to give organisations additional time to pay tax if staff are unable to work. Additionally, Sunak has claimed that the coronavirus outbreak will not delay the Brexit transitional period, currently expected to last until 31 December 2020. However, how it will ultimately impact upon negotiations between the UK and the EU that were expected to take place in the coming months does remain to be seen.
Cases of the coronavirus in the UK continue to increase and it is currently unknown how bad the outbreak is going to get. Whilst other countries have taken more radical steps to tackle the spread of the virus, such as Italy placing high-risk areas under quarantine, how the UK will have to respond to a significant outbreak remains to be seen. For now, organisations should keep up to date with all commentary coming from the government and respond accordingly.
If you need assistance with developing an action plan to ensure your employees are equipped to deliver their roles amidst these uncertain times, please give our HR professionals a call, we would be happy to support you. We strongly believe that every problem creates an opportunity to build an open and transparent culture, trust and confidence.
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