person in an office carrying a face mask to help protect them from COVID-19

Returning to Work After Lockdown

Written on August 3, 2020 by Jonathon Webley

As the lockdown restrictions are eased, more businesses are gradually reopening their doors—some for the first time since March. While this is great news for business owners, some employees are not so sure.

Many businesses have had to rely on government funding and support during COVID-19 (Coronavirus), taking advantage of the cash grants, loans and tax relief offered. This allowed them to help prevent the spread of the virus by closing their physical locations and asking their employees to work from home.

The Government also put a furlough scheme in place which allowed employers to claim up to 80% of workers payback if they were unable to work. Figures released on the 9th June indicate that more than a quarter of the UK workforce is currently being supported by the scheme, around 8.9 million workers at a cost of £19.6bn.

However, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently announced that the coronavirus furlough scheme would be changing, and employees would have to make contributions from August. This likely means that more people will go back to work.

So, what do you need to know about returning to work after lockdown?

Working from Home

Although lockdown restrictions have eased, the Government has not yet insisted that working from home ends, although many businesses are bringing workers back into their commercial premises as they believe the risk of the virus spreading has decreased.

Some firms have told staff that they will not be returning to their commercial premises until at least September, however many are asking their staff to return as soon as possible.

According to the latest government advice, this can happen if employers work on “reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improve ventilation, use protective screens and face coverings” and ensure that employees are situated “at least one metre away from each other at all times.” They also suggested that shift patterns be changed in order to ensure that people worked in set teams.

If you do not want to go back to work just yet, you can not force your employer to let you work from home, but you could request holiday time or unpaid leave. Be warned that if you do not attend work and have no valid reason for doing so, then you could face disciplinary action.

Safety at Work

Your employer has to ensure that your workplace is safe, under the Health and Safety at Work act. This involves them completing a risk assessment to identify areas that may cause harm, and taking reasonable steps to mitigate these risks.

If you have any concerns about returning to work, you should speak to your employer about the steps they are taking to ensure your safety.

Applying for Jobs

There is a possibility that you may be able to secure a different job while you are on furlough with your current employer—but you will need to check with them about whether this will affect your furlough payment or not.

If you are on furlough then the company you currently work for cannot ask you to complete any work or to work for an associated company either.

Redundancy

It is important to be aware that you can be made redundant while you are on furlough, but your employee rights are not affected by the fact that you are on furlough.

Your employee rights include:

  • A statutory notice period of one week for every year you have been employed, up to 12 weeks
  • One week’s wages for every year you have worked there if you are aged 22 to 40 and have been at the company for two years or more

But most businesses will have their own redundancy packages so you will need to check what yours is.

Contractors

The main focus of the Government’s advice has been around employees, but there was also some commitment made to those who are self-employed.

The Government also introduced the “Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant” aimed at providing the self-employed with up to 80% of their average trading profits if they were stuck at home and unable to work.

There were caveats to this support, specifically that trading profit could be no more than £50,000 and it had to be at least equal to your non-trading income.

Many technology contractors felt that this support was not helpful for them, and we cover this subject more in our recent blog, “Have technology contractors been forgotten in the recent Government support measures?”

So, there you have it—what you need to know about returning to work after lockdown. The best thing to do is to keep yourself updated with the latest Government advice and talk to your employer.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a data role, or wanting to fill a gap in your team, please get in touch with the team of consultants here at Agile Recruit—you can contact them by email at info@agilerecruit.com