Coronavirus – Zero Hour & Temporary Workers

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis

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15 Apr 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause issues for businesses across the UK. It has resulted in furloughs and redundancies.

That said, it’s important to remember that your staff maintain key employment rights - whatever their contract - and these must be taken into account before making any decisions.

1. Its business as usual

Make sure you’re adhering to all the usual employment rules. This applies whether you’re disciplining your staff or just giving them tasks to do. For example, you should still conduct a full and fair disciplinary process before making a decision to dismiss someone for gross misconduct.

If you do decide to make some workers redundant, you still need to follow appropriate procedures. You must always follow the rules on redundancy consultation and if you are making 20+ employees redundant, collective consultation rules apply. Remember, your staff will still reserve the right to bring tribunal claims. This process could last for a long period due to the outbreak.

2. Watch out for discrimination

Coronavirus is not a reason to treat employees differently because of their national origin. You should be alert to ‘banter’, or more serious instances of harassment, between employees about the virus which relates to someone’s nationality or ethnicity. Ensure that your zero tolerance stance to harassment is maintained. Extra hygiene measures, if implemented, should be required of all employees.

3. What about zero hour workers?

Do my zero hour workers need to be paid statutory sick pay (SSP) if they need to take time away from work as a result of the coronavirus?

Yes, if they meet all the normal SSP qualifying conditions.

It has also been confirmed that zero hour workers can be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme. This means you can still receive the 80% grant to cover their wages during this period.

4. Can I take on temporary staff?

During the outbreak, your business may see an increased amount of work. As a result, you may want to take on temporary staff.

The use of fixed-term contracts is widespread in employment because they offer employers some flexibility in how they engage staff. For example, if you only have a temporary need for staff, you may choose to enter into a contract of short-term duration. Where the availability of work or funding may be uncertain, you can engage staff on the basis that any continued employment is contingent on those factors.

Fixed-term employees have the same statutory rights as other employees. This includes employment protection and also have the right not to be treated less favourably than comparable permanent employees.

Expert support

There’s plenty of guidance out there for employees engaged full-time. There is less for those on other contracts. If you’re uncertain about any element of your employees’ contracts or just have an HR question, speak to one of our experts for advice on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.

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