Emergency legislation designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus has now become law, following the grant of Royal Assent yesterday, 25 March 2020.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 introduces a number of far reaching measures that will see the powers of ministers, councils, police, health professional and coroners temporarily strengthened during the UK's current lockdown.
The UK Government has announced a suite of measures over the last few weeks designed to offer individuals and businesses financial assistance during these unprecedented times. The new legislation provides Ministers with the power to make appropriate Regulations to implement these measures.
The legislation contains a number of employment related measures that employers and employees should be aware of.
Statutory Sick Pay scheme
Most notably, the legislation provides for the modification of the statutory sick pay scheme to ensure that statutory sick pay will be payable from the first day of absence , as opposed to from day four, as it is under the current rules.
This applies to those who are suffering with symptoms of coronavirus, or self-isolating on medical advice, even if they are actually well and symptom free. Secondary legislation is needed to give effect to this specific provision, and while draft legislation has not yet been published, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that some funding would be available in respect of this additional cost to business – but limited to employers with fewer than 250 employees and limited to two weeks' SSP per eligible employee.
Emergency Volunteering Leave
It also makes provision for employees who wish to volunteer in health or social care to apply for and be granted 'emergency volunteering leave' to enable and encourage them to take unpaid time off work to assist the NHS and social care sector.
There is planned to be an entitlement for these individuals to receive compensation for loss of earnings during this time. Again, secondary legislation is expected imminently to bring these provisions into effect.
We will continue to provide updates as further information is made available.
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