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East Midlands Chamber News

Leicester Lockdown: What does it mean for employers?

Further lockdown measures are being re-introduced in Leicester and some surrounding areas due to a steep rise in coronavirus cases. Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor in Leicester-based law firm Nelsons’ expert employment law team, discusses what the restrictions mean for employers in the city.

Details of the measures are still awaited but for now, it’s clear that within the lockdown area, non-essential retail is not permitted to open today (Tuesday, 30 June) and non-essential travel is also not permitted. Additionally, schools in the lockdown area will close for pupils, other than children of key workers and vulnerable groups, from Thursday.

As with the initial lockdown, it is not clear whether travel for work (where work cannot be done from home) is considered essential. This was clarified previously and we assume the same applies now.

The announcement also confirmed that planned re-openings in the hospitality and other sectors will not happen on 4 July. These measures will be reviewed in two weeks.

Employers have a tough job trying to interpret these measures and work out what it means for their operations and their team. Across the country, the starting position is still, if employees can work from home, they should continue to do so and so this still applies in the Leicester lockdown area.

If work cannot be done from home, employees should continue to attend work as they have been doing; there has been no guidance as yet to indicate otherwise. Employers should seek to reassure any employees who are concerned about attending work at the moment and it may be useful to review and refresh Covid-19 secure risk assessments and share these with your teams.

Re-using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

Where employers can no longer re-open their operations as planned at the weekend, or where non-essential retailers have closed immediately, they can consider re-using the furlough scheme for any employees that are no longer required. This can be on a full time or part time basis from 1 July, depending on the employer’s requirements.

Furlough is available for any employer that previously accessed the scheme, in respect of any employee who has been previously furloughed on the scheme for at least three weeks (at any point since it was introduced in March), as well as employees returning from various forms of parental leave and returning military reservists.

If new employees have been recruited for re-openings, employers will need to consider seeking their agreement to vary start dates or withdrawing job offers.

Employers should also check in with employees who may have their childcare arrangements affected by the re-closure of schools. Again, these employees can be furloughed – providing the above criteria is met.

If accessing the furlough scheme again, employers need to make sure they have written agreements (either new or refreshed versions) with employees and keep records of what is agreed. These will need to reflect whether furlough is full time or whether the arrangements will be flexible, as permitted from 1 July.

These are extremely difficult times for employers in Leicester and the financial impact of these further lockdown measures is likely to be significant. Employers should take steps now to communicate with their teams, while monitoring reliable news sources for updates and further detail.

For more information on how Nelsons can support your business, please visit www.nelsons.co.uk/managing-your-workforce. For the latest government advice on coronavirus, please visit www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public.