KEEPING YOUR LAW FIRM GOING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS (2): HOW DO YOU KEEP ON EMPLOYING PEOPLE?

In the second in this series we look at help and guidance available in relation to employing people throughout the difficult coronavirus period.   Firstly looking at general guidance and then at specific advice for law firms.

 

GENERAL GUIDANCE

What financial support is available for employers?

The Government guidance is now that with the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, other businesses may carry on but it is important that employees work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.
As ACAS states, the government will provide financial support for employees who are temporarily sent home because there’s no work – ‘furloughed workers’. Through this Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs to employers, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. This scheme is available to employers who use PAYE payroll from 28 February 2020. ACAS provides further guidance on eligibility for the scheme and the requirements for a furlough agreement.
Employees who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay as per the Government’s guidance.
ACAS also explains that another option is to tell employees to use their holiday.
Kings Chambers coronavirus blog has a post which explains in detail the government measures which directly relate to staff. There is another post on this blog which focuses on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as well as employment law briefing posts.

What other guidance is available for employers?

ACAS has a guide on good practice steps for employers. This highlights that employers should ensure that they avoid discrimination during the outbreak.
The Government advise employers to ‘…use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients.’ Those with symptoms can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online, and those living with someone with symptoms can get one from the NHS website.
Pinsent Masons offer advice for UK HR professionals.
SHP’s article ‘Coronavirus advice for employers’ gives advice to employers during the outbreak from a health and safety perspective.
The British Safety Council are offering free resources to employers who need help with managing employees during the outbreak. The available resources include:
  • Remote Workers – Health, Safety, and Welfare course
  • Managing Stress Within Your Team course
  • Start the Conversation course

GUIDANCE FOR LAW FIRMS

webinar presented by the International Bar Association Law Firm Management Committee looks at what law firms should be doing for themselves and their clients. This answers pressing questions including ‘What strategies should my law firm adopt to tackle internal concerns, such as employee safety, agile working, use of technology and budget adjustments?’.
The Law Society offers advice specifically for firm owners, managing partners and senior leaders. This looks at whether you can ask staff to come into the office, whether solicitors are key workers and other employment matters as well as the financial support available for firms.
Some law firms are utilising the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furloughing staff to save money, The Lawyer reports.
Law.com reports that some law firms are cutting partner pay by as much as 50%. This has also been reported by The Lawyer which provides a timeline giving details of the law firms affected so far and the changes they have made. See also CITY A.M. ‘Law and accountancy firms weight coronavirus profit distribution delay’.
Another option being used by firms other than furloughing staff and reducing partner pay is reducing the five-day working week to a four-day one, as stated in Legal Cheek’s article.