Q: I was made redundant when my employer could have chosen to furlough me. Is this legal?
A: This is difficult. To make employees redundant, a business has to prove it was reasonable to do so and as yet there has been no precedent set of what a business should do under the current circumstances. If your employer made you redundant before furlough was offered, it’s less likely you would succeed in taking them to court or employment tribunal.
If furlough was on offer, the financial status of the business would need to be considered and you would need to demonstrate you made reasonable requests such as deferred payment of your salary to such a time when the furlough subsidy was paid.
Q: I work in an area that has been asked to go back to work and cannot work from home, but I am classed as ‘high-risk’. What should I do?
A: According to the governmental body ACAS, if you received a letter from the NHS asking you to shield for 12 weeks, there is no expectation for you to return to work currently. If you consider yourself at risk, but you didn’t receive a letter asking you to shield, you should return to work. Your employer has a duty to ensure that sufficient social distancing measures are in place for your health and safety.
Q: My employer is failing to take the required steps to ensure social distancing in my workplace. What can I do?
A: Your first step should always be to raise this with your employer directly and try to resolve matters informally. If your employer fails to take further action, you can report them to the local authority or the Health and Safety Executive for further action. This may include requiring your employer to take further steps.
Q: I can’t work from home and I’m worried about going to my place of work. Can my employer fire me?
A: You should always discuss working arrangements with your employer and try to find a suitable alternative. If you cannot work from home, can you safely go to work? Are there adequate social distancing measures in place for your safety? Are you classed as ‘high risk’? You should consider all your options. If you cannot come to an agreement, you could suggest to your employer to place you on furlough until such a time as it is safe, or furlough is withdrawn.
Q: I’ve been made redundant and need a witness to see me sign my settlement agreement but I’m self-isolating. Can my signature be witnessed digitally?
A: The law around this is unclear, but our advice would be to have your signature witnessed in person. If you are self-isolating, consider asking the witness to attend and witness your signature from a safe distance to ensure your welfare.
Q: My employer has proposed putting me on furlough, but I can’t survive on 80% of my salary. What can I do?
A: Understandably everyone’s spending habits will typically match their incomes. You can reject being put on furlough by your employer, but you should be mindful that they have no obligation to continue employing you if you do so and you could be made redundant.
Furlough must be for a minimum of 3 weeks, and you could propose that your employer rotates you back into work after that period to allow you to recoup some of your losses, but again, they are under no obligation to do this.