Covid-19 and your employment rights 

As the impact of Covid-19 has devastated UK businesses, redundancies are expected to reach a total of 700,000 this winter. But what does it really mean to be made redundant? Is it personal, or unavoidable? And what help is available if you’ve been made redundant as a result of the pandemic?

What does redundancy mean and why did my employer select me?

Due to the economic strain that Covid-19 has placed on many businesses, over a third have been forced to make redundancies. If this has happened to you, it’s really important that you’re familiar with your rights. Even though you’ve been made redundancy during a pandemic, your rights remain the same. The company should do all they can to keep you in employment, and discuss whether you can potentially move into a different role, or take a salary cut. When you’re first informed about your redundancy, you must be given a reason for your employer’s decision. The reason must be fair and justified; for example, if your employer can no longer afford to keep you on the payroll, and you have less experience or capability than someone else in the team. The selection process usually follows a ‘last in, first out’ method of elimination, whilst also considering employees that have a disciplinary record. Although, it’s not uncommon for employers to ask members of their workforce if anyone is willing to take voluntary redundancy. It’s a tough decision for managers, but one thing is certain: discrimination against age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, or pregnancy is always forbidden by law.

Can I appeal my redundancy?

If you feel like your redundancy was unjustified or carried out in an unfair manner, with zero consultation or attempt to find an alternative arrangement, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. To make a claim, you need to have continuously worked within the company for at least two years, and you must make the submission within three months.

What notice period am I entitled to?

If you’re selected for redundancy, you’ll usually be given notice and time to prepare for your departure from the business. You may be asked to work your notice period, which can be several days or weeks depending on your contract and length of employment. For example, you should have at least one week’s notice if you’ve been employed by the company for more than one month, but less than two years. After that, you should have an extra week’s notice for each year you’ve been employed, up until 12 years or more, when the notice period will cap at 12 weeks. Also, you’re entitled to paid time off to find another job during your notice period.

What do I need from my employer?

On your last day, make a checklist of the following items: your P45, job references, details of your pension, and a written statement of your redundancy detailing things like how your redundancy pay was calculated. These are all things you are entitled to request.

How much redundancy pay should I receive?

By your last day, you should have confirmed whether you have any further wages or holiday pay due and when this will be sent to your account. When you leave, you should also receive statuary redundancy pay, which is the minimum amount you’re entitled to as long as you’ve been working for the company for over two years. If you don’t receive this, you can submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal within six months of your redundancy notice. If you feel like you’re not getting what you deserve from your employer, you can apply to the government for things like outstanding payments for wages, overtime and commission, outstanding holiday pay, and statuary notice pay, which is money you would have earned whilst working your notice period.

My employer says they can’t pay me any redundancy money due to Covid-19. What now?

As long as your employer meets certain conditions, they can apply to the Redundancy Payments Service for financial assistance. If they’re approved, the RPS will make statutory redundancy payments directly to you on your employer’s behalf.

Am I entitled to support if I’ve been made redundant as a result of Covid-19?

Yes, your employer might be able to re-employ you and pay 80% of your wages under the job retention scheme, otherwise known as furlough. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until March 31st 2021, and is available to those who have been submitted for furlough before the 30th October. This means that your employer can opt to keep you on their payroll, rather than fully making you redundant, during the current recession.

So, to sum it all up, when it comes to redundancy you have the right to:

  • A fair process of selection
  • A fair consultation
  • A minimum notice period
  • A last day checklist
  • Statuary redundancy pay if you’ve worked for the company for over two years

Can I be dismissed (sacked) because of Covid-19?

In short, no, Covid-19 is not a valid reason for dismissal. The government is asking employers who cannot afford to pay workers as usual to instead furlough their employees, before finally making redundancies. However, your employer is under no legal obligation to use the job retention scheme.

I’m unemployed and can’t find work because of Covid-19. What support is there?

You might be able to claim Universal Credit, and you’ll find a step-by-step guide to eligibility and how to claim on the government website.  If you’re living in the private rented sector and you’re eligible to receive housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, you might be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. You can also find lots of practical advice on what to do if you can’t pay your bills from Citizens Advice. 

Someone in my house has symptoms, so I have to stay home. Can I be sacked?

All employers should be following government guidelines and encouraging employees to self-isolate for 14 days after exposure. However, this is only guidance, and is not mandatory. Technically, your employer could try to terminate your employment for choosing to self-isolate, but this is incredibly unlikely. Firstly, they would need to show that dismissing you was a ‘reasonable response’ under the circumstances, that it was a last resort, and that they had considered alternative arrangements first, such as encouraging you to take annual or unpaid leave. The vast majority of employers will be supportive of you self-isolating, as they don’t want the infection to spread throughout the rest of the staff.

So, even if you’re facing redundancy due to Covid-19, the good news is that you’re still protected by the UK’s stringent employment laws, and, if the worst should happen, you’re entitled to redundancy pay. As you try to make sense of your situation, you might find that you need a little extra mental health support. This is perfectly normal, and we’ve put together a list of up-to-date resources that will allow you to seek help when you need it.

Enrol on our free Job Ready Pack, a short course created with experts to help you deal with redundancy, create a winning CV, and increase your chances of job interview success!