Chris Randall

ChrisRandall

Chris Randall is Head of the Employment Law Department at Ringrose Law. He qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and has always specialised in employment law. He graduated from the University of Lincoln in 2003 with a First Class LLB (Hons) Law Degree and from the University of Leicester in 2009 with a LLM Masters in the Law of Employment Relations.


It’s estimated that around eight million people are currently absent from work on furlough leave. Although the scheme will continue until the end of October, the Prime Minister has recently announced that we should try to return to work from August 1st if we can in order to try and return to some kind of normality. Does this mean that your employer can simply force you to return to work and do you have any rights as a furloughed employee?

Many furlough agreements set out when the period of leave will end, however, if this is not the case then the employer should provide the employee with reasonable notice. The starting point is that if an employee does not attend for work when requested to do so, they could face not receiving pay and/or disciplinary action. 

A reasonable employer would be expected to consult properly with the employee about the reasons for non-attendance to try and find a solution. Furloughed employees retain their statutory and contractual employment rights, albeit that their terms are temporarily varied to place them on leave. Employees with two years’ service have the right not to be unfairly dismissed and all employees have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against.

Some employees will understandably be reluctant to return to work for health reasons. Those categorised as high risk will want to avoid returning to a workplace for as long as possible. Employers should look at whether they can support those employees by making adjustments by the Equality Act 2010. Such an adjustment may be allowing the employee to work from home and/or to attend the workplace at less busy times, or simply continuing the furlough leave. 

Employees who are absent due to caring for vulnerable relatives, or with childcare responsibilities may prefer to remain furloughed. If an employer attempts to force employees back to work in these circumstances, they may face claims of unlawful discrimination to an employment tribunal.

Employment law provides employees with the right to remove themselves from a workplace if there is “serious and imminent danger”. If an employee is dismissed after doing so, they may be able to claim unfair dismissal. If an employee feels that their employer is not properly adopting social distancing measures in the workplace, they can report them to the Health and Safety Executive and/or their local authority.  

Where an employer is insistent on a return to work, it may be possible to delay this by making other arrangements. It is possible to use holiday or take a period of unpaid leave, or if there are concerns about something like travelling safely to work, different shifts might be accommodated. The employer is not obliged to agree to such requests, but it is advisable to try.

The government’s furlough scheme is due to end on 31 October 2020. It is hoped that the government’s recently announced employer incentives will mitigate the number of redundancies that are expected

— Chris Randall is the Head of Employment Law at Ringrose Law

Chris Randall is Head of the Employment Law Department at Ringrose Law. He qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and has always specialised in employment law. He graduated from the University of Lincoln in 2003 with a First Class LLB (Hons) Law Degree and from the University of Leicester in 2009 with a LLM Masters in the Law of Employment Relations.

The government has announced it will allow workers to carry over up to four weeks annual leave into the next two leave years. At present, almost all workers are entitled to 28 days holiday including bank holidays each year. Most of this entitlement cannot be carried between leave years, which means workers lose their holiday if they do not take it.

The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (not yet published) will amend regulation 13 of the Working Time Regulations to allow workers to carry over EU holiday into the next two leave years, where it is not reasonably practicable for them to take some, or all, of the holiday they are entitled to due to coronavirus.  

Regulation 13 only deals with the EU four weeks’ leave. The balance of 1.6 weeks’ statutory leave will not be affected (although it can be carried over for up to a year by agreement under existing law).

The change is aimed at allowing businesses under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce, while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday. This will mean staff can continue working in the national effort against the coronavirus without losing out on annual leave entitlement.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Whether it is in our hospitals, or our supermarkets, people are working around the clock to help our country deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The changes will mean these valued employees do not lose out on the annual leave they are entitled to as a result of their efforts, and employers are not penalised.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice also said: “From our fields to our supermarkets, we are hugely grateful to the many people working around the clock to keep the nation fed.

“At this crucial time, relaxing laws on statutory leave will help ensure key workers can continue the important work to keep supplies flowing, but without losing the crucial time off they are entitled to.

“We welcome the measures the food industry is already taking to keep shelves stocked and supply chains resilient, and will continue to support them with their response to coronavirus.”

The changes will amend the Working Time Regulations, which apply to almost all workers, including agency workers, those who work irregular hours, and workers on zero-hours contracts.

— Chris Randall is the Head of Employment Law at Ringrose Law

Chris Randall is Head of the Employment Law Department at Ringrose Law. He qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and has always specialised in employment law. He graduated from the University of Lincoln in 2003 with a First Class LLB (Hons) Law Degree and from the University of Leicester in 2009 with a LLM Masters in the Law of Employment Relations.

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