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Employment & Employment & HR

Coronavirus: Key Employment Considerations for Private Households

As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, employers face the ongoing challenge of ensuring compliance with the latest government guidance. This requirement doesn’t just apply to large organisations but affects employers of all sizes, including private households. We look at the key things to consider.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, employers face the ongoing challenge of ensuring compliance with the latest government guidance. This requirement doesn’t just apply to large organisations but affects employers of all sizes, including private households.

We take a look at:

  • what you need to know when employing nannies, housekeepers, cleaners and other domestic staff; and
  • whether you can continue to engage the services of tradespeople.

Domestic staff

1. ‘Live-out’

Whether a member of staff is part of the same household is crucial. Government guidance is clear that employees should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so. Nannies, cleaners and housekeepers who do not reside at their employer’s property cannot perform their duties from home and are therefore currently permitted to travel to work. However, thought should be given as to whether it is appropriate to request that they continue to do so.

In particular, you should consider:

  • The employee’s health. For example, have they been identified as being ‘extremely vulnerable’?
  • Whether the employee has any caring responsibilities for their own children or other dependants?
  • Whether any members of your own household are vulnerable?
  • The extent to which social distancing measures can be maintained. For example, If your employee usually takes public transport to work you should consider whether there are alternative methods of transport which could be used as a temporary measure e.g. are they able to cycle to work, or could you provide a cab?

2. ‘Live in’

Clearly staff who live within the same household as their employer do not face the same challenges as those who travel to work. However, employers must still be mindful of the duty of care owed to employees and should follow best practice in the circumstances. This includes being able to spot symptoms of COVID-19, promoting good hygiene and providing appropriate supplies such as tissues and hand sanitiser.

3. Furlough Leave?

If it is simply not practicable for the individual to continue to perform their normal role, you may need to consider other options such as furlough leave (see our previous guidance on the job retention scheme here). The scheme has been created to support employers who cannot ‘maintain their current workforce because [their] operations have been severely affected by coronavirus’.

Updated guidance on the scheme released on 4 April 2020 confirms that it is possible for individual employers to furlough employees such as nannies. However in order to be eligible, employees must be paid through PAYE and must have been on the payroll on or before 28 February 2020. It is crucial to note that staff who have been furloughed cannot continue to perform their duties.

It is anticipated that the portal for applications under the scheme will be up and running from 20 April 2020.

4.  Periods of illness or self-isolation 

If a member of staff becomes ill, they will be entitled to sick pay in the normal way. The level of sick pay will depend upon the terms of the individual’s contract of employment. Many contracts will provide for enhanced sick pay and it is important that you check the terms carefully to ensure you pay the correct amount.

Those who are self-isolating are entitled to receive statutory sick pay (‘SSP’), which as of 6 April 2020 is £95.85 a week. Some employers may however decide to pay an enhanced rate of sick pay. The length of the self-isolation period depends on whether it is the employee or a member of their household who is experiencing symptoms.

For those considering furlough leave, it is important to note that government guidance states that “you cannot claim for employees while they’re getting statutory sick pay, but they can be furloughed and claimed for once they are no longer receiving statutory sick pay”.

Tradespeople

So what about individuals who may carry out work in the home, but who are not employed?

On 7 April 2020, the government released sector specific guidance on social distancing in the workplace, including tradespeople. In summary, tradespeople carrying out ‘essential’ repairs and maintenance may continue to do so, providing they are in good health and are not showing any coronavirus symptoms, however mild. In such circumstances, the guidance recommends maintaining a 2m distance, keeping windows open, and following good hygiene practices. If however your household is isolating or an individual is being ‘shielded’, no work should be carried out unless it is ‘emergency work’ to remedy a direct risk to the safety of your household.

If you have queries about your specific circumstances, our specialist Employment team are here to help.

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Sinead Kelly

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sinead.kelly@collyerbristow.com