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Employment & Employment & HR

Coronavirus: Police Powers and employment implications

Police have now fined over 1,000 people for failing to abide by the government’s guidelines for social distancing and to stay at home except for daily exercise, shopping for essentials, health reasons or work if you cannot work form home. The government handed police new powers to enforce the lockdown announced by Boris Johnson on 23 March 2020.

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The police now have the power to give any individual who refuses to follow the government guidance an on-the-spot fine of £60, which is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If an individual persistently breaches the guidance, then more fines can be given for repeat offences up to a maximum of £960.

If an individual does not pay a fixed penalty notice issued under the regulations they could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose an unlimited fine.

Most employers will consider an employee receiving a criminal conviction as a serious disciplinary matter. However, receiving a fixed penalty notice for breaching the Coronavirus regulations will not necessarily lead to a criminal record.

Fixed penalty notices are the same fines issued for a wide range of traffic and motoring offences including speeding, driving without a seatbelt and driving without insurance. Providing that the fine is paid within the specified period and the matter is dealt with outside the criminal courts then it will not amount to a conviction.

However, fixed penalty notices may still have to be declared if asked by employers even though they are not convictions. If you were to appear in court and charged and convicted with a Coronavirus-related offence, then this would  result in a criminal record and could have implications for your current or any future employment.

Although the issue of a fixed penalty notice for a less serious breach of the Coronavirus regulations is unlikely to adversely impact your employment, it has the same legal effect as a speeding ticket.

Police forces have adopted differing interpretations of the government’s guidelines, with a majority exercising discretion and focusing on the ‘Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce’ approach rather than issuing fines in the first instance.

Government guidance is clear that you should only be travelling to work if it is not possible for to work from home. If you have to travel for valid work reasons it may be a good idea for your employer to provide you with a brief letter explaining why, which you can show to police should they challenge your reason for travelling. There is no strict requirement for this, but it could help to provide clarity and thereby avoid receiving a fine.

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

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Alastair Ward-Booth

Trainee Solicitor

alastair.ward-booth@collyerbristow.com