COVID-19 - Advice for Employers and Employees

As Coronavirus in Northern Ireland continues, It is important that businesses and workers know what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to protecting staff and themselves from the spread of the virus.

For general advice people should contact the Public Health Agency as their advice continues to be refined to reflect the changing situation.

Staying at home and social distancing

Current government advice is for everyone to stay at home, except in specific situations. This includes:

  • only going outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
  • staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people ('social distancing')
  • avoiding busy commuting times on public transport where travel is essential
  • washing your hands as soon as you get home

 

Employers should support their workforce to take these steps. This might include agreeing to more flexible ways of working.

For full guidance on staying at home, see:

 

 Working from home

For any employee working from home, the employer should:

  • pay the employee as usual;
  • keep in regular contact; and
  • check on the employee's health and wellbeing.

Find out more about:

 

If an employee does not want to go to work

Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're afraid of catching coronavirus. This could particularly be the case for those who are at higher risk.

An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone.

For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that people can avoid using public transport.

If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.

If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action.

 

    Vulnerable people and those at high risk

    The government advises anyone who’s at a higher risk of getting a severe illness if they catch coronavirus (‘vulnerable people’) to take particularly strict social distancing measures.

    Although everyone is advised to practice social distancing, it’s particularly important for those in a vulnerable group.

    Employers must be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is in a vulnerable group.

    For example, those who:

    •            have a long-term health condition, for example asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a weakened immune system as the result of medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy;

    •            are pregnant;

    •            are aged 70 or over

    Find out more about social distancing and vulnerable people on The Public Health Agency website

    Find advice on pregnancy and coronavirus on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' website.

     

    Shielding for extremely vulnerable people

    Some people will receive a letter from their GP to say they should take extra steps to protect (or 'shield') themselves because of an underlying health condition. This is for people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

    Employees should talk to their employer as soon as they can if they:

    • have been told to start shielding; or
    • think they might get a letter telling them to start shielding.

    If an employee receives a letter telling them to start shielding, they should stay at home for at least 12 weeks.

    Employers should support staff following shielding guidelines. This might be a distressing or difficult time, so it's important for employers to keep in touch during any absence.

    Any details about the employee's medical condition must be kept confidential, unless the employee says they can be shared.

    Read more about extremely vulnerable people and shielding measures on NI Direct.

    Discrimination and unfair treatment

    If an employee is still being asked to go out to work and they believe they're at risk because they're in one of the vulnerable groups, it's important they talk to their employer.

    If they cannot follow guidance on social distancing at work or during travel to work, they should tell their employer they need to follow government advice and stay at home.

    Unfair treatment and dismissal

    An employee is protected by law against unfair treatment and dismissal, if it's because of:

    • pregnancy;
    • age; or
    • a health condition that's considered a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act.

    It does not matter how long they've worked for the employer.

    It could be unlawful discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy, disability or age if an employer either:

    • unreasonably tries to pressure someone to go to work; or
    • unreasonably disciplines someone for not going to work.

    Self-isolation and sick pay

    Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:

    •            they have coronavirus;

    •            they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough;

    •            someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms; or

    •            they've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111.

    If someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.

    If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days.  Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.

    If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days.  This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

    Find more guidance for households with possible coronavirus on the Public Health Agency NI website.

    Employers might offer more than SSP and provide 'contractual' sick pay.    

    If an employee or worker cannot work, they should tell their employer:

    •            as soon as possible;

    •            the reason;

    •            how long they're likely to be off.

    If the employer needs proof

    Employees in self-isolation need to follow their workplace's usual sickness reporting process.

    Employees can 'self-certify' for the first 7 days off work. This means following their workplace process but not having to get a note from a doctor or NHS 111.

    Those self-isolating due to coronavirus for more than 7 days can get an online self-isolation note from the NHS website.

    It's a good idea to check your workplace's policy on absence from work.  Employers might need to be flexible if asking for self-isolation notes.  For example, an employee with severe symptoms might not be able to get a note straight away.

    Find advice about self-isolating on NHS.UK.

    The government has opened a SSP rebate scheme for employers during the coronavirus outbreak. details are available here

     

    If the workplace needs to close temporarily

    All non-essential premises must now close. This includes cafés, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, and electronics and clothing shops.

    This might be a difficult time for both employers and staff.  It’s a good idea to make sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.

    The Government will be providing financial support for:

    • employees who are temporarily sent home because there’s no work (‘furloughed workers’); and
    • self-employed workers.

    Covid 19 FAQs:

    NI business info have a FAQ "COVID-19: Managing staff health, pay, leave and absence" which is available here.

     

    Financial support for furloughed workers

    Financial support for furloughed workers will be provided to employers through the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’. 

    Information on how to claim can be found through nibusinessinfo here.

    Further information can be found here: CJRS Direction document

    Furloughed employees or workers must have been on their PAYE payroll and included in a 'Real Time Information' (RTI) submission to HMRC on or before 19 March. This may include:

    • employees;
    • workers;
    • those who do casual work; and
    • those who have zero-hours contracts.

    If you’re on a fixed term contract

    If you were on a fixed term contract your employer can re-employ, furlough and claim for you if your contract expired after either:

    • 28 February 2020 and an Real Time Information (RTI) payment submission for you was notified to HMRC on or before 28 February 2020
    • 19 March 2020 and an RTI payment submission for you was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020

    If your fixed term contract has not already expired, your employer can extend or renew it. Your employer can claim for you if an RTI payment submission for you was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020.

    If you started and ended the same contract between 28 February 2020 and 19 March 2020 you will not qualify for this scheme. This is not specific to employees on fixed-term contracts, the same would apply to employees on all other contracts.

    Eligibility 

    To be eligible for the scheme, employers will need to:

    • select and tell (‘designate’) the employees affected that they’re furloughed;
    • keep employees on the employer’s payroll; and
    • make sure furloughs last at least 3 weeks.

    If someone was made redundant on or after 19th March 2020

    An employer can decide to rehire them and put them on furlough.

    If someone has more than one job

    Each job is treated separately.  This means they may be able to either:

    • continue to work for their other job; or
    • be furloughed for both jobs.

    If they’re furloughed for both jobs, they’ll be eligible for financial support for each job.

     

    While you’re on furlough

    Once you are on furlough you will not be able to work for your employer. You can undertake training or volunteer subject to public health guidance, as long as you’re not:

    • making money for your employer or a company linked or associated to your employer
    • providing services to your employer or a company linked or associated to your employer

    If workers are required to, for example, complete training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least their appropriate minimum wage (NLW/NMW/AMW) for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

    Whilst furloughed your employer cannot ask you to do work for another linked or associated company.

    If your contract allows, you may undertake other employment while your current employer has placed you on furlough, and this will not affect the grant that they can claim under the scheme.

    Whilst on furlough, you may still undertake union or non-union representatives duties and activities for the purpose of an individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However in doing this, you must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

    Selecting and telling affected employees

    Employers must select employees for furlough in a fair way to avoid any discrimination. 

    They also need to get agreement from the employee to do this, unless it’s covered by a clause in the employment contract.

    If your employer and a trade union reach collective agreement that is also acceptable, for the purpose of your employer claiming through the scheme.

    They need to clearly explain how much the employee will get paid in total. 

    The government will pay employers 80% of wages. The employer should decide whether they'll top up the wages to 100%, but they do not have to. If the employer decides not to top up the wages, they should tell the employee and explain why not.

    If an employee disagrees with their employer's decision, they'll need to talk to their employer and try to come to an agreement.

    Changing an employment contract

    If an employer cannot reach an agreement, they may want to change the written terms in an employee’s contract.

    If there are more than 20 employees affected, employers will need to consult staff representatives (‘collectively consult’).

    Furlough agreements

    Any furlough agreements should be in writing. It's a good idea to include:

    • the date furlough starts;
    • how much the person will be paid;
    • when it will be reviewed; and
    • how to keep in contact during furlough.

    Download a furlough letter template.

    Financial support

    HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers' wage costs to employers, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. 

    Payments will be made every 3 weeks.  This is because 3 weeks is the shortest period a furlough can last.

    A calculator is now available for employers to work out employees "80%" furlough pay here

     

    If you are on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave

    The normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply.

    Although, your employer may need to calculate your average weekly earnings, if you were put on furlough and then started leave on or after 25 April 2020 for:

    Your employer can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

    • maternity pay
    • adoption pay
    • paternity pay
    • shared parental pay
    • parental bereavement pay

     

    If employers need short-term cash flow support, they may be eligible for a 'Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan'.

    As this is a new scheme and the details are still being finalised, the Agency’s Workplace Information Service helpline will not be able to give further information. 

    Find out more about:

    Financial support for self-employed workers

    Financial support will be provided to self-employed workers through the ‘Self-Employed Income Support Scheme’. 

    Information on the scheme can be found here

    Self-employed workers will receive a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly income, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. 

    HMRC will contact self-employed workers directly if they’re eligible for the scheme.

     

    Lay-offs and short-time working

    In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.

    If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.

    Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.

    Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' of up to £30 a day from their employer.

    This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months.  On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance.

    Find out more about:

    •            your nearest Jobcentre on NI Direct

     

    Using holiday for a temporary workplace closure                                      

    Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to.

    An employer could for example, shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement.

    Redundancy

    The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by Coronavirus (Covid-19) in allowing them to retain employees on a furloughed basis for a defined period of time.

    It is unfortunate however that even with support measures such as the CJRS in place the Coronavirus situation may result in some businesses having to cease trading or reduce the size of their workforce through redundancy.

    In these circumstances the normal legal provisions regarding redundancy continue to apply and it is essential that employers carefully plan and prepare for handling redundancies, given the sensitivity of the issue and personal impact on employees and their families.

    In progressing any redundancy exercise employers will have to follow a fair procedure including application of their own procedure, where one exists.

    Furthermore there is a requirement on employers to take steps to avoid compulsory redundancies.

     

    Redundancy Consultation

    It is considered good practice for employers to consult individually or with recognised trade union(s)/employee representatives, if applicable, in circumstances where less than 20 employees may be affected.

    In all other instances, employers must consult the appropriate representatives by the proposed redundancies, or by any measures taken in connection with those redundancies.

    The consultation should include ways of:

    • avoiding the redundancies;
    • reducing the number of employees to be made redundant; and
    • reducing the effects of the redundancies.

    The employer must carry out meaningful, genuine consultation with a view to reaching agreement with appropriate representatives on these issues. This duty applies even when the employees to be made redundant are volunteers.

    Consultation should begin in good time and be completed before any redundancy notices are issued.

     

    Redundancy Consultation Period

    It is vitally important that employers note the requirements regarding redundancy consultation periods. Consultation must begin:

    • at least 30 days before the first person is made redundant, if 20 to 99 employees are to be made redundant at one organisation over a period of 90 days or less; or
       
    • at least 90 days before the first person is made redundant, if 100 or more employees are to be made redundant at one organisation over a period of 90 days or less.

     

    Redundancy Payments

    Employers must observe relevant requirements regarding the payment of statutory redundancy payments, notice period payments and any other contractual obligations.

    As an employee it is still possible that you may be made redundant while you are furloughed.  The calculation for statutory redundancy pay to which you may be entitled is based on age, length of service and normal weekly pay up to a certain limit (currently £560 as at 6 April 2020).

     

    Further resources and information on Redundancy can be found at

    Redundancy

    Advisory Guide - Advice on Handling Redundancy

    Redundancy Flowchart

    Redundancy Pay

    Redundancy Pay Table

    NIDirect – Redundancy

    NIBusinessInfo – Redundancy, Restructures and Change

    Using holiday

    In most situations, employees and workers should use their paid holiday (‘statutory annual leave’) in their current leave year. This is 5.6 weeks in the UK.

    This is important because taking holiday helps people:

    • get enough rest; and
    • keep healthy (physically and mentally).

     

    If an employee or worker is temporarily sent home because there’s no work and the employer intends to claim for their wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ('furloughed'), they can still request and take their holiday in the usual way. This includes taking bank holidays.

     

    Employees and workers must get their usual pay in full, for any holidays they take.

     

    Carrying over holiday

    During the coronavirus outbreak, it may not be possible for staff to take all their holiday entitlement during the current holiday year.

    Employers should still be encouraging workers and employees to take their paid holiday. Employees and workers should also make requests for paid holiday throughout their holiday year, if possible.

    Some employers will already have an agreement to carry over paid holiday.  

    The executive has introduced a temporary new law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday the employee or worker does not take because of coronavirus.

    They may also be able to carry over holiday if they’ve been 'furloughed' and cannot reasonably use it in their holiday year.

     

    Bank holidays

    Bank holidays are usually part of the legal minimum 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday. Employees and workers must get their usual pay in full for bank holidays.

    Employees and workers may still be required to use a day’s paid holiday for bank holidays, including when they’re furloughed. If bank holidays are given on top of the 5.6 week’s paid holiday, employees and workers should check their contract or talk to their employer about taking this holiday.

    If employees and workers usually work on bank holidays but are currently furloughed, they should check with their employer to see if they have to take holiday on that day or if they can take the time off at a later date.

    If employees and workers cannot take bank holidays off due to coronavirus, they should use the holiday at a later date in their leave year.

     

     

    Agreeing how extra holiday is carried over

    If employers do not already have an agreement in place, they can decide whether they’ll allow extra holiday (more than the 4 weeks’ paid holiday) to be carried over.

    Extra holiday may include:

    • the remaining 1.6 weeks of statutory annual leave;
    • holiday that’s more than the legal minimum.

    Employees and workers should check their employment contract or talk to their employer to find out what they’re entitled to.

     

    Reaching an agreement

    If the workplace has a recognised trade union, or there are employee representatives who work with the employer on these matters, the employer should involve them in agreeing changes. 

    If any agreement is made, it’s a good idea for it to be in writing.

    Employers should get legal advice if they’re not sure whether to allow extra holiday to be carried over. 

     

    Previously booked holidays

    An employee may no longer want to take time off they'd previously booked, for example because their hotel cancelled the booking. Their employer can insist they still take the time off, but it’s best practice to get agreement from the employee.

    If the employee wants to change when they take this time off, they'll need to get agreement from their employer.

     

    Requiring staff to take or cancel holiday

    Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday.

    An employer could, for example, shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement.

    If the employer decides to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the number of days they need people to take.  For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

    Employers can also cancel pre-booked paid holiday. If they decide to do this, they must give staff at least the same number of days’ notice as the original holiday request.

    For example, if an employee has booked 5 days holiday, the employer must tell them at least 5 days before the holiday starts that it’s cancelled.

    This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned.  So employers should:

    •            explain clearly why they need to do this; and

    •            try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans.

     

    Being flexible about holiday during coronavirus

    Employers and employees should be as flexible as they can about holiday during the coronavirus pandemic.

    It’s a good idea to:

    • talk about any plans to use or cancel holiday during coronavirus as soon as possible
    • discuss why holiday might need to be taken or cancelled
    • listen to any concerns, either from staff or the employer
    • invite and suggest ideas for alternatives
    • consider everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing
    • be aware that it’s a difficult time for both employers and staff

    If an employee needs time off work to look after someone

    Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a 'dependant') in an unexpected event or emergency.  This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus.

    A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help.

    There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.

    The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation.  For example, they might take 2 days off to start with and if more time is needed they can book holiday.

    If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a minimum for this time.  They’ll also need to follow self-isolation guidance on the Public Health Agency website.

     

    School closures

    As schools in Northern Ireland have now closed, except for providing care for some children of key workers, this will have an effect on care and working arrangements.    This may be an anxious time for parents, and employers will need to be planning cover at work.

    If employees need emergency time off for child care or to make new arrangements, they can use:

    •            time off to care for someone else ('time off for dependants');

    •            holiday, if their employer agrees.

     

    Employers and employees can consider these steps:

    •            talking to each other early on about time off that might be needed;

    •            agreeing regular conversations so both can plan ahead;

    •            agreeing flexible working instead of taking longer periods of time off, for example working from home or changing working hours to allow for child care.

    If any agreement is made, it’s a good idea for it to be in writing.

    If someone has coronavirus symptoms at work

    If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:

    •            tell their employer immediately and go home;

    •            avoid touching anything;

    •            cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow; and

    •            use a separate bathroom from others, if possible.

    If the unwell person lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.  If they live with others and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days.  Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.

    If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

    You can get more advice or help by:

    •            using the NHS 111 coronavirus service website;

    •            calling 111, if you cannot access the NHS website; or

    •            calling 999, if someone is seriously ill or life is at risk.

    It’s best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone or computer to access these services.

     

    If someone with coronavirus comes to work

    If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close, but they should follow cleaning advice.

    See advice for cleaning workplaces on GOV.UK.

    Good practice steps for employers

    Employers should consider some simple steps to make sure they continue to provide their staff and customers with a ‘duty of care’.  This means they must do all they reasonably can to support their health, safety and wellbeing.

    It's good practice for employers to:

     

    • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace
    • make sure everyone is social distancing if they come into the workplace;
    • ensure employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance
    • ensure employees who are in an extremely vulnerable group and should be shielded are supported to stay at home
    • make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
    • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action
    • make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly
    • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
    • keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on NI Direct.

    See NI Direct and GOV.UK for sector-specific guidance on social distancing in the workplace

     

    Avoiding discrimination

    Employers must not single anyone out unfairly.  For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.

    They should look out for any bullying, discrimination or harassment happening in their workplace and address it immediately.

    Non-essential shops and public spaces closures

    The Government has introduced measures that require all non-essential shops and community spaces to close to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

     

    The Executive has published a list of essential businesses - HERE

     

    Stormont ministers have confirmed that the following essential retail services should continue to trade:

    • Supermarkets (excluding any cafes within them), convenience stores and corner shops
    • Grocery markets – not including farmers markets, hot food markets or street food markets.
    • Local fresh food suppliers like butchers, fishmongers and bakeries.
    • Hot food takeaways - over the counter services only and not allowing an option to eat in.
    • Pharmacies/Chemists and Health food shops.
    • Dental surgeries, opticians, audiology, physiotherapy, chiropody and other professional vocational medical services – for urgent appointments only.
    • Veterinary clinics and pet shops.
    • Newsagents.
    • Hardware and building supplies stores.
    • Retail services in hospitals.
    • Petrol stations, garages, and auto repair shops for urgent work only.
    • High street banks, credit unions and cash points.
    • Post offices.
    • Funeral directors, crematoriums and related.
    • Laundrettes and dry cleaners.
    • Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop-off points.
    • Medical or storage services.
    • Public car parks in towns and cities near food takeaway services.
    • Public toilets.
    • Off licences.

    The following non-essential retail services should close immediately:

    • Clothes shops.
    • Electronics shops.
    • Hair, beauty and nail salons.
    • All other non-essential retail shops.
    • All other indoor and outdoor markets including non-food markets and car boot sales.
    • Hotels, hostels, Bed and Breakfasts, Caravan Parks, Camping sites, Boarding Houses – except where caravans and mobile homes are being used as permanent residences and where hotels are providing emergency accommodation.
    • Libraries.
    • Community centres and youth centres.
    • Places of worship – all churches should close to services except for funeral services. Weddings and baptisms should be postponed. If clergy want to live-stream for church services, they are free to do so.
    • All indoor recreation sites such as bowling alleys, arcades, soft play areas.
    • Enclosed spaces in public parks such as playgrounds, tennis courts and outdoor gyms.

    Further information on closures can be found here: GOV.UK GUIDANCE FURTHER ON BUSINESSES AND PREMISES TO CLOSE

     

    Emergency Volunteering Leave

    A new, temporary, statutory right is available for eligible workers to take Emergency Volunteering Leave to help the Health and Social Care system in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

    Emergency volunteering

    Suitably skilled and/or experienced workers will be able to take Emergency Volunteering Leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks during any sixteen-week volunteering period.

    The emergency volunteering leave is unpaid; however, a compensation scheme will be set up to compensate eligible emergency volunteers for some loss of income and expenses incurred.

    You must have been certified by an appropriate authority to act as an emergency volunteer in health or social care.  In Northern Ireland, the appropriate authorities are:

    • the Department of Health;
    • a Regional Health and Social Care Board; and
    • a Health and Social Care trust.

    To avail of the emergency volunteering leave, you must give your employer at least three working days’ notice and the certificate provided by the appropriate authority.

    Except for those organisations and workers that are exempt, there is no provision for employers to refuse leave, for example because of operational need. 

    Employment rights and benefits

    During emergency volunteering leave, you’ll still be entitled to the benefit of all of your terms and conditions of employment which would have applied if you had not been absent - except for terms and conditions relating to remuneration. The period of absence will be deemed not to have any effect on your pension or benefit entitlements.

    As an emergency volunteer, you have a statutory right to return to the job you were employed in before taking emergency volunteering leave and on terms and conditions that are no less favourable than those which would have applied if you hadn't been absent.

    In addition, volunteers will have the right not to be subjected to a detriment or dismissal on the grounds of taking emergency volunteering leave.

    Exemptions to the statutory right to Emergency Volunteering Leave 

    The following organisations and workers are exempt from the statutory right to emergency volunteering leave:

    • micro businesses (those with 10 or fewer employees);
    • Crown employees;
    • military personnel;
    • the Police; and
    • NI Assembly and commission staff.

     

     

     

     

    More coronavirus advice

    To get more coronavirus advice, you can:

    •            find coronavirus advice on Public Health Agency NI

    •            find coronavirus advice on NHS.UK

    •            see latest coronavirus information and advice for employees on NI Direct

    •            see guidance for employers and businesses on NI Business Info

    Last updated: 19 May 2020