The Coronavirus Bill: Emergency Legislation on its way
Emergency measures to give ministers powers to take action against the public to help control the Coronavirus outbreak have been published in the form of the Emergency Coronavirus Bill. The measures in the Bill are intended to be temporary (up to two years) and will be removed once an emergency response to the current threat is no longer required.
The measures are intended to protect life and the country’s public health as well as ensuring that NHS and social care staff are provided with the necessary support to deal with the extra pressures currently faced by the health care system. The measures fall into 5 key categories:
- containing and slowing the virus
- easing legislative and regulatory requirements
- enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff across essential services
- managing the deceased in a dignified way
- supporting and protecting the public to do the right thing and follow public health advice
To ensure the NHS have the additional staff capacity they need to respond to increasing demands on services during the outbreak, the powers enabled by the Bill will allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work without any negative repercussions to their pensions.
Volunteers will have extra employment safeguards, allowing them to pause their main jobs for up to 4 weeks while they help care for patients in the health and care system, and will receive a flat rate of compensation to mitigate lost earnings and expenses.
Other measures in the legislation include:
- allowing police and immigration officers to support and enforce public health measures, including powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health
- making arrangements for statutory sick pay for those self-isolating without symptoms from day one
- allowing small businesses to reclaim statutory sick pay payments from HMRC
- allowing more phone or video hearings for court cases to stop the spread of the virus in courts
- enabling Border Force to temporarily suspend operations at airports or transport hubs if there are insufficient resources to maintain border security
As and when the legislation is introduced we will update you and confirm exactly what impact it will have upon existing employment laws and how this affects your obligations as an SME, including any updates to the current SSP arrangements and the claim system.
If you have any questions at this stage about how the emergency legislation is likely to affect your business please contact your Employment Advisor on 01274 864999.