Regional law firm Ellis Jones Solicitors has urged businesses to anticipate employment issues before they arise in the face of a lengthy coronavirus lockdown.
Partner and head of employment Kate Brooks has highlighted key points to consider amid calls for tougher restrictions as the Covid crisis deepens.
This includes employees being able to take unpaid time off on an unlimited number of occasions to deal with an emergency involving a dependant.
Ellis Jones, with more than 140 staff and 17 partners, has five offices in Bournemouth, Canford Cliffs (Poole), Swanage, Ringwood and Wimborne as well as London.
Kate, who has been recognised for her expertise in The Legal 500 and The Times Top 200 Law Firms guides, said: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, agreed unpaid leave, flexible working, the role of critical workers and working from home are all matters which may need to be considered.
“In addition, employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, such as a family member or someone who relies upon them for care.
“There are no limits on how many times an employee can take emergency and unpaid time off for a dependant but this may become more prevalent if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.
“Employers are advised to consider all of their options and, importantly, have plans in place so they are ready to deal with any matters which arise.”
One option for employers to consider is furloughing staff if they can’t work due to childcare responsibilities or health concerns. They do not have to agree to requests for furlough from staff.
Kate added: “There are different options to consider. In my opinion, unpaid leave should be the last resort.”
Other latest developments include the Government’s guidance on critical workers being updated for the latest lockdown to include those whose work is critical to the UK’s response following departure from the EU.
Kate is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.