19 March, 2020
The coronavirus bill has implemented emergency laws to contain the spread of COVID-19. The legislation covers areas such as the NHS, social care, schools, police, border force, local councils, funerals and courts.
Today, 19 March 2020, the government have published the Emergency Coronavirus Bill to implement powers to contain the spread of COVID-19, and this will be time limited to two years. However not all the measures may be implemented immediately, and these can be 'switched off' should they no longer be necessary.
The bill will enable employees and workers to take Emergency Volunteer Leave in blocks of 2, 3 or 4 weeks' statutory unpaid leave and establish a UK-wide compensation fund to compensate for loss of earnings and expenses incurred at a flat rate for those who volunteer through an appropriate authority. This will ensure that volunteers do not suffer financial disadvantage as a result of performing a public good. Volunteers play a critical role in the delivery of health and social care services and are particularly important in caring for the most vulnerable in our society, such as the elderly, those with multiple long-term conditions or those suffering from mental ill-health.
Furthermore the bill will seek to suspend the rule that currently prevents some NHS staff who return to work after retirement from working more than 16 hours per week, along with rules on abatements and drawn-down of NHS pensions that apply to certain retirees who return to work. This will allow skilled and experienced staff who have recently retired from the NHS to return to work, and also allow retired staff who have already returned to work to increase their commitments if required, without having their pension benefits suspended.
We will provide further updates as the situation develops, however if you have any queries arising as a result of this briefing, or you require any advice on the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Employment Team.