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The UK’s unemployment rate has hit 5% for the first time in more than four years, according to official figures which suggest over 200,000 people lost their jobs in the three months to November.

The most recent figures included the four-week national lockdown in November for England and a time of continuing restrictions on the economy to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also said 828,000 fewer people were on company payrolls through December compared to the pre-COVID-19 crisis month of February 2020.

It is feared that with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) set to end at the end of March, many more people will be impacted by the increase in unemployment rates in the UK.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently told MP’s he is to review all the support schemes for businesses and workers when he delivers his budget in March.

He said of the unemployment data: “This crisis has gone on far longer than any of us hoped – and every job lost as a result is a tragedy.

“Whilst the NHS is working hard to protect people with the vaccine, we’re throwing everything we’ve got at supporting businesses, individuals and families.

“Our Plan for Jobs includes grants and loans so that firms can keep employees on, the furlough scheme to help protect jobs, and programmes like Kickstart alongside record investment in skills so that people can find their first job, their next job, or a new job if needed.”

Employment Law Advice and Guidance

At Rose & Rose, our specialist employment solicitors are here to help you deal with a wide range of employment issues. We understand that being put on furlough can be a stressful time and that certain employment law rights or questions may not have been made clear to you.

These are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding the furlough scheme and rights of an employee:

Can my employer start a disciplinary process against me whilst I am on furlough?

Whilst on furlough, you are still bound by your terms and conditions of employment. Any breach of this could result in a disciplinary process being brought against you even whilst you are on furlough. If a disciplinary process was started before you were placed on furlough, likely, this can still proceed. Under the government guidance, an employee is not able to work for their employer whilst on furlough leave. However, this should not prevent you from being asked to attend a disciplinary hearing and therefore the process could still be allowed to continue.

If I have submitted a grievance before my employer placed me on furlough leave, will the grievance process continue?

Yes, your grievance procedure can continue whilst you are on furlough leave. It may be that you agree with your employer to postpone it, but it will normally be better for it to continue even if the process will have to be adapted or time frames changed if other employees are working from home as it could take slightly longer than normal. Similarly, if you are on flexible furlough, your grievance process could be carried out on the days and times you are working in the office. You also have the right to raise a new grievance whilst on furlough leave, as long as all the correct grievance procedures are followed.

Do my employment rights still stand whilst I am on furlough?

Yes, you will continue to accrue continuous service whilst on furlough and your rights as an employee still stand. For redundancy, you will still need to have accrued the two years’ service required to claim a statutory redundancy payment for example, however other statutory rights as part of your employment contract will remain in place.

What are my rights regarding pay cuts?

Even during the current Coronavirus pandemic, employment law rights still stand, and you have the right to refuse to take a pay cut. If your employer does this without prior agreement, then this would be an unlawful deduction of wages, resulting in your right to bring a claim in the Employment tribunal. However, if you do not agree to furlough leave, or do not agree to other measures such as continuing to work but at a reduced rate of pay, then an employer may look to make redundancies as an alternative, but the correct redundancy procedures will have to be followed.

If you have any concerns regarding your employment law rights or have any specific queries regarding a current situation in your workplace, we recommend you seek legal advice from an employment lawyer.

Rose & Rose Employment Law Solicitors

Our specialist employment law team is experienced across all employment law matters, providing clear and practical advice in a cost-effective way. If you would like to speak to us regarding Employment Law, contact us on 02089747490 or info@roselegal.co.uk to discuss the advice you need, and we will provide you with further and specific advice tailored to your circumstances.