Lawyers See Employment Claims Surge Following End of Lockdown
As the coronavirus lockdown eases in the UK, national law firm Irwin Mitchell is now seeing a corresponding spike in employment cases.
The situation has been described as akin to the ‘wild west’, as some employers prioritise speed over process and ignore basic employment rights – particularly around redundancies and the furlough scheme.
Examples of claims received by the firm include someone that was shielding who was dismissed because their employer said it was too much trouble to organise working from home. It’s also seen older people prioritised for redundancy because younger staff are cheaper and seen as less of a health risk if they develop Covid-19.
Employers are also facing problems of their own; it’s seen an increase in the number of employees who are claiming protection as whistleblowers after alleging their employers have committed furlough fraud.
Expert Opinion“Covid-19 has led to an unprecedented situation in so many ways and employment law is no exception.
“Many businesses have to make very difficult decisions about the future of their businesses. The furlough scheme has provided some breathing space, but employers now have to contribute towards its costs and many can’t even afford to pay the minimal contribution required in August. And the costs increase month on month until the scheme ends in October.
“Many, in their haste to save costs, are making basic errors in their redundancy programmes such as not going through a fair procedure even in genuine cases. Others are getting rid of older staff which is directly discriminatory.
“It may be that employers are feeling ‘furlough fatigue’ – frustrated and under pressure from trying to do the right thing and are inadvertently making mistakes. But, others appear to be ignoring basic employment rights.
“While it might seem like the ‘wild west’ to those in the middle of this, Covid-19 hasn’t changed employment law overnight and not following correct redundancy procedures or selecting people because of their age is more likely to result in employment claims which will distract them from the important job of keeping their businesses going.”
Leanne Moretta - Senior Associate