What are your rights if you are made redundant during coronavirus?

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Workers, some wearing protective face masks, cross London Bridge during the morning rush hour in London, on 5 March. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Employees across the UK are facing redundancy amid the spread of coronavirus. Airlines in particular have taken a hit, with British Airways warning that job losses are inevitable. Flybe has said the virus played a part in its fall into administration.

The pandemic has hit businesses and their employees hard. Around a quarter of Britain’s workforce is employed in sectors where demand has disappeared because of the guidance on social distancing to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Many sectors have already seen widespread redundancies, with firms warning thousands more jobs could be cut. 

So what are your rights if you lose your job because of coronavirus?

According to Citizens Advice, there is no legal mechanism that can stop an employer from sacking you. However, there still needs to be a fair reason for you being made redundant, such as the business closing down. In this situation, you should be due a payout.

“There could be situations where you are let go from your job because of a business going into administration or having to downsize, which would create a redundancy situation,” Citizens Advice states. “Even if it's a genuine redundancy and you've received a redundancy payment, it may also be an unfair dismissal in some circumstances and you should get advice about it.

“If you're let go because of something related to coronavirus, such as time off work, you need to get legal advice as soon as possible about whether this was fair or unfair, because you only have three months to take action after your employment ends.

“Employees with over two years service have the right to claim unfair dismissal, and it will then be for a tribunal to decide whether it was reasonable to dismiss you.”

Write to your employer explaining the reasons and you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal. You only have three months to take action after your employment ends and you may have to pay tribunal fees.

Read more: How to cope with redundancy

Citizens Advice adds: “If you are a casual or zero hours worker and not an employee, or you are an employee with less than two years service, you can't claim unfair dismissal but you should get legal advice anyway.”

Your employer can ask you to stay at home, cut your hours, or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you.

Can I claim redundancy if I lose my job?

In the UK, you’ll normally be entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you’re an employee and you’ve been working for your current employer for two years or more. You’ll get half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22, one week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older but under 41, and one and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older.

Your employer can’t pay you less than the statutory minimum, but they may pay you more if your contract stipulates this. This might mean you get more money or a payout, even if you’ve worked at the company for less than two years.

If there’s no mention of redundancy pay in your contract or staff handbook, you should assume you’ll get the legal minimum.

Read more: What are your rights if you are offered unpaid leave?

If the company has gone under, you'll have to apply for redundancy pay and unpaid wages online via Gov.uk or contact the Redundancy Payments Service on 0330 331 0020.

You may be eligible to apply for redundancy if you are employed but are laid off or put on short-time hours for either four weeks in a row or six weeks in a 13-week period.

Organisations such as Citizens Advice or StepChange offer free advice and support.