It can be hard to keep on top of the latest advice and regulations at the best of times when you’re spread thin and busy with deadlines – let alonein the middle of a global pandemic.
Understandably, many of our clients feel overwhelmed by all the information outthere. Especially with so many opinion pieces and inaccurate assumptions, it can be hard to know what to trust.
To help you cut through all of this noise, we’ve collated some useful resources to help address your most pressing concerns.
This article outlines some of the key changes that you should be aware of and points you in the right direction for more information and support should you need it.
We hope it helps in this stressful time.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
It is well reported that HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs up to a cap of £2,500pm. This is part of their plan to support businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
Who counts as a furloughed worker?
A furloughed worker is someone who is still employed but not working, perhaps due to a lack of work. The purpose of this scheme is to help businesses to continue paying employees that would have otherwise been laid off by putting them on temporary leave.
Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:
Employees on agency contracts
Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
If you have made employees redundant since 28 February 2020, you can rehire and cover these employees under the scheme too.
What will it cost the employer?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all UK employersfor at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. In addition to the 80% grant covered by the government, businesses must also pay:
Employer National Insurance contribution
Minimum enrolment employer pension contribution
Where a company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator will be able to access the Job Retention Scheme.
If you’re self-isolating because of COVID-19, you are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week.
When can I claim SSP?
New legislation has been brought forward to give you access to SSP from the first day you’re self-isolating and cannot work. This new legislation came into action on 13.03.20 and overrides the previous 4-day caveat.
In light of the coronavirus creating business uncertainty and high levels of stress, the Treasury confirmed that they would postpone IR35 for another year.
This means that businesses now have until April 2021 to address the reforms necessary. These changes will drive major change in the contracting industry.
What is IR35?
IR35 is designed to combat tax avoidance by “disguised employees”. Under new rules, every medium and large private sector business in the UK will become liable for setting the tax status of any employee that they hire – including contract and temporary workers.
The new rules will apply to businesses with either:
An annual turnover of over £10.2 million
With many companies already reviewing their policies and contracts in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, now is a great time to address IR35 so that you’re prepared when the changes come in next April.
As of April 2020, The Good Work Plan comes into place. This is a plan that sets out the government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market. It seeks to “reward people for hard work” in a bid to boost productivity and earnings in the UK.
The new plan details how to address issues in our labour market, such as:
The implications of new forms of work
The rise of digital platforms
Impacts of new working models
The Good Work Plan also draws on recommendations about:
Typically, your employee’s largest financial outgoing will be their monthly mortgage payment.
Taking a break from their mortgage – with a mortgage holiday of up to three months – can act as welcome financial relief. In this unsettling time, if you are having to cut or reduce hours, it may be worth providing some resources for your employees to access this aid.
Am I Eligible?
Whether you are eligible to take a payment holiday, for how long, and the conditions you must meet depends on:
Your mortgage contract
Your financial circumstance
It is best to advice that your employee contacts their bank directly to discuss a mortgage payment holiday. However, please do make them aware that this will make their payments go up afterwards.
What About Those Who Rent?
The government has announced a package of measures to protect renters that may be affected by Coronavirus and a subsequent loss of earnings. The emergency legislation means:
You cannot be evicted from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
Landlords can take out a mortgage holiday on their Buy to Let mortgage
If you are still unsure about how you should be responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, please refer to GOV.UK platform here. It is frequently updated with the latest information and advice.
For further guidance for employees, employers and businesses, please visit the government websitehere.
It is well recognised that isolation and the stress of the outbreak may be triggering for many, leading to a decline in mental health.
In order to help you address this, we’ve attached some useful resources that help you become aware of your own mental state and some handy tips that may help you look after yourself during this difficult time.
Discover how you should be looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak here.
The mental health charity, MIND, have also released some support and resources to help you during this time. You can access this here.
Working from Home
If you’ve recently transitioned from office to home, the resources below may help you settle into your new work environment more seamlessly!
Tips for creating a positive environment to work from are available here.
Top tips for working from home are also availablehere.
We also appreciate that it is especially hard for those who are working from home whilst simultaneously juggling homeschooling. If you’re looking for some advice about working from home with children, you can find some tips here.
If you have any concerns or questions about the latest changes in legislation or how they may affect you, please do not hesitate tocontact us online or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try our best to point you in the right direction.
Thrive and Survive is a community created by a collective of business people who are coming together to help you overcome the current financial crisis and come out of this with a stronger business.
I recently shared my thoughts on the HR implications of COVID-19 in a webinar that covered:
How to deal with 3 scenarios of people ‘out of the business’ with COVID-19 related reasons
Furloughing workers – who’re eligible, what are the rules and how to do it
Common questions on partial furloughing
Advice on keeping in touch with staff, engagement, and productivity
Lots of chat on the positives arising for business and the opportunity when this is all over
Please excuse the noise in the background – we can thank the joys of remote working in a busy city for that!
Hopefully, it’s not too distracting and you find it useful.
[PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR LATEST UPDATE]
Since recording this webinar, a lot has changed. It seems that every day new data comes to light, so we just wanted to drop in a little more information to support you with the HR implications of COVID-19.
Since the government briefing on 10.05.20, lockdown restrictions are beginning to lift for certain businesses – but this doesn’t mean you should be too hasty in heading back to work. Let’s take a little look at why…
Health and Safety:
It is important at this point to remind you that it is your moral responsibility to protect the health and safety of your colleagues. Before rushing back to work, ensure you address some primary concerns, including:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Cleaning, including providing ample hand-washing facilities
Before inviting your employees back into the workplace, ensure you follow the guidance of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). As well as directing you towards some useful resources, including industry-specific support for certain work settings, they are regularly updating their website with guidance to help your safe transition back to work.
Talking to Your Employees:
In this stressful time, we must not neglect our duty to check in on our employees.
This high-stress environment is unsettling for everyone, especially those with vulnerable or shielded loved ones. Ensure you communicate with empathy as you seek to return to normal and make reasonable adjustments where possible.
Return to Work Interviews
If you have had members of staff on furlough for a number of months, it may also be worth considering whether a return to work interview would be of use. This short, informal meeting may help you address your workforce’s concerns and facilitate a successful transition back to the office. If you need a little guidance, why not lean on our slick and consistent process here?
Involving Employees in the Process:
By consulting and involving your employees in the steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace you can:
Explain the changes
Illustrate the safety practices in place
Make sure changes will work – their operational input may be vital
Hear their ideas and address their concerns
Continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak
It is also recommended that you share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. Where possible, publish the results on your website (note: the government expects all employers with over 50 workers to do so).
If you are unsure where to start with this, HSENI has released an example COVID-19 risk assessment to help you on your way. You can download via their website.
Need some advice?
If you have any questions about the HR implications of COVID-19 or you’d like to discuss how to run return to work interviews, please do get in contact. We hope this has been of use during this stressful time.
A number of employers have asked us for workplace guidance in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Whilst we are not, of course, medically qualified to give advice on how best to deal with the virus, our friends at Keelys Solicitors have put together the following note which to a large extent reflects ACAS guidance.
Get the latest updates
All employers should regularly check the government website for up to date information about the spread of the virus and the risk to the public. This is likely to keep changing and you will need to keep your approach to the virus under review as the situation and Government advice develops. The Department of Health and Social Care will be publishing updated data on this page every day at 2pm until further notice.
Should employees be paid for time off?
If an employee actually experiences symptoms of coronavirus, they should go off sick immediately and be paid sick pay as usual.
Employees should follow normal absence reporting procedures if they’re not able to attend work. However, the employer might need to make allowances if, for example, employees are not actually sick but are quarantined, advised to self-isolate or are unable to leave an affected area. An employee might not be able to get a sick note in those circumstances.
Employees may not be showing any symptoms but may:
a) have been advised by a Doctor to self-isolate;
b) have been placed in quarantine as a precautionary measure; or
c) be abroad in an affected area and not allowed to travel back to the UK.
In those cases the employee is not actually sick. There is therefore no statutory right to pay if they cannot work for these reasons. However, firstly, it would be harsh not to pay staff in those circumstances where they are only following advice or are physically incapable of attending work. Secondly, saying that you will not pay them may cause staff to come to work instead of self-isolating and risk further spread of the virus.
We suggest that employees absent for these reasons are either treated as off sick or, by agreement with the employee, granted annual leave.
What happens if an employee returns from an affected zone and appears to have symptoms?
If an employee becomes unwell in the workplace and has recently come back from an area affected by coronavirus, ACAS guidance is as follows:
Get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
Go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sickbay or staff office
Avoid touching anything
Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it into a bin immediately. If they do not have tissues, ensure that they cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
Use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
The unwell person should use their own mobile phone to call either, for NHS advice: 111; for an ambulance, if they’re seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk: 999. They should tell the operator their symptoms and which country they’ve returned from in the last 14 days.
How should the employer respond if someone with coronavirus comes into work?
If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close. The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in contact with the employer to:
Discuss the case
Identify people who have been in contact with the affected person
Carry out a risk assessment
Advise on any actions or precautions to take
What rights do employers have regarding absence?
If an employee chooses not to attend work due to an outbreak, the starting point is that it is down to the employer’s discretion whether to pay them (for what could be quite a long period). We suggest you listen to your employee’s concerns and, if these are well- founded then, where practicable, you should consider granting home working, annual leave or unpaid leave. If an employee unreasonably refuses to attend work, they could be disciplined for that. Please seek advice before taking any disciplinary action, however.
If the employer has instructed an employee not to attend work, you could lay them off temporarily if you have a right in the contract to do so. They would then be entitled to statutory guarantee pay of £29 per day for the first 5 days. If you do not have the right to lay them off, you would need to continue paying them during this absence.
Employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to provide assistance to a dependant in an unexpected event or emergency. This could well apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example, schools may close and alternative arrangements for childcare may need to be made.
What can employers do to prevent the virus spreading?
Employers should consider the following steps to help prevent the spread of the virus:
Make sure there are clean places for staff to wash hands with hot water and soap and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
Give out hand sanitisers and tissues to staff, and encourage them to use them
Consider if any business travel planned to affected areas can be avoided
If you are looking for further advice regarding the ongoing issues surrounding coronavirus and its impact on the workplace, please do not hesitate to get in contact.