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 alone in the middle of a global pandemic.
Understandably, many of our clients feel overwhelmed by all the information out there. 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:
- Full-time employees
- Part-time employees
- 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 employers for 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.
A breakdown of the government support available for businesses
How to access the scheme
Claiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
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.
How to report and manage sickness in 10 easy steps
When should I self-isolate?
How to claim SSP
Changes to IR35
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:
- 50+ employees
- 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.
What are the changes that IR35 will make?
Understanding off-payroll working (IR35)
The Good Work Plan
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:
- Employment status
- Agency workers
- Increasing transparency in the labour market
- The enforcement of employment rights
What changes you should expect to see from The Good Work Plan
Policy Paper – Good Work Plan
Deferring VAT and Income Tax Payments
The government have announced that they will support businesses by deferring tax payments, as outlined below.
- If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
- For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.
All UK businesses and self-employed individuals are eligible. There is no application required.
Relieve temporary financial distress with HMRC Time to Pay Offer
A breakdown of the government support available for businesses
Supporting your employees’ financial wellbeing
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 lender
- 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
Pros and Cons of a Mortgage Holiday
Mortgages and Coronavirus: Information for Consumers by FCA
Government Press Release – Protection for Renters
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 website here.
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 available here.
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 to contact us online or email email@example.com and we will try our best to point you in the right direction.
April marks that time of year when you can expect a whole new raft of employment changes. And 2020 is no exception with the government’s Good Work Plan. This article explains what the Good Work Plan is, why it’s happening now, the employment law changes it’s introducing and what you need to know and do as an employer.
What Is the Good Work Plan?
Remember the Taylor review? That was the 2018 government-issued independent review of modern working practices carried out by Matthew Taylor. The Good Work Plan report has been written in response building on some of the recommendations made to tackle new and emerging issues in the modern workplace. And it’s also the vehicle intended to capture the prime minister’s commitment not to maintain and enhance workers’ rights following the UK’s departure from the EU.
The Good Work Plan sets out how the government intends to do this with a clear vision for the future of the UK labour market as one that: “rewards people for hard work, that celebrates good employers and that is ambitious about boosting productivity and earnings potential in the UK.”
What Does the Good Work Plan Aim to Deliver?
The plan commits to a range of policy and legislative changes to ensure the following key deliverables:
- workers can access fair and decent work
- both employers and workers are clear about their employment relationships
- companies and individuals continue to benefit from the rise in more flexible and varied ways of working without the erosion of key worker protections
- the enforcement system is fair and fit for purpose
Based on the idea that all workers deserve quality work, the Good Work Plan aims to build on five foundational qualities that constitute good work. These are: satisfaction, fair pay, participation and progression, well-being, safety and security and voice and autonomy. You’ll find these themes reflected in the changes that come into effect in April 2020.
The Changes You’ll Need to Make
There’s quite a lot to do before 6th April 2020. From adapting when you issue contracts to how employees request more stable working hours and a whole lot more. It’s all outlined below.
Issuing Contracts of Employment
From the 6th April 2020 you’ll have to issue a contract of employment on the employee’s first day of work at the latest. Both employees and workers will also need to be provided with a written statement outlining their terms of engagement.
Working Hour Requests
The government recognises that flexibility works for many businesses and their employees and does not want to stifle this. However, some employers have used the rise of flexible working arrangements to offload business risk onto their employees through zero hours’ contracts. And other organisations have expected significant flexibility from workers while offering little in return.
To counteract these issues it will be a legal requirement for businesses to empower all workers to be able to request a more predictable and stable working contract after 26 weeks of service. This could mean requesting greater certainty around the days the individual works or the number of hours. Employers have three months to respond to any request.
Continuous Service Shortens
In the current system, employment rights are accrued over time. People who work intermittently for the same employer can find it difficult to gain or access some of these rights due to difficulty building up continuous service.
A one-week break in service allows employers to start an employee’s continuous service record from zero so employees end up back at square one without any employment rights, even if they’ve worked for the same employer on and off for years.
You’ll only be able to declare a break in service after an employee has not worked for you for four weeks or more. This is intended to make it easier for employees to accrue rights.
Holiday Pay Calculations Are Changing – Again
All employees are entitled to paid time off as a basic protection. However, some individuals and employers are unaware of holiday pay entitlements, highlighting a need for more and better information. There’s also evidence that some individuals have been prevented from taking their leave and that seasonal workers have been impacted by the 12 week reference period used to calculate holiday pay.
To counteract these issues the government is providing:
- an awareness campaign for workers and employers
- new guidance to help businesses comply with the law
- an updated and improved holiday pay calculator
When calculating holiday pay, you’ll need to expand the timeframe used from 12 to 52 weeks.
Hospitality Staff Must be Allowed to Keep Their Tips
Although most businesses act in good faith and pass tips on to workers a small number of employers do not. Legislation will ban businesses from retaining tips resulting in a fairer deal for workers and a level playing field for employers.
Recruitment Agencies Cannot Use Pay Between Assignments
Agency workers used to be able to give up their right to equal pay (in comparison to permanent staff doing the same or like work) in return for a contract guaranteeing pay between assignments.
Investigations revealed this was not happening for some agency workers who were on long assignments. This effectively removed their right to equal pay without the benefit of between-contract pay as there was no between-contract period.
You can no longer use this type of contract to guarantee equal wages with comparable permanent workers for all long-term agency workers.
More Consultation Rights For Employees
Employees are already entitled to be consulted on major workforce reforms like restructuring. However, to set up information and consultation arrangements in a business, 10% of employees must support the idea. This is dropping to just 2% with a minimum threshold of 15 employees in agreement.
To enforce all these legislative changes, the government is bolstering the penalties businesses will receive if they flout the law. Instead of a maximum of £5,000 for an aggravated breach, this figure will rise to a maximum of £20,000. And where employment rights are repeatedly ignored by the same employer, tougher penalties will ensue.
This makes it vitally important that you make the relevant changes to your HR policies, processes and paperwork before 6th April 2020.
Get an experienced helping hand with all this change. Contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure you’re compliant.
Employee contract: One of the most popular questions I get asked (about 3 times a week) is do I have to issue a contract of employment?
Well that’s an easy one to answer, that answer is you do have to issue a ‘Statement of Particulars’ within 2 months of someone starting employment with you. That usually takes the form of an employee contract to us lay-folk. It doesn’t have to be in writing but everything is better written down and signed by both parties – trust me. But all that is changing in April 2020 when the Government’s ‘Good Work Plan’ comes into effect and from then on you will have to give all employees a contract on their first day of work.
Surely it’s better for me if I don’t issue one?
The answer is NO it is not better at all. It’s breaking the law for a start and that’s never good is it? At the moment you have 2 months to do it but from next year you don’t so get into good habits now and start issuing them as soon as.
What then should be in an employee contract I hear you ask?
Here is the minimum list, as set out by those wise folks at ACAS
The employee contract can be made up of more than one document (if the employer gives employees different sections of their statement at different times). If this does happen, one of the documents (called the ‘principal statement’) must include at least:
- the business’s name
- the employee’s name, job title or a description of work and start date
- if a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started
- how much and how often an employee will get paid
- hours of work (and if employees will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime
- holiday entitlement (and if that includes public holidays)
- where an employee will be working and whether they might have to relocate
- if an employee works in different places, where these will be and what the employer’s address is
As well as the principal statement, a written statement must also contain information about:
- how long a temporary job is expected to last
- the end date of a fixed-term contract
- notice periods
- collective agreements
- who to go to with a grievance
- how to complain about how a grievance is handled
- how to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision
The written statement doesn’t need to cover the following (but it must say where the information can be found) – I usually put these in an appendix at the back:
- sick pay and procedures
- disciplinary and dismissal procedures
- grievance procedures
Fear not, we here at CrosseHR can draft contract for you that is easy, suits your business, legally compliant and keeps everyone happy.
Next month it’s time to think about holidays, which coincidentally is the theme of my next blog.