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Latest Coronavirus Guide for Employers

EMPLOYERS AREA

Last updated 10 August 2020

30.7.20 From 30 July 2020 furloughed employees to receive statutory redundancy payments & statutory notice at full pay. A new law to protect employees requires payments to be calculated using their normal pre-furlough wages rather than their reduced furlough rate. Visit GOV.UK

24.7.20 COVID-19 Shielding Paused throughout the UK. Those at high risk from COVID-19 who have been advised to shield will no longer be required to do so from the dates given below. This means that people can return to work if they cannot work from home, providing the workplace is COVID-19 secure. 

  • 31 July 2020 Northern Ireland
  • 1 August 2020 England & Scotland
  • 16 August 2020 Wales

24.7.20 England To Mask-Up Today or Face £100 Police Fine! Masks must be worn in enclosed public spaces from entering until you leave shops, supermarkets, takeaways, coffee/sandwich shops etc. See below for exemptions.

14 July 2020: From 24 July face coverings must be worn in shops and supermarkets in England or face fines of up to £100 for breaking the new rules. Children under 11, and people with certain medical conditions, will not have to wear them.

8 July 2020: Breaking Furlough News: Chancellor launches brand new Job Retention Bonus giving businesses £1000 for each furloughed employee employed continuously until January 2021. Eligibility criteria for employees: 

  • Earn at least £520 per month (above the Lower Earnings Limit) on average for November, December and January.
  • Have been furloughed by you at any point and legitimately claimed for under the CJRS.
  • Have been continuously employed by you up until at least 31 January 2021.

Employers will be able to claim the bonus from February 2021 once accurate RTI data to 31 January 2021 has been received. Further guidance will be available from 31 July 2020.

Plans also include:

  • A new £2bn 'Kick Start' scheme to prevent mass unemployment as coronavirus hits the UK economy by creating thousands of job placements for young people. Government to pay 25 hours for Apprenticeships. 
  • £111m Traineeships Scheme will create 30,000 traineeships to get young people in England into work by giving firms in England £1,000 for each new work experience place they offer. Traineeships provide classroom-based lessons in maths, English and CV writing, as well as up to 90 hours of unpaid work experience. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive £21m for similar schemes
  • Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. On Mondays-Wednesdays during August 2020 diners can get 50% on meals and non-alcoholic drinks up to £10 per person at participating establishments.
  • VAT reduction from 15 July 2020 - 12 January 2021. VAT cut to 5% on any eat-in or hot takeaway food or drinks (excluding alcohol). This also applies to all holiday accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites, as well as attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos.
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) threshold increased with immediate effect from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March 2021 so that no stamp duty is paid for the purchase of a main home up to the value of £500,000.  

23 June 2020: From 4 July 2020 1m social distancing rule will be adopted and venues such as pubs, hairdressers, churches and campsites will be able to open. Ladies across the nation can now finally visit the hairdresser and repair lockdown hair.

15 June 2020: Non-essential shops open from today with the PM encouraging the UK to 'shop with confidence'.

9.6.20: Staff returning to work from maternity / paternity leave who have not previously been furloughed CAN still be furloughed AS LONG AS their employer has previously furloughed staff by 10 June 2020 deadline GOV.UK

5.6.20 From 1 January 2021, free movement will end and the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system. The new system will treat EU1 and non-EU citizens equally and transform the way in which all migrants come to the UK to work. Under a points-based immigration system, points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations. Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points. Visit gov website here.

29.5.20 Chancellor announced Furlough Scheme Changes with increased employer contributions: From August the Scheme still pays 80% but employers to pay NI & pension contributions. From September Scheme reduced to 70% with employers to pay 10%. From October Scheme reduced to 60% with employers to pay 20%. This old Furlough Scheme will close to all new entrants from 30 June 2020. Employers who want to register new entrants to the old Furlough Scheme need to do so by 10 June 2020. A new Flexible Furlough Scheme will be launched from 1 July to allow employers to bring staff back part-time. Employers need to consider their long-term plans to decide which scheme is best for their employees.

28.5.20 From 1 June 2020 six people can meet outside under new measures to ease lockdown. SSP extended to include those who have been told to isolate and self-isolate for 14 days by the new NHS Test and Trace system launched in England today. Other parts of the UK have similar but not identical systems.

19.5.20 Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme open for claims from Tuesday 26 May 2020 click here to learn more.

12.5.20 BREAKING FURLOUGH NEWS: Gov extends the furlough job retention scheme by a further 4 months until the end of October 2020 supporting companies coming out of the lockdown. From August onwards companies will be asked to start sharing the cost of the scheme. The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July and the changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August. From August to October 2020, the scheme continues on the basis furloughed employees can be brought back part-time.  Full details will be published by the end of May.

12.5.20 Gov releases guidance for nurseries and primary schools to begin re-opening from 1 June. Expected that children will be able to return to early years settings and for Reception, Year 1 & Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes from this date.

On Sunday 10 May 2020, the PM actively urged the nation to return to work if they cannot work from home. Before staff can return to work many businesses will need to have H&S measures in place and financially may need to make some difficult decisions to minimise staff costs. To protect your business in 3 easy steps read our FREE Employer's Guide: Back to Work After Furlough

To support businesses during this national crisis this dedicated employers area will provide businesses with the latest national updates on COVID-19, the financial support measures introduced by the government and details of the new regulations released in response to this crisis. Here you will also find a range of free downloads for managing COVID-19 at work including:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme / Furlough

Businesses Make Their First Claims

Dated 12 May 2020: Gov extends the furlough job retention scheme by a further 4 months until the end of October 2020 supporting companies coming out of the lockdown. From August onwards companies will be asked to start sharing the cost of the scheme.

Dated 29 April 2020: HMRC released a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers to explain the information that employers need to provide to claim for their employees’ wages click here.

Dated 17 April 2020: The Chancellor extended the furlough scheme to 30 June 2020.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) opened from 5.30am on Monday 20 April 2020 with first payments expected by 30 April 2020 (6 working days after making a claim). The portal can be accessed through the government gateway. It is the claimant’s responsibility to ensure that the information provided in the application is accurate. To access the system on GOV.UK you or your agent will need to have:

• A Government Gateway ID and password

• An active PAYE enrolment

If you do not have these, you can register for them at

HMRC services: register

PAYE Online for employers

The application needs to be done in one session. There is currently no save and return option. Sessions will time out after 30 minutes of inactivity. The government have issued a step-by-step guide for employers to make a claim through the portal which can be found here and HMRC videos here

To help businesses prepare to make their first claim through the online HMRC portal, we have provided guidance in line with the latest government updates below.

Latest Gov Updates

 

Dated 4 July 2020: Travel Exemptions - The government continues to advise against non-essential international travel except to countries and territories listed here and travel advice can be found here. Barber shops and hairdressers were allowed to reopen for business and provided they could follow COVID-19 secure guidelines for businesses who provide close contact services here

Dated 18 May: Everyone in the UK with symptoms of Covid-19 can get a test if they are five or over. The government expanded their testing programme amid growing concerns over plans to reopen schools to some children on 1 June 2020.

The health secretary unveiled the expansion of the government’s testing programme in the Commons on Monday amid growing concern over plans to reopen schools to some children on June 1

Dated 10 May: Gov announced three-step plan to ease the UK lockdown starting on Wednesday 13 May 2020 and dependant upon further outbreaks of the virus. People who cannot work from home are actively encouraged to get back to work e.g. manufacturing, construction. Avoid public transport where possible and maintain 2m social distancing rule. New guidance for employers to make workplaces Covid-secure will be released shortly. Gov slogan now changed from "stay home" to "stay alert". To chart the progress of their efforts to minimise infection rates the gov have established a new Covid Alert System which will determine social distancing rules. Phased reopening of schools will begin with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils. Some hospitality venues could reopen by July. From Wednesday 13 May unlimited exercise will be encouraged and driving to other destinations permitted. Wales and Scotland have extended their lockdown for a further 3 weeks.

Dated 5 May: Gov expected to release lockdown exit strategy later on Sunday 10 May 2020. The new NHS COVID-19 app launched on the Isle of Wight and is designed to track people with the bug and monitor contact with others to minimise the infection rates.

Dated 16 April 2020: The government have extended the UK lockdown for 3 more weeks until the next review date on Thursday 7 May 2020. This is necessary to protect public health and economic security with the added suggestion that Covid-19 might not be fully contained until June 2020. 

Dated 15 April 2020:  The government have provided further clarification and guidance for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). We have updated our guidance in line with these latest notifications. A few of the main points to note are:

  • NEW Eligibility for Furlough Leave
    The government have just announced a change to the eligibility criteria for the CJRS.
    Employees who were employed and on the employer's PAYE payroll on 19 March 2020 are eligible for furlough, provided the employer had submitted RTI (real time information) payroll data by that date.
    Employees that were employed and on the employer's PAYE payroll as of 28 February 2020 (RTI submission on or before 28 February) and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.
  • Employees you made redundant, or stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, can be re-employed, put on furlough leave and their wages claimed through the scheme.
  • Employees can start a new job when on furlough (if allowed under the old employment contract).
  • Furlough agreements need to be made in writing and kept for 5 years.
  • Employees can be furloughed multiple times, subject to each furlough period being a minimum of 3 weeks.
  • Company directors can be furloughed but can still perform their statutory duties but not other work for the company.
  • Employers can reclaim 80% of compulsory (contractual) commission from past sales back from HMRC, as well as basic salary.  Applicable to car salesmen and estate agents.
  • Apprentices can be furloughed and can continue to train whilst furloughed. Employers must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage.

  • Remote training and assessments for Apprentices are encouraged as is granting extensions, where appropriate, to the timetable for assessments and allowing breaks in learning which should be recorded.

  • Employers of newly TUPE'd employees can put them on furlough and are eligible for the CJRS for businesses transferred after 28 February 2020 if either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership.

On 26 March 2020, the government provided an update for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is designed to support employers severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). First announced by the Chancellor on 20 March 2020, this temporary financial support scheme is open to all UK employers for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020. Employers can apply for grants to cover 80% of furloughed employees usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage, provided they keep the worker employed. The scheme is open to all UK employers that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020.

The government are urgently working to set up a system for reimbursement and we will update you as soon as more information is made available. To visit the GOV.UK website click here.

The guidance below will help employers understand how the scheme will work in more detail and how to furlough employees (on a leave of absence) with our free furlough templates.
 

Eligibility for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • All UK businesses small or large including single director companies and charitable or non-profit, recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE) and public authorities. 
  • For owner/managed companies, only the salary is relevant to the scheme and does not extend to dividends.

  • Furloughed employees can be on any type of contract including full-time, part-time, agency contracts or zero-hours contracts a long as they meet one of the following criteria:
    Were employed and on the employer's PAYE payroll on 19 March 2020 are eligible for furlough, provided the employer had submitted RTI (real time information) payroll data by that date.
    OR
    Were employed and on the employer's PAYE payroll as of 28 February 2020 (RTI submission on or before 28 February) and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.
  • Scheme only applicable if employers keep the worker employed.
  • Employees you made redundant or stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, can be re-employed, put on furlough leave and their wages claimed through the scheme.
  • This scheme is only for employees on agency contracts who are not working.
  • Employees working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, are not eligible for this scheme and must continue to be paid their salary subject to the agreed terms of their employment contract. 
  • Employees hired after 28 February 2020 cannot be furloughed or claimed for under this scheme.
  • Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), but can be furloughed after this.
  • Employees shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.
  • Employees with more than one job can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.
  • Employees eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, the normal rules apply and they are able to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance. If you offer enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay to women on Maternity Leave, this is included as wage costs that you can claim through the scheme. Same principles apply where your employee qualifies for contractual adoption, paternity or shared parental pay.
  • Company directors can be furloughed and still perform their statutory duties but not other work for the company.
  • Employees on fixed term contracts can be furloughed. Their contracts can be renewed or extended during furlough without breaking the terms of the scheme.
  • Apprentices can be furloughed and can continue to train whilst furloughed. 
  • Employees can start a new job when on furlough (if allowed under the old employment contract). If the old employment contract prohibits working for another organisation, the employer can waive this during the furlough period. 

  • Employers of newly TUPE'd employees can put them on furlough and are eligible for the CJRS for businesses transferred after 28 February 2020 if either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership.

  • Employees on all categories of visa can be furloughed as grants under the scheme are not counted as access to public funds and will not be regarded as breaching their visa conditions.

What Does the £2,500 Per Employee Maximum Monthly Grant Cover? 

  • The monthly grant relates to gross pay and covers 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions (if applicable) on that wage, provided they keep the worker employed. As of 4 April 2020, employers can reclaim 80% of compulsory (contractual) commission from past sales, as well as basic salary.  Applicable to car salesmen and estate agents etc.
  • The 80% does not include bonues, tips and non-monetary benefits e.g. the value of health insurance or a car). We are still awaiting clarification from the government on car allowances. 
  • The maximum grant will be calculated per employee and is the lower of:
    • 80% of ‘an employee's regular wage’ and
    • £2,500 per month.
  • The rules for the grant will not displace the existing employment contract and we would expect the entitlement to holiday and sick pay would also depend on the contract.  
     

What is the Duration Period for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme? 

  • The scheme will be backdated to the 1 March 2020.
  • The scheme will run for 8 months until 31 October 2020.
  • The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July and the changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August.
  • Full details will be made available by the end of this month.
  • From August 2020 onwards companies will be asked to start sharing the cost of the scheme.
  • From August to October 2020, the scheme continues on the basis furloughed employees can be brought back part-time.
  • The scheme opened at 5.30am on Monday 20 April 2020.
  • Payments from the HMRC are expected within 6 working days of making a claim.
     

How to Furlough Workers

  • All employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.
  • Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers.’ When employers are making decisions in relation to this process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.
  • Furlough agreements must be made in writing and kept for 5 years. Notify your employees of this change by confirming they have been furloughed in writing. Please see our free furlough leave templates below.
  • Ensure that your processes are documented, keeping a record of communications to provide a clear audit trail.

 

Download Free Furlough Leave Templates

To notify employees of this change, the free furlough leave templates below are available to customise for your business use. Please be reminded that Furlough agreements need to be made in writing and kept for 5 years.

  • Flexible Furlough Agreement Form - For a copy please contact HR:4UK T: 01455 444 222 E: info@hr4uk.com
  • Flexible Furlough Agreement Letter - For a copy please contact HR:4UK T: 01455 444 222 E: info@hr4uk.com
  • Furlough Leave Agreement Form - Download Here
  • Furlough Leave Agreement Letter - Download Here
  • Furlough Leave Agreement Form for Employees Advised to Self-Isolate for 12 weeks by NHS - Download Here
  • Letter for Employees Confirming Furlough Leave Who Have Been Advised to Self-Isolate for 12 weeks by NHS - Download Here
  • Letter for Employees Second Round of Furlough Leave Agreement - Download Here
  • Letter for Employees Already Dismissed to Register for Furlough Leave - Download Here
  • Letter for Employees who Have Left Employment & Reinstated to Benefit from Furlough Leave - Download Here
  • Letter for Requesting Employees to Agree to Deferment of Payment - Download Here
  • Letter for Employees Requested to Return Following Furlough Leave - Download Here

Employers need to ensure that they are following the national guidance when applying furlough leave to their employees.

  • At a minimum employers must pay furloughed employees 80% of their regular wage or £2,500 per month.
  • Employers can choose to top up an employee’s salary (pay the 20% difference), but do not have to.
  • All national insurance and pension contributions will continue at the normal percentages. Also included are fees and contractual commissions but bonuses are excluded. Employees will remain on the employer’s payroll and continue to accrue holiday and service.
  • Employees cannot carry out their usual duties nor attend their place of work, or work for organisations linked to the employer until further notice or until:
    • The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends.
    • Either the company or the employee ceases to be eligible for funding under that scheme.
    • The company decides to cancel Furlough Leave and bring the employee back to work.
  • When the Furlough Leave ends, the agreement entitles businesses to place employees on short time or lay off without any pay except for statutory guarantee payments.
  • Employees can start a new job when on furlough (if allowed under the old employment contract). For example, this means employees might end up earning 80% of the old salary and 100% of a new one. 
  • Employees currently on sick leave and or self-isolation, can only be furloughed once they have returned to work.
  • Employees must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 weeks.
  • Employees can be furloughed multiple times subject to each furlough period being a minimum of 3 consecutive weeks i.e. they can be furloughed, brought back to work, then re-furloughed. This allows rotating furlough leave amongst employees.
  • Employees will still continue to accrue holiday. Although not working, the terms of employment will continue.

To view the government's COVID-19: support for businesses webpage please click here.  
 

How to Make a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Claim

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will be open from Monday 20 April 2020. To help businesses prepare to make their first claims through the online HMRC portal, we have highlighted the key steps for you to follow below. The advice below is in line with the latest HMRC guidance and feedback from users of the portal. We will continue to update this area as more information becomes available. 

The portal can be accessed through the government gateway. It is the claimant’s responsibility to ensure that the information provided in the application is accurate. To access the system on GOV.UK you or your agent will need to have:

• A Government Gateway ID and password

• An active PAYE enrolment

If you do not have these, you can register for them at

HMRC services: register

PAYE Online for employers

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Government Help

The government have issued a step-by-step guide for employers to make a claim through the portal which can be found here and HMRC videos here. They also offer the following:

0800 024 1222  HMRC Furlough Helpline Open Mon – Fri 8am – 4pm This service has received very good feedback.

Live Webchat Open Mon - Fri 8am - 8pm Closed weekends and bank holidays, to speak to an adviser online click here

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Calculator click here.

Use this calculator to work out the figures you’ll need when you complete an online claim through the scheme. It’s aimed at organisations with a small number of employees who are paid either regular or variable amounts each pay period (for example, weekly or monthly). Please note that it is currently unable to work for employees who:

  • receive any discretionary payments in the pay periods they are claiming for
  • receive any top-up pay in the claim period
  • returned from statutory leave such as maternity leave in the last three months
  • get director’s payments
  • have been transferred under TUPE
  • have been employed at separate times throughout the year
  • have had an irregular pattern of pay periods
  • receive employer pension contributions outside of an auto-enrolment pension scheme

Check employees eligibility against the guidance here.

Tip

For employers who can't use the calculator as they are topping up to 100% or for similar reasons as given above, there is a way for you to still be able to see the workings for what you can claim back e.g. salary, NI and pension contributions by:

  • On the calculator when you get to the question ‘are you topping up’, click "no".
  • It will show you the workings out for what you can claim back e.g. salary, NI and pension.
     

See Our Latest Tips and Feedback for Using the Online Portal 

  • This is a manual entry system. A 'save and return' option has now been added so users no longer have to complete their claim in 1 session.
     
  • Sessions will time out after 30 minutes of inactivity.
     
  • You can only make one claim per period where a period is a calendar month. You can't submit another claim for overlapping periods, this means that for each claim you should include all furloughed employees paid during that period.
     
  • Check your calculations each time you submit a claim in case any details have changed e.g. number of employees on furlough.
     
  • You can only claim for the periods for which you have run your payroll and filed your RTI.
     
  • You will be asked for your postcode. This is the postcode of your company not your bank.
     
  • To remember that an employer can only be on either furlough or SSP. Eligible employees on furlough leave can be claimed through the CJRS scheme.
     
  • Annual leave is confirmed as being paid at the full 100% rate of pay, so as an employer you will need to top up the additional 20% for those dates.
     
  • Employers are reminded to ensure Furlough agreements need to be made in writing and kept for 5 years.
  • Employers need to make a claim for furloughed workers wage costs through this scheme to receive a grant from the HMRC.
     
  • The employer will submit information to HMRC through a new online portal which will be open from Monday 20 Apri 2020.
     
  • The scheme will be backdated to the 1 March 2020 and will run for 8 months until 31 October 2020. This may be extended if deemed necessary by the government. From August 2020 onwards employers will be expected to make a contribution to the scheme.
     
  • Employers can only submit 1 claim every 3 weeks, which is the minimum period an employee can be furloughed.
     
  • Claims should be started from the date that the employee officially finishes work and starts furlough.
     
  • Claims can be backdated until the 1 March where employees have already been furloughed.
     
  • You should make your claim using the amounts in your payroll, either shortly before or during running payroll.
     
  • If appropriate, worker’s wages should be reduced to 80% of their salary within your payroll before they are paid. This adjustment will not be made by HMRC.
     
  • The amount claimed must be per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 consecutive weeks.
     
  • HMRC will check your claim, and if you’re eligible, pay the grant directly to the employer by BACS to a UK bank account. It may seem obvious but making sure your claims are correct and you have included your employees NI numbers as this will reduce the chance of any delayed or wrong payments.
     
  • Audited by HMRC, employers will need to calculate amounts claimed and provide the following: PAYE reference number, number of employees being furloughed, claim period (start and end date), amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 weeks), bank account number and sort code, contact name and phone number. 
     
  • You must pay the employee all the grant you receive for their gross pay, no fees can be charged from the money that is granted.

What Constitutes Wages?

  • Employers can reclaim up to 80% of wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month, plus (not including) the associated employer NICs and minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions on that wage.
     
  • Claims can be made for regular payments you are obliged to pay employees such as past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments. The reference salary should not include the cost of discretionary bonuses (including tips), commission payments and non-cash payments, including taxable benefits in kind. Benefits provided through salary sacrifice, such as pension contributions, should not be included.
     
  • Where an employer provides benefits to furloughed employees, this should be in addition to the wages that must be paid under the terms of the Job Retention Scheme.
     
  • For full-time and part-time salaried employees, the actual salary before tax, as of 28 February should be used to calculate 80%.
     
  • For employees whose pay varies and has been employed for more than 12 months, the employer can claim for the higher of:
    • the same month's earning from the previous year (e.g. earnings from March 2019); or
    • average monthly earnings in the 2019-20 tax year.
       
  • For an employee who has been employed for less than 12 months, the claim should be based on their average monthly earnings since they started work.
     
  • If the employee only started in February 2020, pro rata their earnings to date and use that as a base.
     
  • Employees with more than one job can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.
     
  • Furlough leave must be taken in minimum blocks of three weeks to be eligible for funding.
     
  • COVID-19 counts as a life event for the purposes of an employee's right to request changes to salary sacrifice arrangements, if the employment contract is updated accordingly.

HR:4UK offer a payroll and pensions service should you require help in this area, for more information read here.

 

How Does an Employer Pay Staff Under This Scheme

  • The Real Time Information reporting of payroll will continue as normal. Using the RTI, the employer will pay the agreed amounts as required by the employee’s employment contract. This contract may be renegotiated, but that is a matter for employment law. This will involve paying the employee and HMRC the PAYE and both primary and secondary National Insurance Contributions.


Which Earnings Reference Period Should Be Used?

In line with the government guidelines dated 26 March 2020. For full-time and part-time salaried employees, the actual salary before tax, as of 28 February should be used to calculate 80%. For employees whose pay varies, the employer can claim for the higher of:

  • the same months earning from the previous year (e.g. earnings from March 2019) or
  • average earnings in the 2019/2020 tax year.
     

How to Calculate Furlough Leave Payments

What we know so far. The following illustrations are provided by the ICAEW (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) and based on information published up to 6 April 2020. It should not be relied on for advice at this stage but is intended to give an indication of how the scheme will work.

Illustration 1
X Ltd employs Mr A at an annual salary of £24,000, so £2,000 per month. Mr A has opted out of auto enrolment. Each month, Mr A currently receives net pay of £1,655 which is after deducting PAYE of £191 and employees NIC of £154. On this salary, the employer pays employers' NIC of £177.

The available grant for the employer is the lower of

  • 80% of £2,000, and 
  • £2,500
  • Plus employers' NIC on this amount.
  • As of 4 March 2020: Fees, contractual commision payments and car allowances can be included but bonuses are not. These costs have not been used in this illustration.

So X Ltd claims a grant of £1,600 plus £122 = £1,722.

The net amount of cash required by X Ltd to furlough Mr A based on maintaining the existing salary is £2,000 + £177 - £1,722 = £455 per month.

Illustration 2
X Ltd employs Mr B at an annual salary of £42,000, so £3,500 per month. Mr B has opted out of auto enrolment. Each month, Mr B currently receives net pay of £2,675  which is after deducting PAYE of £492 and employees NIC of £333. On this salary, the employer pays employers' NIC of £383.

The available grant for the employer is the lower of

  • 80% of £3,500 = £2,800, and
  • £2,500
  • Plus employers NIC £245, on this amount.
  • As of 4 March 2020: Fees, contractual commision payments and car allowances can be included but bonuses are not. These costs have not been used in this illustration.

So X Ltd claims a grant of £2,500 plus £245 = £2,745.

The net amount of cash required by X Ltd to furlough Mr A based on maintaining the existing salary is £3,500 + £383 - £2,745 = £1,138 per month.

Notes to Illustrations

In both illustrations it is a matter for employment law whether the employer is actually required to pay the top up. Employees and employers can agree to a different arrangement during the furlough.

  • If Mr A had not opted out of auto enrolment, X Ltd would also be making pension contributions on his behalf.
  • We understand that the rules for the scheme are being designed with underlying reference to employment law. If the individual is still under contract, Mr A can expect to receive his salary in full. The grant paid to X Ltd should not be taken as the new maximum cost of employment to the employer unless the contract has been redrafted.
  • Subject to the employment contract and any amendment, the salary which the employer actually pays the employee during the furlough period may be different to the pay in the reference period and upon which the grant figure is based. However, the employer must pay at least the amount of the grant.

To calculate how much employers pay towards employees' National Insurace for the 2019-2020 tax year, please view the government's National Insurance rates and categories available here.
 

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

If you are struggling to meet salary costs or your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Annual Leave & Holiday Pay During Furlough Leave

Does Annual Leave Accrue During Furlough?

Yes. Although the employee is not working, the terms of employment will continue and they will continue to accrue holiday

    Is Holiday Pay Based on 80% or 100% for Furlough Leave?

    HMRC have clarified that annual leave can be taken during furlough and that it must be paid at full pay.

    When calculating holiday pay this is based on “normal remuneration”. During the first 5.6 weeks of annual leave, normal remuneration (100% remuneration) should be paid meaning the employer will need to “top up” the payment.

    In practice, this means that the employee will get 100% of salary whilst on annual leave. The employer recovers 80% of basic salary for any part of furlough when the employee is on annual leave under CJRS but the employer will need to top that up to 100% of normal remuneration including commission and bonuses.

    There is no reason why an employer cannot clam 80% of normal salary, including fees, contractual commission payments excluding bonuses, from HMRC under CJRS.

    If someone has variable remuneration because of commission and overtime, their remuneration must be looked over a longer reference period and should not just based on the current dip in income triggered by furlough. The method of earnings will, from 6 April 2020, be calculated on their average earnings for the period 52 weeks.

    It means that remuneration paid by the employer to an employee taking annual leave while on furlough must be paid their normal remuneration, which includes commission; allowances and bonuses.

    Can Employees be Asked to Take Annual Leave During Furlough?

    It is permissable for an employer, under the Working Time Regulations 1998, to request a worker to take annual leave. ACAS guidance has confirmed that workers can be required to take annual leave while they are on furlough. 

    If an employer wishes their employees to take annual leave, they are required to give twice as much notice as they want the employee to take, for example if the employer wants the employee to take one weeks’ annual leave, they must give two weeks’ notice. When serving notice on employees to take annual leave it is best practice to have an audit trail. For good employee engagement it is advisable to discuss this with them first and then tell them. We would advise against asking staff as they may refuse.

    • An employee cannot refuse such a request.
    • It depletes an employee’s annual leave allowance. 
    • Reduces the amount of annual leave still to be taken when work resumes.
    • Employers can claim for the government to fund 80% of holiday pay payments through the CJRS scheme.

    Bank Holidays and Furlough Leave

    An employer may decide to disregard bank holidays during a period of furlough and allow the employee to take it at another time.  The rules on carrying over holiday from one holiday year to the next has been relaxed to allow employees to take holiday at another time.

    You do have two options and it is down to you to decide which option is preferable for your business:

    1. Treat bank holidays as normal and top up their pay for the bank holidays to 100% for those dates (you will still be able to claim 80% on those days, but the employee must receive full pay) and their holiday entitlement will reduce accordingly.
    2. Ignore the bank holidays but add it back to the employee’s holiday entitlement and allow them to take it at another time.   The rules on carrying over holiday has been relaxed and any holiday not taken during this and the next holiday year can be carried over.

    Whichever option you are going to elect, we suggest you communicate this to your staff.

    Should a bank holiday fall during a period of furlough leave and the contract states annual holiday must be taken on a bank holiday, the employer should advise the employee that this remains the case; they will receive full pay for the bank holiday.

    If an employee doesn’t work on a bank holiday (e.g. a part-timer who doesn’t work a Monday for example), there will be no impact on them due to the bank holiday.  They will not be required to use holiday entitlement and of course won’t be paid for this day.

    How to Treat Employees Previously Booked Annual Leave 

    If the employee has pre-booked holiday which will falls during Furlough Leave, the employer should contact them and ask if they want to continue with the holiday.   If an employee no longer wants to take their time off they had previously booked, the employer may still tell them to take it off. If the employee wants to change when they take their time off, they will need to get agreement from their employer.

    Can an Employee be on Furlough Leave and Annual Leave at the Same Time?

    An employee can take holiday while on furlough leave and this will be deducted from their holiday entitlement in the normal course.

    Employers reclaiming under the CJRS for furlough leave are entitled to claim from HMRC for those of their employees who are taking annual leave while furloughed.  Eligibility for CJRS furlough payments simply require the employee not to be at work and not working. If an employee is on annual leave, they are not at work and not working.

    There also seems to be no reason why two weeks’ holiday cannot count as two of the minimum three weeks furlough leave needed to claim a salary repayment from HMRC under the CJRS.

    Annual Leave Extension - New Regulations

    The government has announced (26 March 2020) that workers can carry up to 4 weeks (not 5.6 weeks) into the next 2 years leave. These forthcoming regulations will give businesses more flexibility to manage their workforce whilst protecting workers’ right to paid holiday. Once more information about the amendment to the The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 is released, we will update this area.

    Furlough Leave and Sick Pay

    Sick leave and furlough leave cannot be taken at the same time. If an employee is on sick leave or self-isolating, they can be furloughed once their period of isolation has expired and immediately furloughed. The CJRS cannot be used to supplement SSP for employees who are off sick with coronavirus or are in self-isolation in line with government guidelines. Furloughing also covers those employees who are “shielding” for 12 weeks because they are deemed by the NHS to be at high risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract COVID-19.

    Can we place sick employees on furlough or do we have to keep paying them SSP?

    The guidance says that an employee on sick leave, or any other form of unpaid leave, will not qualify for furlough. However, once the leave ends the employer will be free to designate the employee as furloughed.  Indeed the employer would also benefit from no longer having to pay sick pay. This is something of an anomaly because it means that someone who is actually off sick with coronavirus will actually be worse off financially than a healthy employee who is sent home on furlough. We may see employees declaring themselves fit for work in order to be placed on furlough by their employer. Obviously it is important in such cases that the employee in question does not attempt to actually come into the workplace.

    What if a furloughed employee becomes sick?

    It is unlikely that an employer would be obliged to notify HMRC if a furloughed employee becomes ill. Indeed as long as the furlough lasts there is unlikely to be any reason for the employee to even tell the employer that they have developed symptoms.

     

    Furlough and New Minimum Wage Rates

    Do furlough payments need to take into account the new minimum wage rates which came into effect 1 April 2020?

    The guidance for employers says that furloughed workers are not undertaking "work" within the meaning of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and so do not have to be paid the National Living Wage / National Minimum Wage (NLW / NMW).

    This means it will be permissable to reduce a worker's pay to 80% even if this puts their wages below the NLW / NMW.

    Do remember that if a worker is required to undertake training, then this will constitute work for the purposes of the Act and the worker must be paid the correct wage rates. 

    Furlough Leave FAQs & Guidance Notes

    Until the government release more detailed information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Furlough Leave, our advice is based on our understanding of the information currently available and may be subject to change as and when more guidance becomes available.

    1. Furlough Leave for Employees Who Normally Receive Commission or Car Allowance

    Further to the updated guidelines released on 17 April 2020, employers can reclaim 80% of compulsory (contractual) commission from past sales back from HMRC, as well as basic salary.  Applicable to car salesmen and estate agents. For employees who normally receive car allowance this can now be included in the scheme. 

    2. PAYE Employees on Zero-Hours Contracts

    In line with the government guidelines updated 17 April 2020, for employees whose pay varies, the employer can claim for the higher of (a) the same months earning from the previous year (e.g. earnings from March 2019) or (b) average earnings in the 2019/2020 tax year.

    3. Employees With More Than One Employment

    Employees can hold a separate employment with a different and unconnected employer which will be unaffected. They can be furloughed from different jobs independently. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually. 

    Employees can start a new job when on furlough (if allowed under the old employment contract). For example, this means employees might end up earning 80% of the old salary and 100% of a new one. If the employee is furloughed from another employment, new employers should complete Statement C of the starter checklist. 

    If the employment contract does not permit an employee to work for anyone else while they are employed by their company, if the employee then did work for someone else, they would be in breach of contract, which if not remedied, may give rise to summary dismissal.

    Clause 9 of our updated Furlough Agreement Form provides the employer with the option on whether they are willing to agree to release the employee, temporarily, allowing them to work elsewhere. Depending on which option the client has selected will depend on whether the employee can (or can’t as the case may be) work elsewhere on a temporary basis. As soon as an employee is un-furloughed they have to return back to their original role to work their original hours. If the employee is unable or unwilling to do this because of their second job, it reverts to a breach of contract as per above.

    For employees who are permitted to work for another employer during furlough. There  is no need to ensure that the new job doesn’t conflict with the original job because the employee is not working at the original job. The new job can be for whatever hours at whatever pay and has no bearing on the original job, other than if the employee needs to return to the original job, then they need to be able to do so. The employee’s primary obligation has to remain with the original employer.

    4. Furlough Leave for Employees Dismissed or Made Redundant Before 28 February 2020

    Workers who had been made redundant since 28 February 20202 can be rehired and furloughed, this will include those workers who resigned as well as those however dismissed for a reason other than redundancy, such as misconduct. There is no obligations on employers to re-hire a worker whose employment was terminated.

    5. Can Employers Top-Up Furlough Leave Pay?

    Employers can choose to fund the 20% difference between Furlough Leave payments and an employee’s salary, but do not have to. If employers choose to top up salaries in this way, we recommend adopting a consistent approach to avoid unfair treatment of other employees.

    6. Employees who Agreed to Reduced Hours or Took a Pay Cut Prior to 28 February 2020

    Furlough Leave cannot be applied to employees who agreed to take a pay cut or reduce their working hours prior to 28 February 2020. Currently there is no option for a mixture of reduced hours or Furlough Leave.

    7. Employees Unable to Work From Home or With Workplace Restrictions

    If an employee (on the PAYE system at 28 February 2020) can’t work from home, or if the employee is unable to attend the workplace for e.g. the workplace has closed for safety reasons or a downturn in business has resulted in production being halted or downsized etc., the employees would be placed on furlough leave. The reason being that ordinarily this situation would have been treated as redundancy, but due to the coronavirus crisis this is now treated as Furlough Leave.

    8. Employees who are Unable to Work as They Have Young Children/Dependants to Look After

    For employees on the PAYE system at 28 February 2020 and who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), they can now be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children. Although this is now in the guidance, it remains the employer’s decision whether to furlough staff, so we would advise that all alternatives should be explored first before furlough is instigated.

    9. Can Employees on Furlough Leave do Voluntary Work?

    Employees on furlough leave can undertake voluntary work or training, which has to be unpaid so it does not generate any money for their employer.

    10. What if I Don’t Want Some Employees Back Once Furlough Leave Ends?

    In this situation you are advised to still put the employees concerned on Furlough Leave, and then once this position changes, it will be treated on a case by case basis. For example, if redundancy is to be considered, you will then need to follow due process.

    11. How do I Bring Back Employees who Have Already Been Laid Off or Made Redundant? 

    Furlough Leave is for those employees contractually laid off under a lay-off clause or made redundant and dismissed during the coronavirus crisis. First check if they were employed by the company on PAYE at 19 March 2020. Then if both parties are in agreement, use our templates to register them for Furlough Leave.  

    12. The Risks of Reinstating an Employee for Furlough Leave

    Further to the government update of 4 April 2020, employees who were made redundant, or who stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, can be re-employed, put on furlough leave and their wages claimed through the CJRS. Although it is permitted under the scheme (assuming they were on the payroll as of 28 February 2020), it carries the following risks:

    • their continuity of employment will continue, potentially tipping them over two years (leading to unfair dismissal and redundancy rights) or giving them an additional year for statutory redundancy pay purposes, basic award or notice pay rights.
    • their effective date of termination will change to 31 May 2020, meaning that they then have until 31 August to contact ACAS to initiate Early Conciliation for most types of claims.
    • you might face an unfair selection for redundancy claim, where one did not previously exist, if you make them redundant a second time when your financial circumstances have changed or when the consultation requirements might differ.
    • you might find you are subsequently contemplating making 20+ people redundant within a period of 90 days, leading to collective consultation obligations.

    13. How Do I Return Employees Back to Work Once Furlough Leave Ends? Do we need to give staff notice that we are taking them off Furlough and how long does this need to be?

    The notice that you need to give staff that you are taking them off furlough will depend on what agreement you had in place when you first put them on furlough leave. For instance, was the furlough leave for a defined period of time or did you agree that if notififed they would return to work with immediate effect?

    As an employer you should consider that staff may need to put domestic matters into place such as childcare, transport arrangements etc. before they can return to work and we would recommend reasonable notice. It is worth remembering that staff may also not be routinely checking their work emails.

    It is good practice to have an audit trail of un-furloughing staff. We have a furlough letter template that you can use to notify staff that they have been / or will be un-furloughed and which also notifies staff what their options are if they refuse to return to work. This can be downloaded from our website here.

    When the Furlough Leave ends, the agreement entitles businesses to place employees on short time or lay off without any pay except for statutory guarantee payments. 

    14. What Can Employers do if They Don’t Have the Money to Pay Wages?  

    If employers are going to face difficulties paying employees salaries, they are advised to speak to their workforce as soon as possible. Non-payment of wages should only happen if there is physically no cash to pay. The government have released a wide range of emergency financial measures to support businesses during the financial crisis, such as The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. For more information click here

    15. Do I continue to pay furloughed staff, or do I stop payments until I receive the lump sum reimbursement from the HMRC CJRS?

    You will be required to continue paying your staff unless you have specifically agreed to defer payments until you have received the funds from the HMRC.

    16. Can a Director who does the payroll still be furloughed, is this classed as a statutory duty?

    A director who is furloughed can only undertake work to fulfil a duty or other obligation arising from an Act of Parliament relating to the filing of company's accounts or provision of other information relating to the administration of the director's company. This is a very narrow interpretation of directors' duties. If providing payroll information to a payroll provider, this will be acceptable but processing the actual pay roll may not, but this is not clear as earlier guidance stated that director-employees must do no more than what is necessary. If staff don’t get paid, because a director can't process payroll, then I would say it is necessary and will fall within the scope of the scheme, but I would err on the side of caution.

    17. Can Apprentices be Furloughed?

    Apprentices can be furloughed and can continue to train whilst furloughed. Employers must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage. Remote training and assessments for Apprentices are encouraged as is granting extensions, where appropriate, to the timetable for assessments and allowing breaks in learning which should be recorded.

    18. Is it correct that I don't have to pay the new minimum wage rates from 1st April as my staff are not working?

    This is correct, because workers who are furloughed are not undertaking "work" within the meaning of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and it will be permissible to vary the contract to reduce a worker's pay to 80% even if this put their wages below National Minimum Wage / National Living Wage rates.

    19. We have sent our staff a letter that we signed but were told they didn't have to countersign it. Is this true?

    The latest updated guidance 17 April 2020 that you must have agreed the terms in writing, if it is not countersigned you may struggle to have an "agreement", I would suggest you write to your staff, even if this is by email, and ask them to acknowledge and agree to the terms, even if the response is simply to say that they "agree" to being furloughed and the furloughed terms.

    20. Our staff are on furlough but are still calling patients/clients to give them free advice. Is this ok?

    The guidance is clear that a furloughed worker must not undertake any work. Still calling patients to give them free advice in my opinion will be considered as work. If they continue, this may invalidate any claim you may make.

    21. I have staff on the payroll and others that are self-employed. How best can I go on furlough?

    You will only be able to furlough the members of staff on your payroll PROVIDED you have a PAYE. If you are paying your members of staff off-payroll, they will not qualify. In relation to the staff who are self-employed, the scheme does not cover them, they would need to make their own claims through the self-employed scheme, who are usually paid their full salary without deductions and the do assessment at the year end.

    22. Can an employee waive their rights to any redundancy entitlement if furloughed by an ex-employer after resignation?

    No, an employee is not permitted to waive off any statutory rights (which redundancy entitlement is) by way of any form of agreement or undertaking.

    23. Can the self-employed be furloughed and make a claim through the CJRS?

    If self-employed, they can claim through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) for more details and eligibility criteria please click here. They would only be able to claim universal credit if they qualify (low income being one reason) for more details and eligibility criteria please click here.

    The SEISS is designed to assist individuals who are classed as being self-employed and have been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). Individuals should start to prepare their claims now as the scheme is due to launch soon. The scheme allows self-employed individuals to claim a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits. This will be paid in one single figure, which will cover a period of three months. The maximum amount will be £7,500. The scheme is temporary but may be extended. Individuals receiving the grant are able to continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment, including voluntary work, or duties as an armed forces reservist.

    The grant will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance (NI).

    HMRC will determine the eligibility of individuals, and how much they may receive but the guidance explains how it will do this.

    Who can claim

    Individuals can claim if they are self-employed or a member of a partnership, and:

    • Carries out a trade which has been negatively impacted by coronavirus
    • They traded in the tax year 2018-19, and submitted that year’s Self-Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020
    • They traded in tax year 2019-20
    • They plan to continue trading in tax year 2020-21
       

    Government's Financial Support for Businesses

    The range of financial support measures offered by the government for businesses to minimise the impact of COVID-19 can be viewed in full here although a few key schemes have been highlighted below. 

    Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme Eligible SMEs with a turnover of less than £45 million can apply to 40 accredited lenders and through all major banks for a range of loans, overdrafts, asset and invoice finance etc.  

    Business Rates Holiday For nursery businesses that pay business rates, are on Ofsted's Early Years register and provide Early Years Foundation Stage. No action necessary. Will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020.

    Business Rates Holiday For retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for the 2020 - 2021 tax year. No action necessary.

    Cash Grants For retail, hospitality and leisure businesses of up to £25,000 based on property rateable values less than £51,000.

    VAT Payments Deferred for 3 Months Deferral applies from 20 March 2020 - 30 June 2020. Automatic offer. No applications required. If necessary cancel VAT direct debit payments before due date to prevent automatic collection.

    Income Tax Deferrals Self-Assessments due on 31 July 2020 may be deferred until 31 January 2021. Automatic offer. No applications required.

    Small Business Grant Scheme One-off grant of £10,000 to eligible business. No applications required. Local authority will contact if eligible.

    SSP for COVID-19 Sickness Absence Will allow SMEs with fewer than 250 employees to reclaim sick pay due to COVID-19 for up to 2 weeks per eligible employee. Records of staff absences and SSP payments should be kept. The government rebate scheme is being developed and will be working with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism.

    Coronavirus and Self-Isolation SSP

    • As with any other illness people off sick with coronavirus will be entitled to SSP provided average weekly earnings are at least £118.
    • Statutory Sick Pay (General)(Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 state that those without symptoms who are advised to self-isolate are eligible for SSP.  
    • Regulations only apply if a person is unable to work because of self-isolation. An employee who works from home should be entitled to be paid their wages.

    SSP for Employees Self-isolating Before 13 March 2020

    • Employees who were self-isolating before 13 March 2020 because they had coronavirus symptoms, can be paid SSP from the fourth day of their isolation.
    • Those in self-isolation before 13 March 2020 because someone in their household had symptoms, do not qualify for SSP.

    SSP for Employees Self-isolating From 13 March 2020

    • Employees in self-isolation are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) £94.25 per week which increases to £95.85 from 6 April 2020.
    • From 13 March 2020, employees can receive SSP from the first ‘qualifying day’ they are off work. Employees can receive SSP if:
    • They have tested positive for coronavirus.
    • They have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a new continuous cough or a high temperature.
    • They are living with someone who has coronavirus symptoms.
    • People caring for household members who are displaying COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate, will be entitled to SSP from day one, not day four of their absence period.
    • Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.
    • Employers should relax their requirements to provide evidence of the coronavirus and/or its symptoms. 
    • Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay are able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

    Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

    This government scheme will open for claims from Tuesday 26 May 2020. The scheme will repay eligible employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

    If you're an employer who pays more than the current rate of SSP you can only claim the current rate amount.

    The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP for each eligible employee who is absent from work because of COVID-19. They either:

    • have coronavirus
    • cannot work because they are self-isolating at home

    Employees do not have to give you a doctor's fit note for you to make a claim.

    Who can use the scheme?

    It applies to UK-based employers who:

    • are claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
    • had a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020
    • had fewer than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020. 

    The scheme covers all types of employment contracts including full-time, part-time, employees on agency contracts, flexible or zero-hour contracts.

    Connected companies and charities

    Connected companies and charities can also use the scheme if their total combined number of PAYE employees are fewer than 250 on or before 28 February 2020.

    Records you must keep

    You must keep records of all the statutory sick payments that you want to claim from HMRC, including:

    • the reason why an employee could not work
    • details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
    • details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
    • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

    Records of staff absences and SSP payments should be kept for reclaiming and for 3 years after the end of the tax year you paid SSP.

    Managing Coronavirus at Work: Support Materials - FREE Downloads

    To support businesses and their response to coronavirus (COVID-19) we have a range of support materials that includes template policies and letters that can be adapted and branded to suit your requirements. 

    Managing Coronavirus Checklist

    We have provided a practical checklist for employers managing coronavirus at work, to download this guide please click here. 

    Free Homeworking Policy 

    To help businesses prepare for any self-isolating employees, we are offering a free homeworking policy which can be downloaded here.

    Contingency & Continuity Plans

    Pandemic Contingency Plan Policy. Click here to download.

    Emergency Protocol Business Continuity Plan. Click here to download.

    Letters to Employees

    Setting out the position on absence and pay due to coronavirus. Click here to download.

    Reminding employees of their responsibilities in relation to the control of infectious diseases. Click here to download.

    COVID-19 Guidance Poster for Employers and Businesses

    Updated 7 April 2020: Issued by Public Health England, this poster will assist employers and businesses in providing advice to their staff on coronavirus (COVID-19). To download the poster click here to visit the government webpage COVID-19: Guidance for employees, employers and businesses click here

    COVID-19 Risk Assessment Template

    Dated 7 May 2020: Employers need to take steps to minimise the risk of transmission. Carry out a risk assessment to identify the likelihood of employees contracting COVID-19 at work and measures to control that risk. To download the template click here.

    Safely Returning to Work - Guidance for Employers

    For all businesses the priority should be the safe return of staff to the workplace. 

    • Cleaning your workplace must be a key area in your return to work plan. 
    • Take steps to ensure good hygiene practices and reducing face-to-face contact wherever possible to reduce the risk of infection within your business. 
    • Does your business have a COVID-19 H&S policy? If not, implement one. This should form part of any Employee Handbook.
    • Follow the 2m social distancing rule.
    • Follow the guidance from Public Health England.
    • Keep number of staff on premises at any one time to a minimum.
    • Restrict number of staff in communal areas such as kitchens and washrooms.
    • Organise shift patterns so that the same cohorts of staff work together consistently to minimise the number of individuals coming into contact.
    • Put up signs to remind employees about social distancing.
    • Use floor markings for 2m rule. •Rearrange the workplace and increase distancing between workstations. • Stagger break times/shift start/finish times to reduce congestion.
    • For businesses unable to practice social distancing during work activities the Government has issued advice for specific sectors, click here.

    Latest National Announcements for COVID-19

    The UK is still officially on lockdown. On 16 April 2020 the government extended the UK lockdown for 3 more weeks until the next review date on Thursday 7 May 2020. This is necessary to protect public health and economic security with the added suggestion that Covid-19 might not be fully contained until June 2020. 

    On Monday 23 March 2020, in an historic national address, the PM ordered people to remain in their homes for up to 3 weeks or face a fine. Under the lockdown, tough measures allow only food stores and chemists to remain open. Travelling to work is only permitted where homeworking is not possible.

    The government has advised the nation to:

    • Stay at home.
    • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home).
    • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people.
    • Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
    • Do not meet others, even friends or family. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
    • Anyone can spread the virus.

    Full guidance on staying at home and away from others is available here.

    Social Distancing, Keeping Businesses Open and in Work During the COVID-19 Outbreak
    With the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues (see below), the HSE is has not recommended for any other businesses to close and feel that it is important for business to carry on ensuring both employers and employees follow the necessary safety precautions. Click here for more information.

    Businesses and Venues to Remain Closed and Exceptions

    On 23 March the government stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives. All those businesses and venues to remain closed and with exceptions are outlined here

    Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance below. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.

    Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).

    Parks will remain open but only for individuals and households to exercise once a day. Communal spaces within parks such as playgrounds and football pitches will be closed. The public is advised to stay local and not undertake any unnecessary travel. See further government guidance on access to green spaces here.

    Due to the rapid changes in coronavirus (COVID-19) the national advice is changing on a daily basis.

    The government publishes daily updates at 2pm with the latest stats and advice whilst Acas produces workplace specific guidance which sets out the steps employers should be taking. In Northern Ireland, the equivalent of Acas is the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).
     

    Coronavirus Common Questions

    As we are receiving a high number of enquiries on how employers should deal with coronavirus (COVID-19), we have provided a short summary and answers to 24 coronavirus common questions below.

    1. What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

    • Cough
    • Sore Throat
    • High temperature
    • Difficulty breathing

    2. How can employees avoid catching or spreading Coronavirus?

    • Wash your hands with soap and water often, use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
    • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
    • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
    • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

    3. What steps should I as an employer take?

    It is an employer’s responsibility to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of employees at work by providing a safe working environment.  Employers should:

    • Provide tissues
    • Provide Sanitiser gel
    • Put up posters i.e. cough etiquette
    • Regular cleaning of frequently touched/communal areas, such as kitchens, door handles, keyboards, tills etc.
    • Assess the risk of exposure
    • Encourage self-quarantine for those returning from affected areas
    • Provide advice to employees
    • Evaluate processes for response if the workplace is affected

    4. What are the latest measures announced with regards to self-isolation?

    • The Government has advised anyone with a high temperature and/or new continuous cough should now self-isolate for 7 days from the onset of COVID 19 symptoms, and any individuals in the household will need to self-isolate for 14 days, from that moment as well.
       
    • If other members of the household develop symptoms, however mild during the 14 days, they must not leave the home for 7 days from when the symptoms started.
       
    • Only if symptoms become worse should NHS 111 service be used, otherwise you can use the following website for information NHS - Coronavirus
    • If one person in the household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days
    • People in at-risk groups; those over 70, with underlying medical conditions (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds) and pregnant women should self-isolate for 12 weeks.
    • Everyone who can should work from home
    • Gatherings are prohibited to minimise the spread of infection and all members of the public are advised to observe the 2 metre social distancing rule.
    • All unnecessary travel is visits to friends and relatives in care homes should cease

    5. If an employee is not sick, but is in self isolation or quarantine are they entitled to SSP?

    The rules relating to SSP and the coronavirus outbreak have been updated in line with what is a constantly changing situation to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus. 

    In March 2020, the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force. The Government has made clear that if an employee self isolates because they have been advised by a GP or NHS 111 to self-isolate, then they are deemed to be incapable of work and therefore are entitled to SSP from day 1 not day 4 subject to meeting the eligibility criteria (i.e. Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week). If the employer offers contractual sick pay it is good practise to provide this.  Furthermore, employers may need to be flexible if a “fit note” is required to evidence their absence, as this may not be attainable if they have been advised to self-isolate.

    Those caring for household members displaying COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate will be entitled to SSP from day 1 not day 4.

    SSP for employees self-isolating before 13 March 2020

    Employees who were self-isolating before 13 March 2020 because they had coronavirus symptoms, can be paid SSP from the fourth day of their isolation. Those in self-isolation before 13 March 2020 because someone in their household had symptoms, do not qualify for SSP.

    SSP for employees who are self-isolating from 13 March 2020

    Employees who are in self-isolation due to coronavirus, are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which is £94.25 per week. This increases to £95.85 from 6 April 2020. From 13 March 2020, employees can receive SSP from the first ‘qualifying day’ they are off work. Employees can receive SSP if:

    • They have tested positive for coronavirus.
    • They have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a new continuous cough or a high temperature.
    • They are living with someone who has coronavirus symptoms.
    • If they have symptoms of coronavirus, then they must self-isolate for seven days. Those sharing a home with someone who has symptoms, will need to be in self-isolation for 14 days from the day their symptoms first appeared.
    • People caring for household members who are displaying COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate, will be entitled to SSP from day one, not day four of their absence period.

    The current guidance says:

    Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they are not themselves sick.

    Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.

    Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, is able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

    For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit, it is designed to automatically adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income. However, if someone needs money urgently they can apply for an advance through the journal.

    It has also been announced that the Government will reimburse small employers with less than 250 employees any SSP they pay to their employees for the first 14 days of sickness.

    6. What if an employee does not want to work because of coronavirus?

    Some people may be worried about catching coronavirus and therefore unwilling or refuse to come into work. If this is the case you should listen carefully to the concerns of your employees. 

    If an employee refuses to work and states that he/she reasonably believes that they are in real danger of catching coronavirus due to not being able to abide by the social distancing requirements, this is highly likely to be deemed an H&S concern. In which case, dismissing them at this time would in all likelihood be treated as an unfair dismissal. Not only will it be an unfair dismissal but also an automatically unfair dismissal, which means compensation is uncapped. The employee would also not need to have qualifying service (2 years') to bring a claim. We would strongly advise listening to the real reason as to why an employee does not want to come to work before making any decision.

    The options open to the employer will depend on whether there is work to be done and if this work can be done at home.  If possible, offer flexible working arrangements such as homeworking. The employer can request the employee take annual leave (by giving twice as much notice) or alternatively, place the employee on furlough leave (see instructions below). It definitely won’t be sick pay.

    7. What should I do if someone becomes unwell at work?

    If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and has recently come back from an area affected by coronavirus or has recently been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they should:

    • Get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
    • Go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office
    • Avoid touching anything
    • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, 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
    • Which country they've returned from in the last 14 days

    8. What if someone with suspected COVID-19 comes to work?

    If someone suspected with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close as most suspected cases turn out to be negative.  The current government advice is to continue as normal until laboratory test results confirm COVID-19.

    The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in contact with the employer to discuss the case and identify any affected people, carry out a risk assessment and advise the employer on any actions or precautions to take

    9. What if someone with COVID -19 comes to work?

    At present the government has not recommended closure of the workplace, the employer will be contacted by the PHE Local Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions to be taken. 

    A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken and advice on the management of staff and members of the public will be based on this assessment.

    The Health Protection Team will also advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will provide appropriate advice.  They will also provide advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices and toilets.

    The guidance from the government and ACAS is you should let your employees work from home if possible to do so, especially such as those employees who are in a high risk group such as compromised immunity or over 60.

    10. What should I do if I have a pregnant employee?

    Government advice is that pregnant employees should be self-isolating for 12 weeks.  Those women who are at greater risk are those who are 34 weeks plus pregnant.

    Employers should discuss the options available for pregnant employees these include;

    • Holiday
    • Employees can begin Maternity Leave in the 11th week prior to the Expected Week of Childbirth
    • SSP
    • Unpaid leave

    Employers are still required to follow process in relation to Maternity Leave and Pay and any agreement should be followed up in writing using the appropriate letters to confirm the details.

    11. Should employees returning from certain countries/areas self-isolate?

    The government website should be checked, which provides a list of affected countries.  These fall into 2 categories:

    Category 1 – Travellers should self-isolate, even if asymptomatic, and use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do next. Go home or to your destination and then self-isolate.

    Category 2 – Travellers do not need to undertake any special measures, but if they develop symptoms they should self-isolate and call NHS 111.  See point 1 for a list.

    12. What if the employer has to close the workplace?

    Currently it's very unlikely that an employer will need to close their workplace. But a contingency plan can be put into place in the event a temporary closure is necessary.

    For example, where work can be done at home, the employer could:

    • Ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phone to take them home so they can carry on working.
    • Arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers.

    If an employer needs to close down their business for a short time, unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.

    13. What if an employee who has been advised to self-isolate refuses to do so?

    Employers have a duty of care towards all employees, if an employer knowingly allows an individual who has been advised to self-isolate to attend the premises or come into contact with other employees they may be in breach of those duties, particularly where employees are more vulnerable to infection i.e. pregnant employees or employees with long-term health conditions. 

    Suspension may be an option where an individual who has been advised to self-isolate refuses to do. Employers should consider if they have the right to suspend in these circumstances, where there is no express contractual right, legal advice should be sought.

    14. What if an employee needs time off work because a dependent has COVID-19?

    Any employee should be allowed reasonable unpaid time off to care for a dependent, such as a child or partner. The employer can consider allowing the employee to take holiday or work from home if this is a viable option.

    15. Can an employee take time off because a school/nursery has closed or a childminder has COVID-19 or is required to self-isolate?

    As this is likely to fall within an employee’s right to take unpaid time off for dependants, employers should allow reasonable time off to take necessary action due to the disruption in childcare arrangements.  The employer can consider allowing the employee to take holiday or work from home if this is a viable option.

    16. Can an employer lay off employees due to coronavirus?

    If the employer has a contractual provision which provides the right to temporary lay-off or reduce working hours (short time working) the employer can give the required notice to lay-off and/or consult with any recognised trade unions.  Guaranteed lay-off pay would be applicable which is £29 a day for 5 days in any 3 month period

    If there is no contractual right to lay-off the employer can consider seeking agreement from employees, this will require consultation and advice should be sought.

    If there is no contractual right to lay off and an employer decides to lay off without agreement this would be a fundamental breach of contract and an unlawful deduction from wage, which could lead to a number of employment tribunal claims

    17. What should employers do with regards to Zero Hours workers?

    Under a Zero Hours contract employers have the ability to offer work on an as and when required basis.  Employers can say to workers that they are not required to work and therefore are not required to pay SSP.  However, if an employee on Zero Hours contract works regularly they may be entitled to SSP based on their average week.

    18. Can an employer require that an employee submits to a medical examination?

    Employers cannot insist that employees submit to testing for the coronavirus without their consent. To do so could be a serious breach of trust and confidence, which could result in a claim for constructive dismissal.  In addition, there are legal obligations under UK data protection laws which will be relevant; obtaining medical advice in relation to an employee would constitute processing of their personal data and information about an employee’s health is one of the “special categories of data” under the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018. The employer would therefore need to have a lawful basis for processing this personal data

    19. What about Data Protection considerations?

    Employers should ensure that individuals personal data is respected (for example when providing guidance or making Company announcements), particularly health data which constitutes a “special category” of data under GDPR to avoid breach of data protection requirements.

    20. What can an employer communicate about an employee with Coronavirus?

    Due to the UK data protection law, employers need to ensure that any communication does not include any data about the individual who is absent. For example, employees can be informed that there has been a confirmed coronavirus case within its workforce however it would not be appropriate to provide any details from which the individual might be identified.

    21. Can employers require employees to disclose to their employer if they have been to certain geographic regions?

    Employers seeking travel information from employees need to ensure they are not discriminating.

    For example, an employer may be to be able to justify requesting all employees to declare all travel from an area in respect of which the UK government advises an individual to self-isolate. However, enquiring about travel only to certain areas, such as China - or asking only from certain employees may amount to discrimination or harassment.

    22. What considerations should be taken into account in relation to discrimination?

    Employers must take steps to ensure that no members of staff or any customers or suppliers are treated differently because of their race or ethnicity. It may be appropriate to remind staff that jokes and banter, even if ostensibly light-hearted, may easily slip over the line to become unlawful harassment, for which an employer may be liable.

    23. What Health and Safety Considerations should be taken into account?

    In order to protect the H&S of all employees, employers may consider advising employees of the need to self-isolate if they have recently returned from one of the affected geographical areas outlined on the government website.

    Employers can also ensure they communicate who should be contacted, what the processes are and the options in the event they need to self-isolate.  Employers should also consider regularly reminding employees the importance of washing hands and hygiene procedures around the office.

    24. For the latest coronavirus updates visit the Government, NHS and ACAS websites.

    Due to rapid changes in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19), the advice is continually being updated. Please visit the following websites for the latest information. 

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

    https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
     

    HR:4UK Support and Guidance


    Please remember that HR:4UK are always here to support and guide you through these ever changing and difficult times. Contact us on 01455 44422 or email info@hr4uk.com

     
     
    Disclaimer: Please note this is not legal advice on your circumstances and HR:4UK are not qualified to give medical advice. Our advice is based on our understanding of the information currently available and may be subject to change as and when more guidance becomes available.

     

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