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During the Coronavirus pandemic, there will undoubtedly be a number of challenges facing employers both large and small. Each individual organisation will need to assess its own level of exposure to business disruption. There will be a lot of dependabilities such as where and how an organisation conducts its business, do they have a site,  how will day to day operations be affected and what is the reliance on its supply chain?

It is important to build a key communication team that employees can rely on for information. The team should be responsible for operating and implementing the contingency plan and allocating tasks and responsibilities appropriately and as required.

As the situation continues to develop, this team should be in regular contact to review and adapt the plans ensuring they are still fit for purpose. It is important to act as early as possible and keep everyone informed.

Please find the following information below:

Advice on processes in the case of a staff member being confirmed with COVID (updated 26 October)
General Information on Support Schemes & FAQs - (updated 26 October) 
Look after Peoples Health, Safety and Wellbeing - (updated 26 October)
Develop Flexible Resourcing Plans
FAQ Archive

Available Member Resources

Advice on processes in the case of a staff member being confirmed with COVID

In the case of a staff member advising you that they have had a positive covid test result, you should follow the government advice which can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reporting-outbreaks-of-coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-early-outbreak-management
 
You can find additional advice from other employment advice organisations, such as our preferred partners at Citation, as well as the CIPD and Acas.
 

 

General Information on Support Schemes & FAQs 


Job Retention Scheme (JRS) (updated 26 October)
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was a temporary scheme that was open to all UK employers (COVID-19). The purpose of scheme was to enable UK businesses to retain their staff during this pandemic and it covered employees who were on payroll as of 28 February 2020 and made redundant or stopped working after this date, if they are rehired by their employer, prior to 19 March 2020. The CJRS was extended until the end of October 2020. The scheme closed to new entrants on 30 June 2020, which meant furloughed employees must have started their furlough by 10 June 2020 to meet the 3 week minimum furlough period. From 01 July 2020, the government allowed furoughed employees to return to work part -time, and the government asked employers to share the costs of the furlough. The original JRS closes 31 October 2020.
 

Job Retention Bonus
On 08 July 2020, the government announced the Job Retention Bonus. Full details are yet to be published, but this one off bonus will be a payment of £1000 to UK employers for each previously furloughed employee who is still in their employment by January 2021. The bonus payments will be from February 2021.

Job Support Scheme Open (JSS open) (updated 26 October)
The Job Support Scheme Open will run on from the point that the Job Retention Scheme finishes, opening 01 November 2020 and is due to close 30 April 2021. A stipulation of the scheme is that employees must work at least 20% of their normal hours. 

Job Support Scheme Closed (JSS Closed) (added 26 October)
The Job Support Scheme Closed is for employers who has been legally required to close their premises due to covid, under the restrictions set out by one of the UK governments. Claims can only cover the period of time the business was required to close and 66.67% of employee wages will be fully funded by the government, subject to a cap of £2,083.33 per month. The scheme will run for the same length of time as the JSS Open.

How will employees be paid under the Job Support Scheme? (updated 26 October)

This will depend on whether the claim falls under the JSS Open or JSS closed:

JSS Open
To be able to claim for JSS Open, employers will need to make sure their employees work a minimum of 20% of their usual working hours and employees are required to be paid as normal for that time.

The employee is entitled to receive 66.67% of their normal pay for the hours they have not worked in that claim period. This payment will be made up from both the employer and the government. The employer is required to pay 5% of employees normal pay for the hours they have not worked, which is capped at £125 per month. The government will then pay 61.67% of the normal pay for the hours that have not been worked, capped at £1514.75 per month.

As an employer, it is your choice to top up employees wages, but employers are responsible for employer NIC and pension contributions.

JSS Closed
Employees will receive 66.67% of their normal pay, which will be fully funded by the government. Employers can top up if they wish and employer NIC and pension contributions are payable by the employer.

What else do I need to know about the JSS schemes? (updated 26 October)

Both the JSS Open and JSS Closed schemes is open to all employers, who have enrolled for PAYE and have a UK, Channel Island or Isle of Man bank account.

A written agreement must be entered into with the employee confirmed the termporary working arrangement and should be retained by employers for 5 years.

Large organisations (250 employees and above) looking to use the JSS Open will be required to provide evidence that their business has been adversely impacted by covid-19 by taking a Financial Impact Test. Small & medium sized businesses are not required to do this. Further guidance on how to complete a Financial Impact Test can be found on the gov website here.

For an employee to be eligible for the employer to claim JSS, they will need to have been on the organisations RTI submission between 06 April 2019 - 23 September 2020.

Training can still be undertaken by employees who are using the JSS schemes. Employers may need to pay employees for this time, if time spent on training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the grant payment.

Full guidance on the JSS is still awaiting publication, and is expected in w/c 26 October 2020.

What is changing for employees who are shielding? (30 July)

From 01 August 2020, shielding will be ‘paused’. This means, that if you have an employee who is shielding and receiving SSP, the SSP will also be paused. The most recent changes to SSP regulations in relation to Coronavirus confirm when a period of shielding ends:

- Either immediately after the end period stated on the shielding notification; or

- From the date the person received notification that they are no longer required to shield.

However, a new notification to shield can be issued and SSP can begin again.

Local lockdowns may also result in employees being asked to shield and you should follow the government advice on when this period of shielding should end.

Any employee who is clinically extremely vulnerable should be allowed to continue to work from home if they are able to, and as an employer you should help them to do this. If this is not possible, then the employee can only return to work if the workplace is COVID secure. In these instances, you should carry out an individual risk assessment, and keep in mind that someone who is in this group would likely be viewed as disabled.

At present, if the employee has a letter confirming they should continue to shield and have been furloughed previously, they can continue to be furloughed even if work is available for them. This must be agreed by both the employer and the employee. It would be best practice to contact HMRC before reaching this agreement, to confirm whether this is an acceptable use of the furlough scheme.

In all circumstances, you should be mindful of the impact shielding for many weeks has had on an employee and treat any concerns they raise empathetically. It would be best practice to record any concerns and how they have been addressed in writing.

How do I make a claim under the CJRS? (updated 09 July)

How do I make a claim?

The portal is available from 20 April 2020, and we have been informed that you must be enrolled with PAYE online to access the scheme. If you aren’t already enrolled, please visit the HMRC’s website and get enrolled now - https://www.gov.uk/paye-online/enrol 

What information do I need to enrol for PAYE online?

You will need to provide an email address, and know your HMRC office code, your Employer PAYE reference, and your Accounts Office Reference.

Where do I find the HMRC office code?

It is on the letter HMRC sent you when you registered as an employer, enter the first 3 numbers. For example, 123/A246, enter 123.

What about the Employer PAYE reference?

This is the second part of the code, after the /, for example A246.

Where do I find the Accounts office reference?

This will be on the letter you got when you first registered as an employer, and on your payment booklet. For example, 123PX12345678. You may have this noted as your HMRC Payment reference.

What if I use an external Payroll provider?

Your payroll provider will be able to provide you with all the above information, but you will need to enrol with PAYE online yourself.

Can I start my claim under CJRS now?

Yes, the portal is live from 20 April 2020. You must have all the information you require ready before you start your claim, as there is no ‘save’ option and sessions will time out after 30 minutes. We strongly recommend you read the Government guidance on making a claim before you start – the guide can be downloaded from here

You can only make one claim during each claim period, so it is recommended you make your claim before or during payroll and claim for all furloughed employees at the one time as you cannot make changes to your claim.

Once your claim is submitted, you will see a screen that displays a reference number – make sure you print this page or note down the reference number as there will not be an email confirmation.

Maintain your calculation records in case HMRC request further information on your claim.

How long will it take for claims to be paid?

Claims will be paid within 6 working days.

Can employees contact HMRC directly?

HMRC are unable to answer any queries regarding claims from employees, employees will need to direct their queries to their employer.

What employee information do I need for my claim?

To claim, you will need:

1. The number of employees being furloughed

2. The dates employees have been furloughed to and from

3. Details of employees – the name and National Insurance Number of each furloughed employee

4. Your employer PAYE scheme reference number

5. Your Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference, Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number as appropriate for your entity

6. Your UK bank account details

7. Your organisation’s registered name

8. Your organisation’s address

How will claim information be submitted?

This will depend on the number of staff you have furloughed. If you have furloughed less than 100 employees, you will be required to input the information directly into the system for each employee. If you have 100+ employees who have been furloughed, then you may upload a file with the information for each employee – this file can be .xls .xlsx .csv or .ods

I would prefer to use an agent, can I?

You may use an agent if you wish, but they must be authorised to act for you on PAYE matters. They can make the claim on your behalf using their ID and password. If you choose to use an agent, you must provide them with a UK bank account for your grant to be paid into. Not providing this information will delay funds from being paid.

What are the changes to claims from 01 July 2020?

Any claim period before 01 July must end on or before 30 June, even if the employee will continue to be furloughed full time after 01 July. If this is the case, then you will need to make 2 claims, one to cover the period before 01 July and another to cover the period after.

For claims made after 01 July, you can only make claims that start and end in the same calendar month, and there must be a minimum claim period of 7 days. The only exception to the 7 day period would be if an employee was furloughed over the beginning or end of a month and you have made a claim for the period immediately before or after. For example, if they have been furloughed from from 20 July - 06 August, you will need to make one claim for 20 July - 31 July, and a second claim for 01 August - 06 August.

Claims for periods ending on or before 30 June 2020 must be submitted by 31 July 2020.

I've made a mistake on my claim, what should I do?

If you have made an error that has resulted in an overpayment of your furlough grant, you must notify HMRC and pay this back. This can be done when making your next furlough claim, where you will be asked if your claim needs to be adjusted due to a previous error.

If you need to increase the size of your claim, you will need to contact HMRC directly as they have additional checks to carry out.

If you have overclaimed in error on your final furlough claim, you will need to contact HMRC. They will give you a payment reference number and directions on how to make a payment.

How do I calculate a flexible furlough claim?

If you opt to flexibly furlough your employees, you will need to follow the guidance on how to calculate their pay correctly. You can find the examples and guidance by clicking this link.

The government have confirmed that if an employee who is flexibly furloughed takes annual leave, you should claim this period as furloughed hours. You will be required to give holiday pay, at the normal rate of pay, for periods of annual leave as per Working Times Regulations. This will mean if you are not already topping up the employees wages, you will need to for the period of annual leave.

What are the changes to CJRS from 01 July 2020? (updated 18 June)

From 01 July 2020, employees who have been furloughed will be able to return to work part time, providing they were furloughed for the first time before 10 June 2020.  Employees will be paid by their employers for the hours they have worked, and the furlough scheme used to pay their contracted hours that they have not worked. Employers will need to include employees’ usual hours and actual hours worked with their claims. The minimum claim period for furloughed hours will be one week.

From August 2020, the government will start to taper the furlough scheme, so that businesses share the cost. Furloughed employees must still receive 80% of their salary.

The incremental changes are:

Month

Government Contribution

Employer Contribution

August

80% of wages, capped at £2,500

ER NICs

Pension contributions

September

70% of wages, capped at £2,187.50

10% of wages

ER NICs

Pension contributions

October

60% of wages, capped at £1,875

20% of wages

ER NICs

Pension contributions

If employees are unable to return to work, or you do not have enough work for them to return to work, they can remain on furlough under the current rules and do not need to work part time.

There is also a limit on the number of employees that can be furloughed from 01 July 2020. The number of furloughed employees from this date cannot exceed the maximum number of employees furloughed on the scheme before 30 June 2020.

 

Look after peoples health, safety and well-being (updated 26 October)

Employers have a statutory duty of care for people’s health and safety, to provide a safe place to work . There is also a moral responsibility to ensure employees feel safe and secure.

Key messages are available about the risk of spreading the virus, everyone is responsible for taking basic hygiene precautions and  the Government returned to the advise that anyone able to work from home should do so.

Practical Steps to Follow:

  • Keep informed and follow government and official medical advice as it is updated. Links to this are available on the HTA website.
  • Share your covid risk assessment with staff and ask for their feedback.
  • Reassure employees about any concerns they may have and keep them informed about contingency plans.
  • Makes sure everyone understands the sick pay and leave policies and how these are being implemented.
  • Consider any employee assistance plans or healthcare plans in place, ensure that everyone is aware of these, these can provide helplines and assistance for those employees who may be anxious and need additional support.
  • Consider any employees who may be vulnerable due to pregnancy, underlying conditions and age, in this pandemic you also need to consider their family situations.

Develop flexible resourcing plans

 

FAQ Archive

Advice on Furloughed employees continuing to work (updated 18 June)

The guidance is clear that once furloughed, until 30 June 2020, employees cannot carry out any responsibilities that will generate revenue and profit for their employer. Employers are able to engage with their furloughed employees and they can undertake training, such as online courses. If training is undertaken, employers must ensure that at least the national minimum wage is applied.

Furlough does not prevent employees working elsewhere. If it is permitted in the employment contract, you can be furloughed by one employer and:

  • Continue to work for another employer
  • Take up employment with a different employer, while remaining on furlough with your first employer

Furlough was introduced initially to enable employers to retain their workforce during a downturn of work requirements. However, there are now clear guidelines on other categories of employees that employers can furlough even if there is work for them to do, these are:

  • Extremely vulnerable, those identified and contacted by letter from the NHS
  • Employees sharing a household with an extremely vulnerable person
  • Employees who have caring responsibilities that have been impacted by coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home due to school and/or childcare facility closures.

These employees may ask to be furloughed due to their own circumstances, as an employer, the practical approach would be to agree. You as employer, may identify someone in one of these categories and can therefore place them on furlough.

From 01 July 2020, furloughed employees will be able to work part time under the 'flexible' furlough scheme. This means employers will pay their employees for the hours they have worked, and use the furlough grant to pay the remainder of their contracted hours.

Do I need to consult with my employee if I need to put them on a furlough period? (updated 18 June)

Yes, you will need to consult and confirm in writing that this is the course of action you are taking. If you have a lay off/short term working clause in your employment contract, this gives you as the employer the right to place the employee on furlough without their explicit agreement.

If you intend to use 'flexible' furlough from 01 July 2020, you will need to agree this with the employee, unless you have a lay off/short term working clause, and confirm the changes to the furlough in writing.

You may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.

Can my employees refuse to be furloughed?

Yes, they can, however if there is no work for them, this would put them at risk of redundancy and therefore they would not be able to return to work for you.

If I need my employee to return to work, how do I do this? (updated 18 June)

Until 30 June 2020, the minimum furlough period is 3 weeks and employees cannot return earlier that this, you cannot ask your employees to do work during the furlough period.

From 01 July 2020, there is no minimum furlough period and you can bring back employees from furlough flexibly for any amount of time. You will then need to use the furlough grant to pay the difference between worked hours and contracted hours.

Any return from furlough should be confirmed in writing to the employee.

What about annual leave, will employees still accrue their entitlement during the furlough period?

Yes, they will accrue at least the statutory minimum entitlement.

What if employees have pre-booked annual leave during the furlough period? (Updated 20 April)

Holiday can be taken during a period of furlough, and if this happens, you will need to top-up the pay to the usual holiday pay in accordance with Working Time Regulations.

As they cannot work for you during this period, it would be sensible to postpone or cancel any leave booked within the furlough period.

The Government are currently keeping the policy on holiday pay during furlough under review.

How does the salary payment work? (updated 18 June)

You will need to pay your employees through the usual payroll, you will need to adjust the pay to 80% or pay at 100% if you as an employer have decided to do so. You will then be able to claim the grant through the online government portal.

If you use an outsourced payroll provider, they will assist you with this process.

The Government have included examples of how to calculate the grant amounts in their guidance, which can be found here (page 4-5).

The government has published advice on what should be included when calculating wages. Along with regular wages, you must also include:

  • Non-discretionary payments for hours worked, which includes overtime
  • Non-discretionary fees
  • Non-discretionary commission payments
  • Piece rate payments

You cannot include any discretionary payments, benefits in kind and salary sacrifice schemes.

The grant must be paid in full to the furloughed employees, therefore you cannot make any salary sacrifice deductions from this pay. The HMRC has agreed that coronavirus will be considered a life event that can allow salary sacrifice arrangements to be amended, providing the employment contract is updated to show this change.

From 01 July 2020, if you have flexibly furloughed employees, you will need to include with your claim the employees contracted hours and the actual hours they have worked. You can use the government claims calculator to work out how much you can claim. Guidance can be found here.

What about other payroll costs such as pension contributions and employers national insurance payments, can I claim back these costs? (updated 18 June)

Yes, you can claim the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions for furloughed employees.

The Government have included examples of how to calculate the grant amounts in their guidance, which can be found here (page 4-5).

From 01 August 2020, there will be changes to the amounts that can be reclaimed through the furlough scheme. You will no longer be able to claim pension contributions or Employer National Insurance contributions.

The incremental changes are:

Month

Government Contribution

Employer Contribution

August

80% of wages, capped at £2,500

ER NICs

Pension contributions

September

70% of wages, capped at £2,187.50

10% of wages

ER NICs

Pension contributions

October

60% of wages, capped at £1,875

20% of wages

ER NICs

Pension contributions

What if my employee has more than one job?

If your employee has more than one employer, they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

What if my employee is due to take parental leave such as maternity or adoption leave but has been furloughed? (Updated 27 April)

If an employee is due to start any form of parental leave on or after 25 April 2020, then their full earnings should be applied to Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Shared Parental Pay, Parental Bereavement Pay and Adoption Pay even if they have been furloughed. Follow your usual payroll processes for family leave and pay. 

What if my employee is on another type of long-term absence such as maternity leave or unpaid leave? (updated 18 June)

If your employee is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, or a another form of statutory pay, the normal rules apply, and they are entitled to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance. 

If they are due to return to work from a period of statutory leave and you need to furlough them, you can do this after 10 June 2020, providing you have previously furloughed employees.

Employees on unpaid leave cannot be furloughed, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February.

 

What about employees that are paid the minimum national wage?

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the hours they are working. Therefore, furloughed workers, who are not working, must be paid the lower of 80% of their salary even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below NLW/NMW.

My employee has been medically advised to self-isolate, what should I pay them? (30 July)

This has been an area of great confusion for employers because employees in isolation are generally fit for work and therefore some have argued that they should receive full pay.

However, on 26 February 2020, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock made it clear that those who were staying away from work as a result of medical advice to self-isolate were doing so for ‘medical reasons’ and therefore should receive sick pay.

We would advise that the approach advocated by the government is correct and employees who have been advised to self-isolate in line with government guidelines, should be treated as on sick leave and paid accordingly.

My employee has been off ill with COVID-19 but I have not received a fit note. Do I have to pay them, and should I take action against them for breaching our sickness absence policy? (updated 19 May)

Employees can self-certify sickness absence for the first 7 days (including non-working days) but after that period an employer can require them to produce a fit note from their doctor confirming they are unable to work. However, in respect of COVID-19, government advice is that employees should isolate themselves for 14 days and should not attend their doctor’s surgery during that time, thus making it impossible for them to obtain a fit note.

BEIS Guidance is that employers should exercise their discretion and not require a fit note to cover this period. We agree with this stance and would advise that sick pay should not be withheld in the absence of a fit note in these circumstances.

Employees can request an isolation note from NHS 111 to cover the period of their absence. You can request they provide you with one of these. They can generate one using the NHS 111 website https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/

Do I need to change how I pay my employees Statutory Sick Pay? (updated 26 May)

The government has announced plans to introduce emergency legislation that enables employees to be paid Statutory Sick Pay from day one rather than after three days. 

Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 28 March, for symptom-based and household isolation periods of incapacity for SSP purposes. It has since (16 April 2020) clarified the position on shielding, stating that anyone shielding within public health guidance, can be paid SSP if they meet the usual eligibility criteria.

The CJRS guidance does also allow employers to furlough employees who are shielding.

If you have less than 250 employees, you can reclaim any SSP that you have paid to employees who have been on sick leave due to coronavirus. This claim can be for up to 2 weeks per employee and is made by logging onto your PAYE online portal. The portal is open from 26 May 2020. You can find further information and guidance here.

My employee is unable to come into work because their school/ nursery is closed. Do I have to give them the time off and what should I pay them? (updated 19 May)

Employees have a legal right to take time off to deal with emergencies relating to their dependents and this includes the unexpected disruption of arrangements for the care of a dependent. In this particular context, a dependent could be the employee’s:

  • spouse or partner
  • child
  • parent
  • a person living in the same household (but not a tenant)
  • any person who reasonably relies on the employee for the provision of care

Usually this time off is unpaid unless your business provides additional contractual benefits to employees in these situations.

The amount of time off which can be taken is what would be reasonable to make alternative care arrangements. This will depend on a number of factors including the nature of the disruption, the alternatives available and financial considerations. Whilst in many cases a day or two is all that will be required, given the situation around COVID-19 it may not be feasible for a parent to make alternative arrangements in a short period of time. It has been held that an absence of 16 days was necessary in the circumstances of that particular case and therefore employers would be expected to act reasonably in these situations.

Employees with caring responsibilities for children who are unable to attend school and/or other childcare facilities due to the pandemic can request to be furloughed, even if their role has not been affected.

How do bank holidays work during the furlough period? (Updated 20 April)

If employees usually work bank holidays, then you can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If employees usually take the bank holiday as leave, then you should either top up furloughed employees pay to your usual holiday pay or give them a day of holiday in lieu.

Annual Leave Entitlement – Relaxation on carry forward of statutory holiday entitlement, position at 1st April 2020

All employees accrue a statutory minimum annual holiday entitlement of 28 days which includes bank holidays, this is pro-rated for part time employees. Usually, this statutory minimum holiday entitlement cannot be carried forward to the next holiday year. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their workforce adhere to this legislation.

The revised regulations will allow up to 4 weeks holiday to be taken forward into the next 2 holiday years. This will mean that employees can continue to work during the national effort against Coronavirus without losing out on their annual holiday entitlement.

These changes will also ensure that employers have the flexibility to allow staff to carry forward leave at a time when granting annual leave could leave them short staffed, impacting key UK industries such as food and healthcare.

Employers remain responsible for managing and granting employees holiday absence and should continue to encourage their employees to take holiday where possible.

During this period of lockdown this will be difficult due to:

  • employees placed on furlough not taking annual leave during the furlough period
  • a skeleton workforce made up of a business’s key workers
  • potential staff shortages due to less available employees
  • potential increased sickness absence during this pandemic

 

Available Member Resources