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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 07 January 2021)
Kickstart Scheme (new 19 November)
Look after Peoples Health, Safety and Wellbeing - (updated 18 November)
Develop Flexible Resourcing Plans
Available Member Resources
On 04 January, the Prime Minister announced a third national lockdown would begin 06 January 2021.
Job Retention Scheme (JRS) (updated 17 December 2020)
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 then 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 was due to close 31 October 2020, however this has now been extended and will remain open until March 2021.
From 01 November 2020, the furlough scheme will allow employers to reclaim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to the original limit of £2,500. To be eligible to claim for the furlough scheme from 01 November 2020, the employee must have appeared on the PAYE RTI submission between 20 March 2020 – 30 October 2020.
On 17 December, the chancellor annouced the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of April 2021, and will continue to make 80% contributions towards wages for the extension period.
You can check how different employment conditions affect eligibility on the Gov website.
Job Retention Bonus
The Job Retention Bonus was withdrawn 05 November 2020.
Job Support Scheme (JSS)
The Job Support Scheme was withdrawn 05 November 2020.
An employee is clinically extremely vulnerable (shielding), can they come to work? (updated 07 January 2021)
With the latest national lockdown, the government advice for clinically extremely vulnerable employees is that they should not attend the workplace if they cannot work from home.
SSP is once again available to be paid to employees who are eligible due to shielding, with their notification letters acting as their fit notes. However, employers can also furlough employees who are shielding even if there is work available for them. If as an employer you decide to use SSP instead of furlough, we would recommend seeking employment law advice from our advice line.
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 10 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.
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:
80% of wages, capped at £2,500
70% of wages, capped at £2,187.50
10% of wages
60% of wages, capped at £1,875
20% of wages
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.
From 01 November 2020, you can claim 80% of employees wages, but the employer will continue to need to pay employees National Insurance and employer pension contributions. You are not required to top-up the furlough pay, but you may choose to.
Flexible furlough remains in place, however, you cannot ask the employee to work during any hours that you will be making a furlough claim for.
This section is to provide HTA members with more information about the Kickstart Scheme, how to apply and what documentation is required to submit an application.
What is the purpose of the Kickstart Scheme?
This is a government led initiative to create new job placements for 16 to 24 year olds who are on universal credit and at risk of long term unemployment.
The funding provides 100% of the National minimum or the National living wage for a period of 6 months.
A minimum of 30 placements are required should an employer want to make their own submission. As the majority of HTA members are small to medium size employers who may not have that number of placements, the recommended route would be to use an appropriate gateway organisation to submit an application.
There are a number of organisations that range from local branches of the chamber of commerce, councils, recruitment agencies, charities, trusts and colleges. There is a new search tool on Gov.uk to enable employers to search by sector/postcode/county and/or nationally.
What is required to submit an application to a Kickstart Gateway?
Any employer can submit a placement or number of placements for a start date in 2021, these placements can be phased with the last start date being December 2021.
Each placement must be a new role and cannot replace existing roles or roles already planned for 2021 or cause existing employees, apprentices or contractors to lose work or reduce their working hours.
The placements must be a minimum of 25 hours per week, for 6 months, only require basic training and the employer must help the young person with employability skills. This could include assistance with seeking longer term job opportunities and career advice, CV writing, assistance with preparing for job interviews and the development of transferable skills within the workplace.
You will need to provide information about your workforce including the number of employees and any changes to your workforce including redundancies made or roles affected by any changes you have made. Information will also need to be submitted about your recruitment plans including how you have created, managed and funded vacancies within your organisation. This information is required to demonstrate your eligiblilty for the funding attached to the scheme.
A job description will need to be drafted for each placement, this should detail what tasks and responsibilities are required, you can then submit your application to the gateway. The gateway will have an allocated work coach at Jobcentre plus who will be responsible for advertising the placement and matching suitable aplicants from their database.These applications will then be sent to the employer for selection and interview.
Funding will only be given if the placement is filled by the kickstart scheme. The employer is responsible for employing the successful candidate and processing them via payroll to ensure they are on a PAYE scheme. The gateway will be responsible for obtaining the funding and salary payments from DWP and transferring these to the employer.
Alongside the payment of salary, there is an amount of £1,500 per placement to support with training and work required items such as tools, equipment and uniforms. The gateway may be able to provide some of the employability training to support the candidate and therefore share some of this funding.
There is a risk that there may not be sufficient young people to fill all of the placements being identified. There is an ongoing requirements for the employer to provide support to the the young person throughout the process and their employment.
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. From 05 November 2020, anyone who can work from home should be doing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, they will accrue at least the statutory minimum entitlement.
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.
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:
80% of wages, capped at £2,500
70% of wages, capped at £2,187.50
10% of wages
60% of wages, capped at £1,875
20% of wages
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)
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.
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.
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/
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
- 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.
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
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.