Please note, the information below is current at the time of publish and may be subject to change. We therefore encourage all of our clients and all business owners to keep a close regular check on the Government website…..
Elcons advisors are taking an unprecedented amount of calls regarding COVID-19. As the situation is changing every day, its inevitable business owners are worried and uncertain about how this will affect the workforce and workplace.
Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak you need to ensure that the action your business takes is legal and compliant.
If your business is permitted to remain open under the latest Government measures, reduce the spread of infection by providing soap and hand sanitiser gels with alcohol, especially in communal areas like kitchens and coffee areas. Provide staff with hand sanitisers. Increase the frequency and intensity of office cleaning; consider a deep clean; think about frequent wiping down of communal spaces such as kitchens, handrails on stairs, lift buttons, door handles, etc. Practice social distancing in the workplace and also try to encourage home working where possible.
HR basics to follow
- Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
- Make sure all staff are aware of the latest Government advice, your response as an employer and what you are doing to protect people’s health and reduce the risk of infection spreading.
- Continue to communicate as the situation changes.
- Make sure Managers are clear on any relevant policies and processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and your homeworking policy.
THREE MAIN QUESTIONS ELCONS ADVICE TEAM ARE BEING ASKED
Question 1. My employee has been advised to self-isolate but says they’re fine and insisting on coming into the workplace. What do we do if we have any concerns? Do we have to pay them?
Answer: If an employee has been told to self-isolate, they must stay at home and subject to eligibility, they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay at the current rate. It may not be possible for the employee to provide a sick note in the current circumstances, as an employer you can agree to waive the usual requirement.
Currently, the Government have assured that SSP can be paid from day 1 and that they will reimburse SSP to small businesses for the 14 days which staff need to self-isolate. If you decide as a business that you wish to send someone home due to your own concerns on risk, you would be required to pay them.
Question 2. We need to reduce our workforce numbers due to COVID–19 what options do we have?
Answer: You could consider temporary layoff or short time working. To do this you need to ensure that you have this clause included in your employee’s contract of employment or handbook. You will need to ensure that you have a justifiable reason and selection process for your company layoffs. If you don’t have a lay off / short time working in your employee contracts or handbook then you would need to enter consultation to vary the terms and conditions of employment to allow you to invoke lay off.
During a lay off period, employees are only entitled to be paid for 5 days at £29 per day please note that from April 7th, 2020 it will increase to £30 per day a maximum of £150 for 5 days. Following this 5-day period staff are not entitled to pay thereafter. As Layoffs are not permanent if work does not increase alternative arrangements will need to be made. Always Take Advice
Question 3: What does Furloughing staff mean, and how do we do this?
Answer: ‘Furlough Leave’, which is term used often in American employment law to describe a planned period of time off work.
Employers who wish to access the job retention scheme should speak with their employees about classifying them as a furloughed worker.
This would mean that employees are kept on the payroll, rather than being laid off.
According to the Government, furloughed staff should not undertake any work for their employer during the scheme. If they do work the 80% cannot be claimed.
This allows employers to claim up to 80 per cent of wages – with a limit of £2,500 gross per month.
“Your staff will remain employed while furloughed. Employers could choose to fund the differences between this payment and salary, but you do not have to.
The intention is for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1st March 2020 but will extend if necessary. This will be confirmed by the Government at a later date.
It is hoped that HMRC will have the scheme and online portal launched by the end of April.
Who can be furloughed and how do I claim from the Government?
Any UK employer can apply for the furlough scheme, including business, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.
However the Government does not envisage making significant payouts to public sector employees as they believe most will continue offering essential services.
Where employers are receiving public funding for staff costs, they will be expected to continue using these funds to pay staff rather than applying for the furlough scheme.
Any employees who are working at reduced hours and pay, will not be eligible for furlough and it will be up to the employer to pay staff as normal.
All employees must have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before February 28th, 2020 and have a UK bank account. Any employee starting after the 28th February will NOT qualify. Categories who do qualify include:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- employees on flexible or zero hour contract
- employees on agency contracts
To access the scheme, employers must comply with the following:
- Designate employees who cannot do their jobs due to the coronavirus measures put in place by the Government
- Notify those employees of their new “furloughed” status
- Submit information to HMRC about furloughed employees to set up a system for reimbursement and existing systems that will facilitate payments.
If you have already made redundancies since the 28th February 2020 you can reinstate them, and they will be covered under the scheme. You would need to get in contact with the staff effected, reinstate them back onto the payroll and then you will be able to claim back the 80% and be able to backdate to 1st March 2020.
Staff who have been furloughed cannot carry out any work whilst on the scheme.
Staff that will not be eligible for this scheme are employees working but on reduced hours such as short time working or for reduced pay if already agreed wage reductions you will have to continue paying the employee through your payroll and pay their salary subject to the terms of the employment contract you agreed.
PLEASE ACCESS THE ADVICE LINE AND SPEAK TO AN ELCONS ADVISOR FOR ANY FURTHER INFORMATION 0800 014 9595