Working Parents

Support for key worker parents should be a priority for employers in the care industry…

If you don’t look after your staff how can they look after anyone else?

As lockdown 3.0 continues, working parents are once again doing their best to work without being able to fall back on their regular childcare or traditional schooling.

For parents in the care industry, life can be even harder – they can’t work at home, childcare options are more limited because of Covid restrictions, and schools have become strict on allowing key worker children to attend during the school day – often insisting that both parents must be key workers for children to be eligible for a space.

Being a working parent in normal times is often a juggling act but throwing in the restrictions of Covid-19 and lockdown and times can be especially tough, particularly in an industry where many staff are not high earners.

For example, a study by Working Families in October 2020 [Working Families: One in five working parents has faced unfair treatment at work since COVID-19 onset 16/10/2020], also found that 2.6 million (one fifth of) working parents in the UK thought they had been treated less fairly at work because of their childcare responsibilities during the pandemic. Women had been particularly affected, with more mothers than fathers leaving paid work since last February [Institute for Fiscal Studies: Parents, especially mothers, paying heavy price for lockdown 27/05/2020].

So how can you support the parents in your employ?

First of all, making it clear that you realise what a tough time they are having, and ensuring that they know their employer  is supportive is one very easy and simple thing to do. A supportive message will help them feel that they have not been abandoned to struggle on through, and that case managers, deputies and parents actually recognise that they may be finding things difficult.

This in turn will help to encourage your staff to be honest about issues they are having rather than trying to hide problems, or even leaving work because it is too hard to manage childcare and employment.

From this, line managers can have honest conversations with the team about what solutions might work for them. They can discuss possibilities such as flexible working, changing roles or spreading hours throughout the week.

Your staff may benefit from more flexible rotas or more swaps between rotas than normal. Parents will have different requirements depending on their children’s ages, whether they have a partner working at home or if their children have additional needs. There are many reasons for a change in working pattern which is why open and honest conversation is necessary.

Line managers should also catch up with working parents on a regular basis, as circumstances may change, and if school closures should extend past 8 March, they may find it harder and harder to cope.

Proactive next steps

For those where none of these options work – what are the next steps? Could your employees be furloughed, take some holiday, unpaid leave or parental leave?

For many working in the care industry at this crucial time, taking unpaid leave is not particularly a viable option, either because of work requirements, or financially. However, eligible parents are permitted parental leave of up to four weeks in a year for each child (including adopted children). You should also offer support to anyone returning from maternity or parental leave, as the place of work they come back to might be quite different from the one they left. Ensure they are made aware of any changes in working practices such as staffing and change of rules.

Of course, uppermost must always be the concern that you are not being discriminatory. Check out the latest advice from the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) regarding Covid, employment and discrimination – especially concerning women, marital status and pregnancy.

You may be able to introduce some other ‘perks’ that will take the pressure off your staff. One housing trust, for instance, has offered parents one paid afternoon off a week. This could give them breathing space to help a child catch up with some homeschooling, do some fun activity with their children, or simply take a much-needed break.

While your working parents are looking after their families and your clients within the care industry, it is important that they are also looking after themselves. If you have a health and wellbeing programme, mental health first aid programme or similar scheme, make sure that your staff are aware of them and have easy access. If you do not have these programmes in place, there are many organisations with good advice that you can point your staff towards, such as MIND.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, from recruitment through to exit.

Embrace HR Covid-19 vaccines pexels-gustavo-fring-3985170

Can you insist that your care industry employees are vaccinated? What will happen if they refuse? Read on…

As the first Covid-19 vaccines begin to roll out, we can start to see a ray of light at the end of the global pandemic tunnel. And for those of us in the care industry, with the responsibility for the safety of both staff and clients, it is a big relief.

However, just because the vaccine is being made available – and health and social care workers and care home workers are among those included in the first wave – that doesn’t mean that all of your employees will take up the offer.

Best practice

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) says that employers must take reasonable steps to reduce workplace risks. With this in mind, it would be wise to  educate your staff about vaccination so that health and safety is front of mind and they make an informed choice regarding vaccinations.

In light of this, it is key that employers draw up a policy regarding keeping safe, with reference to vaccinations in general, if one is not already in place.

Vaccine concerns

Staff may have their own reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated – in fact according to a YouGov survey around a fifth of those surveyed said they would not be vaccinated. They may fear that it has been developed too quickly, and that there is not enough known about side effects. They may doubt its efficacy – and with the announcement that the gap between first and second doses is being extended, may be even less convinced that it will give them immunity.

They may have medical concerns. Anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive is advised to consult with medical professionals to weigh up the risks of being vaccinated [GOV.UK: The safety of COVID-19 vaccines when given in pregnancy 5/1/21], and there are also concerns for anyone who has suffered from severe allergic reactions in the past [GOV.UK Confirmation of guidance to vaccination centres on managing allergic reactions following COVID-19 vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech-vaccine. Withdrawn 11/1/21].

Or you may find that you have staff who refuse on religious grounds, or because of other beliefs – ethical vegans, for instance, may refuse to have a vaccine that has been tested on animals.

Legal viewpoint

You should also note that the vaccination is not mandatory, and it looks unlikely that there will be any law making it so.

As highlighted in People Management recently, [People Management: Can employers force staff to have the Covid vaccine? 15/12/20] there are indirect measures that an employer can take to pressurise vaccination of their employees such as “refusing staff entry to certain parts of the workplace or certain roles, if they cannot demonstrate that they have been vaccinated”. That said, we wouldn’t recommend it and any such measures would need to be considered very carefully as you might run the risk of being subject to claims of discrimination or constructive dismissal.

Of course, where the care of vulnerable clients is involved, as an employer you may feel that your responsibility for their health and safety means that their carers should be vaccinated. However, there are other requirements that can keep them safe – such as PPE, cleaning and hygiene regimes, regular testing and social hygiene. In any case, guidance from the NHS still states that all these measures should be taken even if one is vaccinated, as no vaccine is believed to be 100 per cent effective.

An option for staff who have not been vaccinated, for whatever reason, is to allow them to work at home, if that is indeed an option, or to be deployed elsewhere, away from ill or vulnerable people. When considering this, you will of course have to ensure that they agree, they are not financially disadvantaged, that it doesn’t impact on their career in a negative way, or that it is in breach of their contract.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, from recruitment through to exit.

Embrace HR furlough scheme

As the UK went into a second lockdown earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended. Find out how it applies to you and your employees…

Although the second UK lockdown is set to end at the beginning of December, Rishi Sunak has recognised that companies may be affected for longer than that and has therefore extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until the end of March 2021.

Like the original scheme, which was set up in March, the current plan will see the government paying 80% of employee’s wages, with a cap of £2,500 a month. The Chancellor said that his aim was to give businesses security over the winter period and to protect millions of jobs.

The scheme replaces the Job Support Scheme, which had initially been planned to be put in place once the first Furlough scheme came to an end, and it is good news for employees as this new plan is far more generous.

How does it work?

Employers are able to claim 80% of an employee’s salary for any hours not worked with a cap of £2,500 a month. You must confirm in writing to your employee that they have been furloughed and a written record of this must be kept for five years.

Who can be furloughed?

You must have been employing the member of staff on 30 October 2020 (and you must have made a PAYE RTI submission to the HMRC notifying a payment of earnings for them at any time between 20 March and 30 October 2020). This does not apply if you are employed as a member of staff after 23 September 2020.

It is important to note that you do not have to have made any claim on the furlough scheme before 30 October 2020.

How many employees can I claim for?

The extended furlough scheme has no upper limit on the number of employees you claim for and you are not limited to the staff that you claimed furlough for during the first lockdown in March.

What about staff on maternity leave?

If you have staff on maternity leave, who would rather be furloughed (because that pay will be higher than Statutory Maternity Pay), they must give you eight weeks’ notice to end their leave early.

I employ an apprentice, can they be furloughed?

Yes they can, and they can continue their training while on furlough, However, note that they must be receiving wages that are at least the same as the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage while they are training. So as an employer you must cover the shortfall between that amount and the amount you can claim for their wages.

I made my employee redundant…

If employees stopped working for you or were made redundant on or after 23 September 2020, it is possible to re-employ them and put them on the new furlough scheme.

There are a variety of rules for different employment conditions, you can check them here [GOV.UK: Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 14/05/20 Updated 19/11/20].

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Learn how the Job Support Scheme and Test and Trace Support payment schemes work for businesses…

STOP PRESS: Furlough Scheme extended from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December in line with England’s second lockdown of 2020. Please note that despite the lockdown, Embrace HR will continue to operate virtually and are here to address any HR-related enquiries.

Last month, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced two schemes for businesses as we reported in a previous blog, both related to the coronavirus pandemic – the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and the Test and Trace Support Scheme.

Enhancements to the JSS were announced on 22 October and the revised scheme is now called the Job Support Scheme Open (JSS Open or JSSO) for businesses operating and the Job Support Scheme Closed (JSSC) which is intended for those businesses that cannot operate. A comprehensive explanation can be found on the Gov.co.uk website.

In this blog, we look at both the JSS Open and the Test and Trace Support schemes in more detail.

Job Support Scheme Open

The aim of the JSSO is to protect jobs that may otherwise be under threat over the winter due to Covid-19 and to help avoid redundancy where possible. While the furlough scheme saw the government paying the majority of the employees’ wages, even though they were not working, now it will be up to the employer to cover those hours not worked, with some support from the government.

The original Job Support Scheme required employers to pay a third of the wage for hours not worked, while the government also paid a third. However, as of 22 October, the Chancellor announced changes to the scheme, providing further support for businesses already impacted by the pandemic, such as:

  • Reducing the employer contribution for unworked hours to 5%, and
  • Reducing, the minimum hours requirement from 33% to 20%, so those working just one day a week will still be eligible.

The good news is that if your business uses the JSSO, you will still be able to take advantage of the Job Retention Bonus (JRB) if you meet the criteria for eligibility. This gives companies a £1,000 one-off taxable payment for each eligible member of staff that was furloughed and is continuously employed by you until 31 January 2021. The bonus can be claimed between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021.

The JSSO opens on 1 November and runs until April 2021. It is open to any company that has a UK bank account and runs UK PAYE schemes. Important to note is that you do not need to have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) to be eligible.

While the government advice states that your turnover must be lower than it was before Covid-19, it also adds that there will be no financial assessment for SMEs. However, there will be for large companies.

For your employees to be eligible they must have been on your payroll on or before 23 September 2020 and a Real Time Information submission showing payment to the employee to HMRC must have been made on or before that date. This is documented via the link below. They must also work at least 20 per cent of their usual hours.

There is no requirement to be constantly on the scheme – so you could have team members who are on the scheme one week, if the business is quiet, but if trade picks up the following week they may come off it. However, each cycle must be at least seven days.

The figures:

  • The government contribution to each member of staff is capped at £1541.75 per month.
  • Payments will be made in arrears, so the government will pay back their contribution to the employer.
  • Employers are responsible for Class 1 employer NICs or pension contributions (they are not covered by the grant).
  • If your employee was furloughed, their ‘usual wages’, not their furlough pay, will be used in grant calculations.
  • Employers must pay the contracted rate for any hours worked.
  • It appears that the government is not expecting employers to ‘top up’ the money for hours not worked, over and above the 5 per cent they must pay.
  • You cannot make an employee redundant or give notice of redundancy if you are claiming the Job Support Scheme grant for them.
  • Claims can be made from December 2020, through Gov.uk, and the grant will be paid on a monthly basis.

Further detail can be found online at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/928761/JSS_Open_factsheet.pdf

Test and Trace

Via the Test and Trace scheme, people on lower incomes, who are unable to work from home, will be supported by a £500 payment if they have to self-isolate.

More important for employers to know is that a range of fines have been implemented for those breaching self-isolation rules – and stopping others from self-isolating. This means that employers who insist on staff coming into the workplace when they are required to self-isolate, or threaten them with redundancy, could be liable to fines of anywhere between £1,000 and £10,000.

Please also be aware that NHS Test and Trace call handlers will be in regular contact with self-isolating people and will escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to local authorities and local police.

In this instance, your employees will be responsible for claiming the Test and Trace support from their local authority directly.

This scheme came into effect from 28 September 2020.

If you would like to discuss the above in more detail, and/or the impact on your business, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Work at home image: pexels-vlada-karpovich

Some companies have just got staff back into the office and now they’re heading back home again. What are the employers’ responsibilities?

In the wake of a second wave of Covid-19, on 22 September 2020, the Prime Minister asked for office workers to once again work from home if they were able to. Unlike the lockdown earlier in the year where people were told to stay home unless they were key workers, this latest instruction allows those working in retail, construction and hospitality, for example, to attend their workplace.

It is also only guidance, so while earlier in the year (until 1 June), it was illegal to go into work unless you came under the key worker categories, this time around that is not the case. So what does this mean for employers?

Must my staff work at home?

There are many factors to consider when working from home, not least whether an employee is able to work ‘effectively’. If it is not possible for them to work effectively at home, you would be within your rights to ask them to come into the office, according to global HR lawyer Lewis Silkin.

If your staff do continue to come into the office, you must make sure that all health and safety procedures relating to Covid-19 are strictly adhered to, both to ensure the safety of your staff and to make sure that you are not open to complaints from staff who are required to work there.

Communication is key

For some companies, who furloughed their staff, this may be the first time they have had to organise work-from-home employees. If this is the case, there are a number of factors to consider. In all cases communication between management and staff is key.

You will need to check that staff are confident that they can carry out their work at home, safely and effectively. Allow them to be open about any concerns – for example they may have access to sensitive documents, where will they store them at home? There may be aspects of the job that are impossible or time-consuming to do from home. You need to have these types of conversations with them and about whether they need to come into the office or alter aspects of their role. To decide whether someone can work effectively, you may want to devise and make use of a Homeworking Questionnaire that can then be discussed with the individual.

It is important to be supportive of staff working from home. Not only practically but emotionally too. Ensure that there is an open line of communication for them to talk with managers and other staff. This is especially important for staff who are relatively new to the company or their role, and who still need to check in regularly with managers and senior staff. Make use of video conferencing facilities but remember to check that people know the basics of its use and are comfortable using it. Something as simple as knowing where the camera is so that not only the top of the head is displayed, or what the background looks like.

However, the responsibilities do not all fall to the employer. Employees have to take a reasonable amount of care of their health and safety, and let the company know if there are any issues, and if any initial arrangements need to be reviewed.

What if they want to come into the office?

Because the government guidance is just that, it is assumed that employers and staff will have sensible conversations about who should work from home. That said, if an employee is unable to focus at home, does not have the room to work from home, or is experiencing mental health issues from being at home all day – which mean they will be far more effective in the office – you should have a conversation with them to see how you can help. If it is just that they enjoy the company, or like getting out of the house, they should be working from home.

Homeworking policy

If your staff were furloughed during lockdown, this may all be new to the company and you will need to make sure you have got the basics in place. A homeworking policy is vital so that the company policy is clear to everyone.

  • The right space
    You should check that your staff have an acceptable place to work at home – it may be several months before we all back in our offices and the Prime Minister has certainly intimated that he wants those who can, to work at home over the winter months. Perching on a sofa five days a week with a laptop on their lap is not going to be acceptable. Help them carry out a risk assessment of their working space to make it as safe and as comfortable as possible. They may need advice on ergonomics when it comes to chair and desk, as well as lighting and ventilation. Will the organisation contribute to setting up a workspace? Remember that a DSE assessment is required.
  • The right equipment
    Make sure the relevant systems are in place so that your staff have the correct technology – if not a PC, then a laptop, monitor, keyboard and mouse may be required. What software and licenses are needed? Is all work carried out ‘in the cloud’ or is access to a server required? Most people have access to broadband but discussions about connectivity may be needed, depending on roles.
  • Change to contracts
    Consideration should be given to contractual changes may be necessary for employee’s working from home. Here conversations are vital. The CIPD believe that organisations should consider flexible working requests from Day One. It is expected that there will be an increase in employees exercising their Right to Request Flexible Working. To ensure responses are considered appropriately and are reasonable, it’s a good idea to follow the formal procedure as there may need to be a change to contracts.

What about childcare?

Unlike during lockdown, childcare facilities are open, and families can now have a support bubble to help with childcare where necessary. However, there have already been a number of instances where children have been sent home to self-isolate thanks to virus cases within school or nursery. Children who are unwell may also not be allowed back into an education setting until they have had a negative Covid-19 test.

So what happens when parents have young children isolating at home while they are supposed to be working? Some options available are that they: take annual leave; use unpaid time off for dependants, or use parental leave. However, it is unclear how many times this may happen over the next few months, and families may not  be able to afford to take too  much unpaid leave. Make sure that you can have an open conversation with staff about options, such as flexible working.

Further reading

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and subsequent containment measures will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on the economy, businesses and working lives. Organisations worldwide have had to make rapid changes to how they operate, including how and where jobs are carried out, as well as planning for, or returning staff to work safely. Workers in turn, have had to navigate new ways of working, as well as adapt to changing circumstances in their personal lives.

You may be interested in this research by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) with useful insights into: jobs and financial security; workload and work-life balance; health, safety and wellbeing, as well as their findings into employer and line managers’ responses to the pandemic.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you draw up a homeworking policy, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace Work From Home pexels-polina-zimmerman-3747432

The latest advice, announced in a statement by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Tuesday 22 September, is for office workers to work from home wherever possible. For professions where this is not possible, such as care work, people should continue to attend their workplace…

Following a significant rise in the number of positive cases of Coronavirus since August, decisions have been taken to try and slow the spread of the virus once more. Otherwise, warned the Chief Medical Office and Chief Scientific Adviser, the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections next month. As a result, the alert level was raised from 3 to 4 – the second most serious stage, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.

The number of new cases is growing fastest amongst those aged between 20 and 29, although it is still spreading to other more vulnerable age groups. In the last fortnight, hospital admissions across England have more than doubled each day – leading to a bleak forecast for October and November when Covid is likely to spread faster as autumn turns to winter.

Key Takeaways

The PM was clear to reiterate that this was not a general instruction to stay at home, and that schools, colleges and universities can stay open – and just as importantly that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way. The key principles for business are as follows:

  • Office workers are asked to work from home where they can do so
  • In key public services and where homeworking is not possible, such as education, construction and retail, people should continue to attend their workplace
  • From tomorrow, Thursday 23 September, all pubs, bar and restaurants must operate a table service only (except for takeaways obviously) and all hospitality venues must close their doors at 10pm
  • Staff in retail should now wear face coverings, as should users of taxis and private hire vehicles and both staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink
  • Covid guidelines within the retail, leisure and tourism sectors, for example, will become legal obligations

As a result of all of the above, business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be able to re-open on 1 October as planned. Additionally, businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’ at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September).

More detail on this can be found on the Gov.uk website.

Legal Obligations

In addition to the changes to legal obligations within the business arena, mentioned above, the fine of up to £10,000 for those failing to self-isolate will also extend to businesses. And the penalty for failing to wear a face covering or breaking the rule of size will now double to £200 – for a first offence. To enforce the new rules, we will see a greater police presence on the streets backed up by military support where necessary.

There is no recommendation for shielding, other than in those areas in local lockdown. And, unlike the lockdown earlier in the year, the vast majority of businesses can continue to move forwards to support the UK economy.

New Support Packages

On 20 September, the government announced a Test and Trace Support payment scheme to support those people required by law to self-isolate from 28 September. The payment of £500 will be for those people on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 and could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences. This includes business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.

Furthermore, on 24 September, the Chancellor announced a ‘Job Support Scheme’ to help subsidise the wages of people in work, which will start in November. This new scheme will replace that of the previous ‘Furlough Scheme’ and means that the government will pay part of workers’ wages who have lost hours. The worker must complete at least one-third of normal hours and the government and the employer will pay one-third each of the lost hours. Fundamentally, this will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages.

Working Safely

The government produced an extensive set of guidelines for businesses operating in England back in May, covering a variety of different types of industries and work. These guidelines are constantly updated and can again be referred to on the Gov.uk website. Employees can use this guidance to check what their workplace needs to be doing in order to keep people safe.

It’s important for businesses to use the learnings from lockdown to think about the future structure of their organisations and how best to work under the ‘new normal’ – not only for those continuing to work from home, but also considering those peoople’s wellbeing and family responsibilities.

If you have any concerns about the recent announcements and how it might impact your business or organization, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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New rules will ensure that furloughed employees are not ‘short-changed’ if they are made redundant…

The government has introduced new rules that will protect furloughed workers in the event of redundancy.

The changes, introduced on 30 July 2020, will see employees receiving statutory notice pay calculated using their normal wages, not their furloughed rates of pay.

In the case of any future unfair dismissal claims, potential settlement would also be based on their pre-Covid wages, not the furlough rate they have been receiving.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “New laws coming into force will ensure furloughed workers are not short-changed if they are ever made redundant – providing some reassurance for workers and their families during this challenging time.”

The announcement follows on from the Job Retention Bonus plan, which was announced in the Mini Budget in July. The scheme has been designed to help stop mass redundancies as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) winds down. It could cost the government as much as £9bn.

The plan will see each company paid £1,000 for each person that returns to work from furlough.

The bonus will be paid for staff who return to work between November and January – and who are paid at least £520 per month.

Employers encouraged to take on young staff

Also announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Mini Budget was a £2bn ‘kickstart scheme’ aimed at creating jobs for young people – dubbed the ‘new lost generation’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme is part of an emergency package designed to stop mass unemployment as the UK economy is hit by the effects of lockdown.

Young people aged 16-24, on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, will receive six-month work placements funded by the government.

These kickstarter jobs will cover 25 hours’ work each week at the National Minimum Wage (that is, £4.55 for those under 18, £6.45 for young people aged 18 to 20, and £8.20 for the 21-24-year-olds). These payments can be topped up by employers who must offer training and support the young people in finding permanent employment to qualify.

Employers can apply for the scheme, which covers Wales, Scotland and England now, with jobs expected to start in the autumn. The scheme will run until December 2021, with the possibility of an extension. The government has pledged funding for a similar scheme for Northern Ireland.

The scheme could provide hundreds of thousands of jobs as no limit has been placed on numbers.

Apprentices and trainees

The government has also devised a scheme to increase apprenticeships, with employers being paid £2,000 for every apprentice they take on (the sum drops to £1,500 if the apprentice is aged 25 or over).

It has also promised to create 30,000 traineeship opportunities in England for young people aged 16 to 24. These are not paid positions, but instead offer unpaid work experience along with lessons in maths, English, and CV writing. They last from six weeks to six months and companies in England will be given £1,000 for each new work experience place they offer. A £21m fund will offer similar schemes for Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

Companies are required to offer the young people an interview for a job or apprenticeship if available at the end of their traineeship.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate these new government schemes, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace returning to work after lockdown

The world of remote working may well have been an eye-opener to many companies – and their staff – and, as we begin to get back to normal, we take a look at how employers should support their staff as they come back to the ‘real’ world…

For companies who did not furlough their staff, but instead asked them to work at home, the benefits of remote working may have changed some attitudes. After all, remote working can reduce overheads, allow greater flexibility – and it might even have changed the minds of  those managers who believed that presenteeism was the only way to get the best out of their staff.

Now, as some employees begin to come off furlough, come back into the workplace, or work from home, it is time to prepare your company so that it can help manage the next transition for employees.

Risk assessment

Your first task will be to make sure risk assessments are carried out; working out how to facilitate social distancing, cleaning communal areas such as drink preparation areas and toilet facilities, changing rooms and so on.

You will need to put in place different arrangements for meetings and briefings. Perhaps you can hold meetings outside, or use a video conferencing system instead? Many of us have become familiar with Zoom and Microsoft Teams but there are other popular platforms in addition to these.

If your business and workplace require your staff to work closely with each other and/or the public, ensure that the correct PPE is ready and waiting for them when they first arrive.

Hygiene

You must ensure all COVID-19 hygiene protocols are in place. This includes putting wipes, disinfectant and hand sanitisers in prominent areas, removing shared tools and equipment, making sure staff can clean and sanitise their own desks and equipment, and introducing low-or-no-touch door handles.

Staggered shifts

In order to allow room for staff to be in an office or workplace together, you may choose to operate some kind of split shift pattern.

If your workplace is small, staggered shifts can allow your staff to come in at varied times so that you do not have everyone in at once. You may ask people to come in later, especially if they have to use public transport to commute, stagger lunchtimes and home times too. Or you might arrange for them to come into the workplace for part of the week and work from home for the other part – keeping staff in ‘bubbles’ so that they have contact with a smaller number of people.

Remember that staff have rights if their working hours vary from those stated in their contract. Statutory rights cover flexible working, working times and anti-discrimination legislation. You must explain why the changes are happening, how long they are likely to be for and facilitate a forum for employees to discuss any concerns.

Also remember that flexibility clauses in contracts do not mean that changes can be made without consulting with and getting agreement from staff. And, of course, do make sure that working hours and rest breaks are considered within any changes made.

For more information on making a contractual change see the Acas website [ACAS: Changing an employment contract].

You also need to be aware that changing shift patterns that affect those who have childcare responsibilities can result in discrimination claims, so ensure that you are listening to any parents who are juggling childcare while schools are closed.

According to the Prime Minister, parents and guardians who are unable to access childcare, should not be expected to return to the workplace. Boris Johnson said that parents and guardians who can’t go back to work for this reason “must be defended and protected on that basis”.

Communications

Communication will be key as we all return to the new normal. Not knowing details or understanding new regulations can make people nervous, especially if they are already concerned about coming back into the real world.

Make sure you have a business plan that can be shared with staff and which explains when and how employees will go back to work, your strategies to keep everyone safe, extra hygiene and distancing implementations and what special provisions are in place for those staff classed as more vulnerable.

Vulnerable staff

You may well have staff who are classed as vulnerable or highly vulnerable and for the moment need to stay at home – whether they are working or furloughed. Employees who are shielding will no longer be able to receive Statutory Sick Pay after 1 August 2020, so you need to contact them and discuss their plans for returning to work safely. They may be very anxious, and employers should be open to listening to their concerns.

When planning their return to the workplace, you must be particularly stringent in ensuring that social distancing is adhered to and around them. Other options are to let them work from home or continue to be furloughed.

What about staff who are afraid to go back to work? 

Employees may have different reasons why they are worried about going back into the workplace and we should not underestimate the effect of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing. They may have their own health worries or be afraid for the more vulnerable members of their family. Others with mental health issues or disabilities such as autism may also find it hard to make the change in their working routine. It is important that staff have an opportunity to be listened to, and to express their concerns without fear of discrimination or job loss. As we have discussed before, encouraging willing staff to train as mental health first aiders is going to be even more important now.

If your staff are in a public-facing role, and are concerned for their safety, they do have the right to not come into work but can’t expect to get paid. However, employment law says that employees are legally allowed to walk off the job if they fear they are under threat from “serious and imminent” danger.

What if your staff do not want to return yet or ever?

According to a report by Okta among 6,000 office workers across Europe, only a quarter of UK workers wanted to go back to work full-time [ZDNet: Three quarters of workers don’t want to go back to the office full-time 20/05/2020]. Lockdown has opened their eyes to the benefits of flexible and remote working, and the way they view their working life may never be the same again.

So you need to be prepared for staff who want to work from home permanently, divide their time between home and office, or who want to switch to a part-time role.

You might go one step further and emulate Twitter, which told its staff that they don’t ever have to go back to the office if they don’t want to and can continue to work remotely!

 

It is important to note that the information and recommendations may not be appropriate for all sectors, such as the care industry for instance.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace HR furlough scheme

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced details of the extension of the furlough scheme – here we round up the key points for HR professionals…

Following the original furlough announcement at the beginning of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, details have now been released for the extension of the scheme, which will run until the end of October 2020.

We are pleased to see, as we suggested recently that from July it will be possible to bring staff back to work part time, so that they are partly furloughed and partly employed. This will be vital to help companies keep things moving and to ensure that important preparation, maintenance and admin work is done.

June continues as before, but changes start from July, when furloughed employees can work part time, and then we see the scheme tapering off, with more of the burden of paying salaries returning to the employer.

Here’s our month by month guide

June

The government will continue to pay 80% of furloughed workers wages for this month. This is capped at £2,500, plus employer pension contributions and national insurance.

Your company does not have to pay out anything, although some businesses are topping up the 20% of their employees’ salaries.

This is the last month when you can furlough an employee – the cut-off date is 10 June. The scheme is closing on 30 June to new applications, but you must show that your member of staff has been furloughed for three weeks up until that date, so ensure to keep clear records.

July

The government will continue to pay 80% for wages as detailed above.

Companies will also be able to start bringing back employees on a part-time basis. In this case, the company will pay them for the hours they work (including pension and national insurance contributions), while the government will continue to pay 80% for the furloughed hours. The capped figures will apply in proportion to the hours not worked.

August

While the government still pays 80% of wages, the burden for pension and employer national insurance payments reverts back to the employer.

September

This month, the government will drop its percentage payment to 70% of salaries, with a cap of £2,190. Your company must pay the extra 10%, along with pension and national insurance contributions.

October

This month sees the scheme winding up. The government payment drops again, to 60% with a cap of £1,875. So, your business will need to make up the extra 20% plus pension and national insurance.

 

To apply for the furlough scheme for your company, visit the gov.uk website.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.