Embrace HR furlough scheme
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The extended furlough scheme: who can claim?

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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Latest Government Help for Businesses Explained

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.

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Back to Work at Home

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.

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Work from Home – Latest Advice from the Prime Minister

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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Redundancy guarantee for furloughed workers

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.

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The new way to work – life 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.

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Key Points of Furlough Scheme Extension

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.

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Returning to Work during COVID-19 – Things to Consider

As the government encourages construction and manufacturing businesses to get staff back to work unless they can work at home, we take a look at what SMEs need to consider to ensure their staff are kept safe…

The current message from the government is now for businesses to start getting back to work if they possibly can. And with a clearer idea of how long the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is to go on for, and a plan for getting people gradually back to work in place, now’s the time to look at how to manage staff back.

For now, anyone who can work from home should do so, but the government is suggesting that other employees get back to work by June where appropriate. The CIPD has said that employers should meet the requirement of a three-point checklist before bringing staff back to work. These are as follows:

  • Firstly, that it is essential for employees to be present in the workplace
  • Secondly, that it is safe for them to be there
  • And thirdly, that both employers and workers agree that they should come back into the workplace.

The workspace

The key questions to pose before your office staff return to work are:

  • Can they still work from home?
  • When they do come back to work how will that be achieved to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk and spread of infection?

You must consider how staff can safely distance from each other, not just when sat at a desk, but when walking around the office, using the toilet and drinks areas. You need to work out safe walking routes around the workspace and, if space is tight, consider splitting shifts or alternating days so that you don’t have all of the staff in at all times. Screens should only be used if you have no more space to distance employees, and meetings should be avoided. If they must take place, keep everyone distanced or take it outside if possible. Hot desking is also to be avoided. If someone has to use another desk, computers and phone, or other equipment, these should be thoroughly cleaned between users.

Changing the way you work

Perhaps this whole situation has made you realise that your staff can work from home. Maybe you don’t need an office or can utilise a smaller space. Now is a good time to consider how your business might look in the future. Start looking at the implications of people working full time from home – what do you need to do to make this happen – for instance:

  • Do you need a more robust IT provision in place?
  • What extra insurance cover will you need?
  • Have you been using Microsoft Teams or other collaborative software? Can this work in the future? If not, consider what sort of software and systems you need to make the shift in order to work more effectively and efficiently.

Getting to work

The message is that the youngest school children and those in Year 6 (age 10-11) will go back to school first. For some of your staff this will mean that they have children who cannot be left at home alone. Remember that even if your staff have slightly older children, they may have needs that mean they cannot be left at home all day either. Also, staff who need to use public transport may be unwilling to do so. In both cases, you need to have an open discussion with them about what the alternatives are:

  • Can they continue to work from home?
  • Can they work different hours to avoid going on busy transport systems, or work around a partner’s work hours to enable childcare?

Keeping safe

Government guidance says that all employers should be carrying out risk assessments on returning to work, consulting both with their workers and trade unions where applicable. If you employ more than 50 people you will be expected to publish the risk assessment on your company website.

To keep any contact to a minimum, staggered shifts and keeping staff in the same teams are good ways to minimise the number of people with whom they come into contact.

On construction sites, staggered arrival times and multiple entrances are suggested, along with screens to separate workers. Where social distancing is not possible, workers should work back to back or side by side. Swapping of tools should be avoided to lessen the risk of contamination.

In addition, in factories, plants and warehouses, employers should look at how people can work away from each other, in order to maintain the required social distancing, and to stagger the times and locations of breaks.

Working in other people’s homes

If your staff work in people’s homes, such as carers and support workers, or even nurses, they should discuss how social distancing will be achieved. However, working with people means often being close to them. They may require personal care which means that social distancing is not possible. There are other areas to consider. Recommendations can be to leave all internal doors open to minimise touching door handles; restricting the number of people working in normal busy areas such as kitchens and bathrooms; and the mantra of ‘wash hands on arrival and regularly throughout’ cannot be repeated enough. And, of course, it should go without saying that everyone – whether in the home or workplace – should try and minimise the spread of infection.

Restaurants

Keep kitchen access limited to essential staff to minimise any contact. If the kitchen is large enough, install screens to separate workers and only allow one person to enter walk-in freezers and pantries at one time.

Shops

Shops should limit customers in the premises to maintain social distance, use contactless payment where possible and reduce customer service to enable the safety for staff.

Vehicles

If your staff use the company’s vehicles, they should be provided with hand sanitiser and cleaning products. Keep staff in teams so that contact is minimised and supply screens to keep them separate if possible. Contact for deliveries should be kept to a minimum, using online payment and pre-arranging for goods to be dropped off in a safe and secure area.

 

You can read the full government guidance on working safely here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you with work from home contracts, risk assessments, staff safety, the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 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 blog
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What? When? Why? Where? How?

Innovation happens in times of crises

Think World Wars. Diseases. Catastophes brought on by climate change. It is no different for us today living in the COVID-19 situation. We have been in lockdown. We are now considering a return to normal life. A life that will never be as ‘normal’ as that which we left behind some months ago.

In the UK, as in other places across the globe, we have to think about what normality is for us. In particular, this blog is about some questions to consider, and my humble opinion, about getting back to normality in the workplace during and after COVID-19. But, what is normality in the workplace? For each workplace, in my opinion, it will be different. How will your workplace differ? What are your views, as the country discusses return to work?

One such innovation is that of a local pub in our area who started a drive-through bbq service. I only found out about it after the date, but I will be watching out for the next bbq! Another is the ‘big boys’ working with the ‘little boys’ – M&S a well-known British organisation, met up with Deliveroo, part of the gig economy delivery service.

What?

What are you going to do now that your workforce will be able to return to work “tomorrow” as our erstwhile Prime Minister indicated in his statement last night.

Work being your normal place of work. Your office. Your workspace.

What does your organisation look like today?

What will it look like tomorrow after COVID-19?

When?

When is this going to happen?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement last night intimated that it will be sooner rather than later. In fact, he said the word “tomorrow” that being today, Monday 11 May.

How many of us are ready for a return today?

How practical is it?

Where will your people return?

How will you transition back to work?

So many questions. So many questions.

Why?

Now that most organisations have experienced first-hand that working remotely, from home, has advantages, will this become the norm? It is not for everyone, but everyone can be trained to work remotely. They have had to do so very quickly.

Not all organisations can work remotely. Think of our carers, doctors and nurses in the NHS as well as other Key Workers. Think of the organisations that need hands-on care.

BUT, even now we have virtual appointments with our doctors; we have a helpline to the NHS where we describe our symptoms and we are provided with a solution!

It is efficient, if not more so than being in an office.

Is it time to ask – why haven’t you considered this form of working before? 

Presenteeism has been a word bandied about often in the workplace. By working remotely, work has to be outcome-based. That is important.

What have you done today that has been productive?

Why have you not been able to complete that in the time that you have available?

Does it matter where you work? Does it matter when you work?

Not really. Provided you get the job done, in the time that it is needed to be done. And you are available for your customers when they need assistance.

Do you realise that some of your workforce may not be back at work? 

Why?

  • They may have childcare responsibilities and do not want to send their children to school until the COVID-19 situation is clear.
  • They may have experienced working in a different way, and decide that it is what they want to continue to do.
  • They may be considering another option, to become self-employed, or to take up a new job.

You may decide that you don’t need the same workforce that you had pre-COVID-19. You may diversify. You may find that your product is not viable, but you have something different to offer.

Where?

Where will you meet to discuss the way forward with your employees? So often it is your employees who will have suggestions and ideas to help you along.

Video conference, training videos, webinairs have been available for many years. But, they have now come into their own. They are growing businesses. Zoom, Skype, Teams, watching theatre productions from your home, as has been shown in The Shows Must Go On based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions and The National Theatre, as well as virtual visits to museums are different ways of working.

Are these the workplaces of the future?

This is how new employment begins.

A catastrophe. A solution.

Think – Wars. Foot and Mouth Outbreaks. Disease.

How?

How will we get back to ‘normal’ work?

It’s the practical things to consider.

What is legal?

What is best business and HR practice and what the government considers is necessary.

How can these be dealt with in practical terms?

It is not simply a matter of come in and start working.

We have to consider whether work spaces need deep cleaning.

How many of us can be in the workspace at the same time.

How do we employ social distancing?

What happens when you feel ill? A headache? A cold? Coughing?

Innovations

Innovations happen in times of crises.

Whilst we have been in lockdown, we have seen many innovations and different ways of working.

  • Supermarkets using different methods for shopping. Different timings for shopping for vulnerable people or older people. ‘One way’ human traffic systems.
  • A local pub in my area, last week, offered a ‘drive through bbq’. You HAD to place your order beforehand, you were given a drive-through time to collect your burger (and they looked like very good burgers even if I don’t eat meat – there was a veggie option too).
  • The gig economy boomed. The self-employed delivery company, Deliveroo, came into it’s own. How fabulous to see the big organisations such as M&S having to link up with the smaller self-employed person.
  • I watched a programme on TV on Sunday – farmers supplying customers direct with their vegetables, rather than through a supermarket.
  • Bakers supplying customers direct with their flour, because the wholesalers do not have packaging to make up the smaller amounts required by the ordinary person.
  • Workplaces have increased sanitiser stations.

Social distancing means putting in place ways and means for employees to be able to do so on an everyday level.

Are we moving back to buying local?

We have always known that the economy of the country depends on the small business.

Now is the time to show how we support our small businesses.

 

What are your views, as the country discusses the pros and cons of returning to work, and how we do so.


You may like to read our previous articles relating to COVID-19

If you would like to discuss any employment matters further and find out how we could help you  please contact us Embrace HR Limited. Phone us or contact us 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.