Embrace HR Aylesbury Right To Work

As part of its bid to clamp down on illegal workers, the government has made changes to the way in which migrants can prove their right to work in the UK, which came into force this month…

Right to Work

A reminder to employers that the changes in the way migrants can prove their right to work came into effect on 6 April 2022.

The ‘prevention of illegal working’ system is going to undergo considerable change. The Home Office’s intent to create an immigration system where visa holders, by and large, demonstrate their status via ‘digital’ immigration status – rather than physical documents – and the growth in home working, has necessitated significant changes to how employers carry out right to work checks.

There are two types of right to work checks: an online check and a manual check. The type of check that you are required to carry out as an employer depends on the status of the job applicant. The types of documents which are acceptable as evidence of right to work are contained within List A and List B, detailed in the Employers’ Right to Work Checklist.

  • List A has the documents that provide an ongoing right to work, for instance those provided by British nationals or those who have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
  • List B is split into two groups of documents which provide a temporary right to work:
    • List B Group 1 includes the documents providing temporary visa permission which must be checked before the start of employment and again before expiry.
    • List B Group 2 includes those individuals who cannot produce their original documents. For instance, they have an outstanding application or appeal with the Home Office.

Within the guidance, Annex F has been added to support employers seeking guidance on what documentation Ukrainian nationals will need to prove their right to work. More on this below.

The recent changes apply to any job applicants who hold either a Biometric Residence Card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or Frontier Worker Permit (FWP).

The Home Office announced these changes at the end of last year, and this now means that anyone holding the documents mentioned is only able to evidence their right to work using the Home Office online service.

This also means that employers can no longer accept or check a physical BRP, BRC or FWP as valid proof of right to work. This applies even if it shows a later expiry date.

Please note that it is not necessary for you to retrospectively check the status of BRC or BRP holders who you employed up to and including 5 April 2022. For these members of staff, as long as the initial checks were undertaken in line with the guidance that applied at the time the check was made, employers will not be liable to any penalties.

Employment of Ukrainian nationals

In response to the evolving conflict in Ukraine, the Home Office has introduced two visa schemes to support Ukrainian nationals, and their family members, to come to the UK.

Those who are granted a visa under these schemes are able to work, rent a home, and access public services, such as medical treatment and education.

Both schemes are free and do not include salary or language requirements but do have certain conditions which will need to be met.

  • Ukraine Family Scheme – this scheme allows both immediate and extended family members of British Nationals and people already settled in the UK to come into the UK.
  • Homes for Ukraine Scheme – this second scheme enables Ukrainian Nationals to be sponsored by UK residents.

All Ukrainian nationals arriving under the above schemes should obtain a BRP and employers are urged to clarify the requirements, which differ subject to whether the individual has a valid Ukrainian Passport or not. Any prospective employee who is a Ukrainian national and not applied for permission to stay in the UK, will not have a right to work. This means you should not employ them until this has been regularised.

What are right to work checks?

As an employer you must check that any job applicants have lawful immigration status in the UK before entering into employment. If you do not carry out these checks, you could be liable for a civil penalty.

An online right to work check is required for all BRC, BRP and FWP holders from 6 April 2022, as well as anyone who only holds digital proof of their immigration status in the UK. To carry out these checks you need the applicant’s date of birth and their share code, which they will have obtained online.

Please note that applicants from the UK still need to submit their paper documents to an employer in the usual way.

You can download a full guide to employer’s right to work checks at GOV.UK: An employers  guide to  right to work checks.

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 Aylesbury staff payment changes

As 1 April gets closer, make sure you are up to date with the changes in minimum wage rates and other statutory payments for the tax year 2022/2023…

It is not long until April, and of course for anyone involved in HR or employing people, knowing the annual change in rates for the National Living Wage and other statutory payments is vital. Below we outline what you need to know:

National Living Wage

From 1 April 2022, the National Living Wage (NLW) will increase from £8.91 per hour to £9.50. This is more than twice the 3.1% cost of living and means that anyone aged 23 or over should receive a pay rise of 6.6%.

For younger workers the rates are different but they will still see a pay rise. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is set to increase from £8.36 an hour to £9.18 an hour for workers aged 21 and 22.

The rate rises from £6.56 to £6.83 for anyone aged 18 to 20, while under 18s will see their Minimum Wage increase from £4.62 to £4.81.

The apprentice rate rises from £4.30 to £4.81.

The above is demonstrated here in a tabular format from Gov.uk:

GOV.UK NLW and NMW rates 2022-23

National Insurance Contributions

From 6 April 2022, there will be a 1.25% increase in National Insurance Contributions. This applies to all working adults in the UK and is a rate that will also be matched by employers.

This increase will be used to help fund the NHS, health and social care.

Be aware that from April 2023, this 1.25% will need to be itemised separately on payslips under ‘Health and Social Care Levy’.

Statutory Pay for Parents 

From 3 April 2022, Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) after the standard six weeks of 90% of pay is £156.66 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. Note the same rate also applies to Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay.

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.

Following a major consultation this summer, the Care Quality Commission has launched a new strategy for regulating healthcare and the social care industry…

Healthcare Regulation by the CQC

A new strategy has been launched by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which aims to have a positive effect on patient care and ‘regulating in a targeted way’.

The strategy has been pushed ahead by the pandemic, with digital systems being used more than ever, and is the result of extensive consultation with social care and health providers as well as the public, charities and other relevant organisations.

The new strategy has four main pillars:

  1. People and communities – the aim is for the regulation to be driven by people’s needs and experiences, concentrating on what is important to them as they use and access services
  2. Smarter regulation – the plan is to have a more dynamic and flexible approach to regulation, with up-to-date and high-quality information and ratings, and easier ways of working with CQC
  3. Safety through learning – safety will be an absolute key focus. The culture across health and care will ensure that people can speak up, and so share opportunities for learning and improvement opportunities
  4. Accelerating improvement – health and care services, along with local systems, will be encouraged to access support in order to help them improve quality of care where it’s needed most.

Local health and care systems will also be assessed differently and the CQC will alter how it addresses local challenges.

Central to the above four cores are two key ambitions:

  1. Assessing local systems – offering the public independent assurance about the quality of care within their area
  2. Tackling inequalities in health and care – pushing for equality of access, experiences, and outcomes from services.

The CQC also points out that in order to be effective and to help improve the quality of care, people’s feedback and experiences is going to be vital, and it seems that we will see more ways developed for the CQC to gather views from a broader range of people, including those working in health and social care, and improve how this information is recorded and used.

It will also mean that clients, their families and advocates will be able to easily offer feedback about their care and learn how this is used to inform regulation.

Another key part of the strategy is going to look at health and care services together, evaluating how they work with each other in partnership to provide a rounded service to the people who need them.

Any organisations offering complex care must be registered with the CQC – further details can be found at www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/registration/what-registration.

Requirements for Case Managers or HR Managers

So, as Case Managers or HR Managers within the care arena, what will you need to consider?

  1. The CQC has said: “It’s time to prioritise safety: creating strong safety cultures, focusing on learning, improving expertise, listening and acting on people’s experiences, and taking clear and proactive action when safety doesn’t improve.’’ Looking at the culture within your own organisation, and ensuring that there are clear, safe and transparent ways for your workers to highlight any concerns, without fear of reprisal or disadvantage is going to be more important than ever
  2. Be aware that while on-site inspections will still be an important part of regulation, there will be a more flexible, targeted approach (rather than a set schedule of inspections). A range of methods, tools, and techniques will be used to assess the quality of your organisation’s services
  3. Know that any issues highlighted will be addressed quickly, so ensure that your teams and managers are aware that they will need to be flexible in order to make improvements
  4. Plan to work with managers to ensure the organisation is prepared for the new regulatory regime. In-depth assessments should be carried out sooner rather than later, in order to identify areas that need improvement
  5. Always consider the needs of your care workers. Karolina Gerlich, CEO at The Care Workers’ Charity, has expressed concern that the new CQC strategy doesn’t talk more about the workforce, their needs and wellbeing – especially following the pandemic. She stated that even before Covid-19, “care workers were burnt out and underappreciated, and now more than ever, their wellbeing must be prioritised’’. Something HR Managers can certainly focus on.

Some ways that we recommend to address point 5 of the above could be: regular 1-2-1’s and reviews – ensuring notes are kept of meetings concerning conduct or capability in order to target training and ongoing support. These actions will help address wellbeing or mental health concerns as it provides care staff an opportunity to discuss issues that may be affecting performance. And finally, use software to ensure personal information is up to date and kept secure.

What is the CQC?

The Care Quality Commission is the body that acts as an independent regulator for health and adult social care in England. Its job is to ensure the safe and effective delivery of health and social care services – focusing on compassion, high-quality care and constant improvement.

What is complex care?

Complex care involves specialist support for a client who has a long term or chronic health condition. The extra support enables them to manage everyday activities and their symptoms in order to achieve a high quality of life and as much independence as possible.

If you would like to discuss this subject further or need assistance to ensure you meet the new regulations, 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 changes in 2021

There has been a lot to take in over the past 10 months, with furlough schemes and lockdown laws, but before you raise a glass to the new year, take a moment to make a note of these changes…

It has been a tough year for many of us in the business world, and it is no surprise that the UK economy has shrunk by 11.3 per cent, and that it is forecast to take until 2022 to get back to the level it was at before Covid-19.

However, we will all move forward, and as we do so, we should make a note of some of the upcoming changes that will affect anyone involved in the management of HR.

National Living Wage

The first is that the National Living Wage (NLW – previously the national minimum wage) is set to go up in April. For staff aged 16 and 17 it will become £4.62 an hour and for those aged 23-plus it will be £8.91. See the table for full details:

Age Current rate 2021 rate Percentage increase
20-21 £8.20 £8.36 2%
18-20 £6.45 £6.56 1.7%
16-17 £4.55 £4.62 1.5%
Apprentice £4.15 £4.30 3.6%

End of Furlough Scheme

STOP PRESS 17/12/20: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme for one month until the end of April 2021.

The furlough scheme is set to end in March, so as you come back after the new year, plans around reintegrating staff, reviewing job descriptions and so on will need to be confirmed.

The CIPD is calling for the government to extend the scheme once more beyond the end date of 31 March 2021 [CIPD: CIPD calls on Chancellor to extend furlough scheme to the end of June to protect jobs 13/12/2020]. The independent professional body has asked that support should be gradually phased out, allowing companies some stability while the vaccination scheme is rolled out. It has said that the government should keep its contributions at 80 per cent for February and March, dropping them gradually through April, May and June.

As and when we hear more on this, we will update you.

Flexible Recruitment

If this year has shown anything, it is that many jobs can be done remotely, offering staff a better work life balance by dropping commuting time and offering the chance to work around family and caring commitments. Many companies have realised that they can also tap into a wider selection of candidates by taking their pick from potential employees located outside of commuting distance.

Now is a good time to ensure that you have policies in place for recruiting for remote-based jobs, if that is what you will do going forward, and reviewing your remote working policies around working hours, IT and security – if you didn’t do so during the first lockdown.

You might also like to review our previous blog on the subject of flexible working.

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.

Embrace Immigration pexels-taryn-elliott-5405596

As we head towards the end of 2020 and the UK finally leaves the EU, this will also mean the end of free movement to the UK. The UK Government is introducing a new points-based immigration system which will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. This change comes into effect on the 1st January 2021.

Immigration Guidelines

The main work route into the UK will be via the Skilled Worker route [GOV.UK: The UK’s points-based immigration system: an introduction for employers 19/11/2020] which includes some of the below:

  • Intra-Company Transfers (including Graduates Trainees)
  • International Students & Graduates (including Graduate Immigration Route)
  • Health and Care Visa (to apply for the Health and Care Visa, the individual must be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional. They need to have a job offer from the NHS (or equivalent body) and the employer must be a licensed sponsor.)

From 1st January 2021 the Skilled Worker route replaces the current T2 General Visa and some of the rules have been relaxed:

  • Required skill level is now A-level equivalent.
  • Reduced salary threshold.
  • Resident Labour Market test is scrapped.

Under the new points-based immigration system, anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. A total of 70 points are required, made up of mandatory points and some points which are tradeable. All applicants must:

  • be applying for a job ‘at appropriate skill level’,
  • speak English,
  • and have a job offer from an approved sponsor.

In addition, they must have a salary offer which is competitive for the job they are applying for.

A sponsorship requirement will apply to the Skilled Worker route, to the Health and Care Visa and to the student route, as well as to some specialised worker routes. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens who come on these routes. Although specific requirements vary by route, for most work routes, sponsors must undergo checks to demonstrate they are a genuine business, are solvent, and that the roles they wish to recruit into are credible and meet the salary and skills requirements (if applicable). Sponsors must also pay a licence fee (and Immigration Skills Charge, where required.)

Right to Work (RTW)

Employers may continue with current RTW checks for EU citizens up to 30 June 2021, eg, a passport can still be accepted as the only RTW document up to this date. After this date, it will be necessary for the employee to show their settled status documentation/visa.

Irish citizens will continue to prove their right to work in the UK as they do currently.

All passports must be valid for at least 6 months.

Driving Post EU Exit

Employees who are required to drive for work may have to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Existing EU Citizens

EU citizens currently working the UK must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to continue working in the UK. The deadline is 30 June 2021. If, after the 30 June 2021 they have not applied for a visa then their continued employment will be unlawful.

The employee must take personal responsibility if the wish to continue working in the UK and, if they do not have settled status (or a visa) by the 30 June 2021 deadline, then their employment will be unlawful, and the employer will be fined if they continue working.

Required Actions for Employers & Case Managers

There are a number of actions required of the employer and/or case manager:

  • Review your existing workforce to identify who will be required to apply to the EU settlement scheme and if they wish to continue working in the UK.
  • The Employer cannot force an employee to apply.
  • It is reasonable for the Employer to have dialogue with the employee to enquire what their intentions are and to request that they keep the Employer informed of progress of their application under the settled status scheme (or their visa application).
  • The Employer will be required to take a copy of the employee’s new settled status documentation or visa and send a copy to the HR provider.

Immigration and EU Settlement HR Support

At Embrace HR we can assist with this process by providing the employer with a list of employees who, as per our records are currently EU citizens, in order that they may fulfil their obligations as set out above. We will record the information provided to us from the employer/employee.

Furthermore, if we do not receive the required evidence from the employer or the employee by 30 June 2021, we will contact the employer to inform them that the employee, according to our records, may be working unlawfully, and that employment may need to be terminated.

Employers and employees are welcome to contact Embrace HR Limited with any questions relating these new immigration rules.

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.

Embrace HR Aylesbury Returning to Work during Covid pexels-polina-zimmerman-4008565

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.

Woman sitting on luggage flexible furlough Embrace HR

With so many companies furloughing their staff so quickly, there is now some essential work that needs doing – some flexibility would help companies, especially SMEs, to keep afloat…

With two-thirds of British companies using the furlough scheme during the COVID-19 crisis, it is no surprise that important tasks that should have been done before everyone left the office have been missed. It all happened so quickly that, especially for SMEs, who do not have a lot of manpower, many important back-ups were not put into place.

The problem is that once an employee has been furloughed, they are not supposed to do ANY work whatsoever. However, in real life, business cannot just come to a full stop like that, and there is work still to be done. For example, out-of-office replies need to be set up on emails, calls and emails need to be redirected, websites and social media need updating, and clients need to be contacted. Loyal and conscientious staff may want to ‘volunteer’ to undertake these roles so that things don’t fall through the cracks, and in the hope that there will be a business for them to go back to when this is all over. However, under the current rules, this is not possible.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) is calling for increased flexibility within the scheme, so furloughed employees can work reduced hours for their existing employer where possible.

Flexible furlough

It is in these situations where we at Embrace HR would support a scheme that allowed for a more flexible furlough scheme – one where employees were 50 per cent furloughed and 50 per cent employed, for example. We appreciate that there would be some additional administration required for this to work, but as the situation continues we believe it would be more realistic and give smaller businesses more opportunity to help keep their companies afloat until we can all get back to work. It would also help employees to keep abreast of the business and client requirements and would enable them to ease back into the workplace. Many people have had to adjust to working remotely, and those with children have had the added responsibility of having to find time to school them. This has caused changes to working in a ‘traditional’ office, and daily commuting.

“Flexible Furlough will, in my opinion, go some way to supporting both businesses as well as employees”, said Embrace HR Director Cecily Lalloo.

Holiday allowance

Something that has been updated within the scheme is the Government’s guidance about annual leave during the furlough period. The new guidance will make it easier for employers to plan ahead. It states says that employees will still accrue their holiday allowance while on furlough. The government has relaxed the regulations and now permit 4.6 weeks’ holiday to be carried over to the next two years.

Something else that has been made clear is that staff can take holiday during the furlough period. This would mean that they would be paid 100 per cent of their usual renumeration salary. The employer can still claim 80 per cent of the holiday pay from the Government but would have to top up the other 20 per cent.

We have been lucky that the weather in the UK has been glorious since lockdown began, and many people may feel like they are on holiday anyway. But the real concern is that once people go back to work, they may still want to take their holiday time. Many staff will not have claimed any holiday during the first part of the year. If a small company has five employees, with the statutory paid holiday entitlement of 5.6 weeks (in normal circumstances), they will be expecting to take a total of 140 days’ holiday between the end of lockdown and the end of the year. This is quite a lot of time out of a small business.

For smaller companies, especially those struggling to recover, this may be difficult to manage and is going to be unsustainable, particularly if they have to pay for temporary or freelance cover when staff take holidays. It is a good idea for business owners and managers to consider how they will manage holidays, and to talk to their people.

Rolling over holiday allowance

At the end of March, the Government announced that staff who did not take all of their annual leave – because it was not practical for them to do so – because of the virus, would be allowed to carry it over into the next two years. This applies to most businesses with a few exceptions.

You may like to read our previous article on furloughing staff – good news as furlough deadline is extended.

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: 07767 308717 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.

Embrace HR Aylesbury Furlough Deadline Extended pexels-anna-shvets-3902881

Your newest employees may now be eligible for furlough, after the deadline was extended to 19 March 2020…

If you have new employees who were not initially eligible under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), now’s the time to take another look, as the rules have just been revised. The eligibility date for furlough has now been extended to 19 March 2020, which means tens of thousands of people who thought they had missed out will now be eligible.

The furlough scheme is designed to help companies struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. If you furlough staff, they remain employed by you but mustn’t actually work. The government will repay employers 80% of an employee’s salary (up to £2,500 a month) and it is up to the employer if they top up the pay to 100%.

However, it is not enough for a member of staff to have been employed by your company by that date. In order for your employee to be eligible you must have made a payroll notification to HMRC on or before 19 March.

If any staff were employed on 28 February, but were made redundant before 19 March, they can also qualify for the scheme if you choose to re-employ them and then put them on furlough. It is expected that a quarter of UK workers – that’s more than 9 million people – will be furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a  survey published by the British Chamber of Commerce, (BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker dated 15 April 2020) two-thirds of British companies have used the scheme, and a third of companies have 75% of their staff on furlough.

Do’s and don’ts of furloughing

Here is a quick reminder of the things to consider if you are furloughing staff:

  • You must instruct your employee in writing that they are to cease all work in order to be eligible under the scheme.
  • We asked Embrace HR’s employment law solicitor IBB about the rules for rotating furloughed employees. They told us that it is allowed ‘provided that the employees are furloughed for a minimum of three weeks at a time’.
  • Anyone working in a full time, PAYE job – even if on a zero hours contract – is eligible.
  • The grants to businesses are due to be paid out some time in April and will be backdated to 1 March.
  • If staff are self-isolating, they must receive Statutory Sick Pay. They can then be furloughed when they return to work. However, those who are shielding due to health conditions can be furloughed.
  • If you have staff who earn variable pay due to zero hours or flexible working contracts, the 80% will be calculated one of three ways: using figures from the same month in 2019, average monthly earnings for the 2019/2020 tax year, or an average of monthly salary since they started work. The highest figure will be used.

You might like to read our other blogs on the matter of Coronavirus:

Please contact us for more advice on the furlough scheme. To help businesses during the pandemic, we are pleased to be able to provide, free of charge, a template document for notifying your staff about the furlough scheme.

If you would like to request a copy of the free template or to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you comply with new laws, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 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.