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

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

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

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

Best practice

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

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

Vaccine concerns

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

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 Withdrawn 11/1/21].

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

Legal viewpoint

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

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

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

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

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

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

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

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

Embrace HR furlough scheme

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

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

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

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

How does it work?

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

Who can be furloughed?

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

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

How many employees can I claim for?

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

What about staff on maternity leave?

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

I employ an apprentice, can they be furloughed?

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

I made my employee redundant…

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

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

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

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

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

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

Embrace HR help for businesses pexels-daria-shevtsova-2825936

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

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

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

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

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

Job Support Scheme Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The figures:

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

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

Test and Trace

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

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

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

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

This scheme came into effect from 28 September 2020.

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

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

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

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

Work at home image: pexels-vlada-karpovich

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

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

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

Must my staff work at home?

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

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

Communication is key

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

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

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

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

What if they want to come into the office?

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

Homeworking policy

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

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

What about childcare?

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

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

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

Embrace Work From Home pexels-polina-zimmerman-3747432

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

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

Legal Obligations

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

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

New Support Packages

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

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

Working Safely

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

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

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

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employers encouraged to take on young staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apprentices and trainees

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

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

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

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

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

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

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

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.

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How are you doing today?

Another weekend over. Is Nature / the Good Lord balancing things for us? In spite of the Coronavirus pandemic, hasn’t it been a wonderful weekend – weatherwise – for us in SW England?

I do hope this week will not present too many challenges to you and that you find support in everything you do.

Remote working 

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Following government guidelines, we are all working from our homes; but are carrying on with business as usual.

A VERY BIG THANK YOU to Maria, Deana and Bridgette, who are terrific in keeping the wheels turning.

Our office telephone has been placed on voicemail but we will pick up messages. Communication, however, is best by email, especially if it is urgent. Please email us at admin@embracehr.co.uk. 

ID Cards  

We have been issuing our client’s staff with the necessary ID required for them to be identified as Key Workers.

Please contact us if you would like more information.

Furlough Leave 

In these unprecedented and difficult times, the government has introduced a new scheme to help prevent redundancies called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). I have mentioned it in earlier blogs. But there has been a lot to take in so I don’t apologies for mentioning it again here.

The scheme is for businesses who do not have any work for their employees due to the Coronavirus situation. The scheme pays for 80% of the employees wages while they are not working. The scheme is currently running from 1 March to 31st May 2020. It is unknown at this time if the scheme will be extended. 

Legally, the employee will be placed on Furlough Leave which must be for a minimum of 3 weeks. Whilst on Furlough Leave the employee will remain employed by the company but must not work for their employer. They will accrue annual leave as usual.    

FAQs

These are some of the frequently asked questions we have received over the last few weeks:  

Can I Furlough my pregnant employee?  

If you have an employee who is pregnant and is due to go on maternity leave soon, it is possible to place them on Furlough Leave before they go. However, once they start maternity leave they will no longer be on Furlough Leave. 

Can I Furlough an employee returning from maternity leave?  

If you have an employee who is due to return from maternity leave during a period that other employees are on Furlough Leave, and you intend to designate the returner as a Furlough Worker, it is possible to place them on Furlough Leave when they were due to return to work.  

How do I decide who to Furlough?  

If you have a pool of staff who are all doing the same role, it may be difficult to decide who to Furlough and who to leave working. When making the decision, iis important to be aware of not discriminating against someone because, for example, they are disabled or pregnant. One option would be to offer the Furlough scheme on a voluntary basis. Another option would be to draw up a list of objective criteria to aid your decision.  

Changes to Statutory Benefits  

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW)

From 1 April 2020 the changes are detailed below.   

National Minimum Wage 

 

2019  2020 
Employees over 25 years   £8.21  £8.72 
Employees aged 21-24 years  £7.70  £8.20 
Employees aged 18-20 years  £6.15  £6.45 
Employees aged under 18 years  £4.35  £4.55 
Apprentices  £3.90  £4.15 

Other Statutory Pay Increases 

  • Pay for Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Shared Parental Leave increased to £151.20 on 5th April 2020.
  • Statutory  Sick Pay increased to £9.85 from today, 6th April 2020. 

Do you have any HR questions you need answered?

If so, do contact our Team at Embrace HR by using the contact form here or contact me on LinkedIn.

You can also find us at our Facebook Page EmbraceHR Support.

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

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports SMEs and care packages 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 London.

Pictures are from Pexels.com

Embrace HR Coronavirus advice

Has your business been affected by the Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19? Do you know what to do if an employee is diagnosed, what your responsibilities are for other staff, or are you just not sure what you should be doing and when? Our easy guide will give you some answers…

Coronavirus causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to serious illness and even death. The disease first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, and since then has spread around the world.

So far, the number of cases in the UK has proved relatively low (273 out of more than 23,000 people tested), at the time of writing, with two reported deaths. You can keep updated on the ever changing situation here and here.

Companies need to ensure that they know what to do and when, as the virus spreads. According to the government, it is possible that up to 20 per cent of your employees could be absent from work as the spread reaches its peak. For SMEs in particular, this could mean that significant members (and numbers) of your team are not in the workplace. The Government has shared guidance for employers and businesses on their website.

Best practice for employers

Here’s our checklist for your organisation, which is simple and easy to employ:

  • Communicate with your staff so that they know what actions have been put in place in the workplace to keep everyone safe and healthy and your expectations of them.
  • Ensure there are plenty of places to wash hands, with hot water and soap. Remind staff to wash their hands regularly; the BBC have reported one company using an egg timer! Provide hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage the use of both.
  • Educate managers on the symptoms to look out for. Make it clear that anyone with Coronavirus symptoms (cough, fever, breathing difficulties, chest pain) should not come into work until they have contacted 111 (either by phone or online) and received advice.
  • Do you have staff travelling abroad? Consider whether travel is absolutely necessary at this time.
  • Do you regularly plan team meetings or sales conferences? Again, consider whether, in the short term, these could be held by conference phone or video link.

Reducing the risk

The World Health Organisation lists these ways to reduce the risk of infection. We suggest you and your staff follow these not only in the workplace but at home and in public spaces too:

  • Wash hands regularly with soap or use alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue or, worst case, into your elbow. Dispose of tissues into a closed bin.
  • Avoid contact with anyone with cold-like symptoms.
  • Ensure you practise food safety – using different boards for raw and cooked meat, and washing hands between handling.

The virus at work

The question uppermost for most companies is surely ‘What do we do if we have an unwell member of staff at work – and will we have to shut down the workplace if they are diagnosed with Coronavirus?

Current advice states that if the person is unwell and has come back from an area affected by the virus, they should keep 2m away from others, be separated in a room with a closed door, such as a sick bay or office, use a separate toilet and use tissues for coughs and sneezes and dispose of the tissues. They must call NHS 111 on their own mobile device to get advice or contact NHS online at: 111.nhs.uk, or 999 if they are seriously ill.

Should you have an infected employee in your office, you may not necessarily have to close down your workplace. After the individual has contacted NHS 111, you will be contacted by the local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team who will give further advice on assessment of the risk. You can refer to PHE’s advice and information online via their website.

Paying the price

What are the rules around sick pay if you have employees who have contracted the Coronavirus or who have to self-isolate?

The government has stated that anyone who has to self-isolate on the advice of NHS 111, or a doctor, (and not just those with confirmation of the virus) will receive statutory sick pay, or contractual sick pay if it is offered within your company, from day one.

Normally, you would require a fit note (formerly a sick note) after seven days of illness, but if the staff member is self-isolating this will not be possible, so as a company you will have to be flexible about this.

If you ask an employee not to come into work (because they have been to a high-risk area, for example), then they should be paid as usual. Currently, all travellers returning from China, northern Italy and South Korea, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, should self-isolate if they have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even mild symptoms).

If you have staff returning from ‘lock-down’ areas – currently listed as: Northern Italy, Hubei province in China, Iran, and special care zones in South Korea, they should self-isolate regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not.

You also need to consider your policy if an employee needs to take time off to look after a sick dependant or a child who is at home because their school has closed because of the Coronavirus. Ensure you know what your workplace policy is with regards to paid time off, family leave, or allowing staff to take any extra days as holiday.

What does ‘self-isolate’ mean?

You can direct a member of your staff who needs to self-isolate to the NHS website, which confirms the dos and don’ts during the 14-day period, including for those in shared accommodation.

What should I do in self-isolation?

Self-isolation means staying at home for 14 days, not going to work, school or other public places, and avoiding public transport or taxis, says Public Health England.

Common-sense steps include staying in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened. keeping away from other people in your home, and asking for help if you need groceries, other shopping or medication. It’s ok to have friends, family or delivery drivers drop off supplies to get you through the two weeks, but you shouldn’t have any visitors, PHE says. You can also have deliveries left on the doorstep.

Working from home

This is also a good time to look at your policy about working from home. You may have staff who do not want to come into work for a variety of reasons. They may be concerned about being in areas with high numbers of people – on the commute for instance. Try to be flexible if possible. Could you, for instance, allow them to come in earlier or later to avoid the rush hour?

As a good employer you should listen to their concerns. Make sure they know what has been put in place at work to ensure health and safety, but you must consider the wider health issues that could put your employee at a higher risk than normal. Those at particular risk may have suppressed immune systems, be pregnant, have respiratory issues, be older, or be living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. You may have to move them from high-risk sites (where they have contact with members of the public) or enable them to work remotely. Remember that employers have special responsibilities for pregnant or disabled staff.

There is no need to panic, but it is also wise to plan for a worst-case scenario, where staff members are unable to come into the office. For instance, make sure that office-based staff are able to use work chats, conference calls and can gain access to work servers (for files and emails) while working from home.

Need more advice?

If you need more advice than we have provided here, employers have access to a free ACAS helpline and to find more information for employers on the website, visit www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus.

Stop Press

The chancellor of the exchequer has announced £7 billion of extraordinary measures to help support businesses and individuals who will be affected by the covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in his first Budget. Click here to learn more.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you comply with regulations, 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.