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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employers encouraged to take on young staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apprentices and trainees

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

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

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

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

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

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

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

Embrace HR furlough scheme

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

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

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

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

Here’s our month by month guide

June

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

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

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

July

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

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

August

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

September

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

October

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

 

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

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

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

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

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

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.

Woman Wearing Face Mask Coronavirus Embrace HR

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.

Pixels for Embrace HR blog

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Good evening. We’re sharing our updates for anyone who might visit our website. The scene is changing constantly and we urge you to listen to the broadcasts and update yourself on the gov.uk website, or other official paths such as HSE.

In this Update we will cover some of the FAQ’s that we have been receiving.

What is the difference between sick leave and self-isolation?

In the current situation sickness absence will cover employees:

  • Who test positive for the virus
  • Who show symptoms of the virus
  • Who self-isolate because they have been told to do so by the NHS.

Self-isolation means staying at home and avoiding contact with other people. Employees who self-isolate because of one of the above sickness absence reasons will qualify for SSP.  Employees who choose to self-isolate without any of the above, should follow the normal absence procedures and will be entitled to unpaid or annual leave.

Employers have a duty of care to protect all staff and in some cases it may be necessary to suspend an employee on medical grounds, for example pregnant employees, to ensure their safety. Employees who are suspended for this reason will be entitled to full pay.

Self-employed people who have to self-isolate do not qualify for SSP, however, they may be able to claim employment support allowance if they meet the conditions.

Employee’s should check their symptoms using the NHS 111 service, not their GP. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/

Employers should continue to carry out Return to Work Interviews with employees after a period of sickness absence to make sure they are fit to return to work and find out if there is any support the employer can provide. Please contact Embrace HR, if you would like more information about this.

Can an employee continue working if they are a carer / support worker and the individual being cared for has symptoms of Coronavirus?

Transmission should be minimised through safe working practices such as wearing personal protective equipment, cleaning and disposing of waste regularly, not shaking dirty clothes. A risk assessment should be carried out to ascertain if the employee’s family may be at risk, for example if they have children or the elderly living with them. Each case should be considered separately.

Can an employee continue working if they are a carer / support worker and the individual being cared for is part of a household that is isolating?

If the individual can remain at a safe distance from the person in the house with symptoms, then care can be provided without additional precautions. One example being are there separate bathroom facilities?

For more guidance on the government website for those working in people’s homes, please click on this  link:

Which roles are classified as Key Workers?

The government has specified who Key Workers are. There are many Key Workers, a large majority in the NHS, but also individual carers and support workers are Key Workers such as police, doctors, paramedics, teachers, social workers, case managers, transport workers,

and so many others. For more guidance on Key Workers please access the government website by clicking on this link.

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme?

The Job Retention Scheme involves organisations designating employees as ‘furlough workers’, which is a way to keep employees on payroll without them working, and without them being laid off or made redundant. The government will pay up to 80% of furloughed employee’s wages to a max of £2500 per employee per month.

Furloughed workers

If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access support to continue paying part of your wage, to avoid redundancies.

If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.

To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.

If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

We intend for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020, but will extend if necessary.”  Excerpt from gov.uk

The scheme is available to all organisations with no restriction on size or type. However, it is only intended to cover organisations who cannot cover staff costs due to COVID 19. It is not known what an organisation will need to show in order to qualify. Employers will need to submit their information to the government via an online portal. More information will follow regarding this.

Organisations will be able to claim for any employee on the PAYE system.

It is likely that contracts which contain the right to lay-off employees on unpaid leave can also be used to designate furlough workers. If contracts do not contain a right to unpaid lay-off, organisations can ask the employee to agree to become a furlough worker.

The finer details of this scheme are not yet known and we shall update further when we know more.

What do I need to consider if my employees are working from home?

The CIPD (2020) have identified the following top ten tips for employers regarding homeworking:

  1. Review your homeworking policy. Make sure it addresses how employees will be supervised, how the organisation and line managers will communicate with them and how performance and output will be monitored.
  2. Confirm employee rights.Homeworkers must be treated the same as office-based staff, with equal access to development and promotion opportunities.
  3. Confirm contact methods and regularity. Advise homeworkers to establish when and how they will have contact with their manager; reporting in at regular times can also help combat isolation and stress.
  4. Providing equipment.There is no obligation for employers to provide computer or other equipment necessary for working at home, although, given the latest Government advice, employers should do what they can to enable home working.
  5. IT and Broadband.Employers should confirm in the contractual arrangements if the employee is expected to cover the broadband cost (plus heating and lighting) or if the employer will contribute towards these costs and, if so, to what extent.
  6. Think about health and safety obligations. Employers are responsible for an employee’s health, safety and welfare, even when working from home.
  7. Carry out risk assessment.Employers should usually conduct risk assessments of all the work activities carried out by employees those working from home.
  8. Review working time and length of period.Will employees need to be available for work during strict office hours or work a specified a set number of hours per day?
  9. Clarify salary, benefits, insurance, tax.Salary and benefits should obviously remain the same during a period of homeworking, although changes to expenses may be appropriate if normal travel expenses and allowances are no longer needed.
  10. Data protection.Employers should make sure data protection obligations are maintained and employees using their own computer should still process information in compliance with data protection principles.

How can we help? Contact us by clicking on this link

For more information and guidance on any of the issues mentioned, please contact Embrace HR through our contact form here.

KEEP WELL EVERYONE. KEEP SAFE.

Embrace HR Team

23 March 2020


If you would like to discuss this or any HR subject further  please contact our Team at Embrace HR Limited.

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.