Introduction – How am I going to get people back into the workplace?
As we move to look at re-opening businesses and getting people back into the workplace there is work to be done by employers, firstly in planning how they are going to do this, and secondly, communicating those plans to staff. The only way in which businesses are going to be able to manage the transition back to some form of normality is by speaking to their staff and re-assuring them about the measures that will be put in place to safeguard their health and safety in order to enable them to return. Any successful return to work will need to based on carefully thought out plans and providing re-assurances to employees that necessary action is being taken.
Employers will be focusing on:
- How do I get my workforce back safely, and
- How do I give my workforce the confidence to return.
Yes, but your claim will be limited to any enhanced contractual payments you make to employees who qualify for the relevant family related pay.
All maternity and parental rights remain in force for anyone in this category who is furloughed. However you may need to calculate average weekly pay differently if the employee was furloughed and then started family related leave on or after 25 April 2020.
Furlough pay cannot be claimed for the period that an employee is receiving Maternity Allowance. An employee can agree to accept furlough pay but they must contact Jobcentre Plus to stop their Maternity Allowance payments for this period.
The Cabinet Office has published a useful Procurement Policy Note (“PPN”) on relief available to suppliers due to Covid-19 (available here). In brief, you should not be penalised by a public sector body, if, in the current circumstances, you are unable to comply (fully or partly) with your contractual obligations. Public sector bodies are expected to work with suppliers and, if appropriate, provide relief against current contractual terms. This is in order to maintain business and service continuity and avoid claims being accepted for other forms of contractual relief, such as the occurrence of a force majeure event.
The types of relief that may be available to suppliers to the public sector will depend on the existing contracts in place. Some contracts may have a payments by result mechanism, whereas others may be based on certain key performance indicators (KPIs) being met. Other contracts may not include any such mechanisms and therefore it will be a matter for discussion between suppliers and the public sector body.
The PPN provides that, rather than a supplier seeking to invoke a clause that would permit the supplier to suspend performance of its obligations (such as a force majeure clause), public sector bodies should first work with the supplier to amend or vary the contract. Any changes should be limited to the particular circumstances and considered on a case-by-case basis. Changes could include:
- Amending the contract requirements
- Varying timings of deliveries
- Relaxing KPIs or service levels
- Extending time for performance (e.g. revising a contract delivery plan), and/or
- Preventing the public sector from exercising any rights or remedies against the supplier for non-performance (e.g. liquidated damages or termination rights).
These should only be temporary variations and the contract should return to the original terms once the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the contract has ended. Discussions with the public sector body about any changes that are agreed should be documented, in a variation signed by both parties.
A public sector may also need to take account of regulation 72 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015, to ensure that any changes to a contract (even of a temporary nature) do not trigger a requirement to conduct a new tender process. Whilst this may be unlikely to be the case with temporary variations, suppliers should still bear this in mind when discussing any changes to a contract with a public sector body.
If you are a supplier to a public sector body and you are currently struggling to meet your contractual obligations, we recommend that you take legal advice as to whether it might be possible to take advantage of the flexible approach that the PPN requires public sector bodies to adopt – it could be that you can avoid service credits or other financial deductions, or the need to serve formal notices such as “force majeure” or other relief notices.
You can claim for regular payments you are obliged to pay staff such as non-discretionary overtime, non-discretionary fees, non-discretionary commission and piece-time payments. Overtime in this context is referred to as ‘past overtime’ in the updated guidance which would suggest that you should use the variable pay calculation (see FAQ above) for those who regularly carry out overtime.
Yes. The system for Probate Applications has moved on-line and continues to be available as well as by post. However, if you need to complete an Inheritance Tax Return IHT400 you are likely to experience problems collating information due to delays in many organisations being able to provide you with current values while their offices are closed and staff working remotely. Property valuations will be particularly problematic where surveyors or valuers are unable to attend properties to undertake non-urgent work. If you cannot wait, you must use your best endeavours to be as accurate as possible as regards the information you provide in the IHT400 and follow up by providing HMRC with actual values as soon as you can do so. HM Courts and Tribunal Service is however warning that delays can be expected at this time.
The guidance has confirmed that all remaining employment rights and terms continue while an employee is furloughed. Holiday will continue to accrue during furlough however you may reach agreement with employees on reducing entitlement provided that it does not fall below the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks per year.