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What is the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

All employers in the UK are eligible to participate in the scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to allow employers to claim back employment costs if they have furloughed employees arising from the coronavirus crisis. Importantly this means the scheme is not limited to cases where the employee would otherwise have been made redundant.

Key points:

  • Between 1 November 2020 – 30 June 2021, the government will reimburse employers for 80% of wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, with employers expected to contribute 10% of that 80% in July 2021 and 20% of that 80% in August and September 2021. Employers will still need to pay employer NICs and employer pension contributions (these cannot be claimed for).
  • The scheme now also allows employees to return to work part time being on furlough for the remainder. See flexible furlough above for more information.
  • The employer can agree to pay the employee more than it will be reimbursed but it cannot reclaim the additional amount or any other costs associated with the additional amount.
  • The workers covered by the scheme are those who have been “furloughed” which is a leave of absence.
  • Workers must be told about and agree to this change of status (see below).
  • Employers have to continue to pay the furloughed workers and the Government will reimburse the employer.
  • HMRC is administering the scheme and it has been extended until the end of September 2021
  • Those who left employment and are re-employed and subsequently furloughed by agreement are eligible (please see the FAQ regarding redundancy and furlough above).
  • Payments may be withheld if claims are based on inaccurate or dishonest information, or are found to be fraudulent. HMRC has put in place an online hotline for employees and the general public to report suspected fraudulent claims.
  • The Government has made alternative help available for employers to continue to pay employees while the scheme is set up.

Related FAQs

ONLINE EVENT: Contracts, managing supply chain issues and the role of directors

Hosted by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Partners Damien Charlton and Jane Garvin discussed in this webinar contracts, managing supply chains and the role of directors, with  a particular focus on cancellation of events and businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector.

You can find a recording of the webinar from NGI here.

Can I require my staff to inform me should their circumstances be such that they need to self-isolate?

Yes.

Workers (and agency workers) who are aware of the requirement to self-isolate and are due to work during their isolation period at a place other than their designated place (see below) must, as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event before they are next due to start work within the isolation period, tell their employer that they are self-isolating, and set out the start and end dates of their isolation period.

Clear communication to all workers about their obligation to do this is strongly recommended.

What are the temporary adjustments to Right To Work checks?

To facilitate social distancing the Home Office has stated that as of 30 March 2020, the following are permitted:

  • The RTW check can now take place over video call.
  • Job applicants no longer have to send original documents but can send scanned copies or photos to the employer.
  • Where the job applicant cannot provide these documents, employers can use the Employer Checking Service and if they have the right to work, then the employer will receive a Positive Verification Notice which will provide the employer with a statutory excuse for 6 months.

These adjustments remain in place until the Home Office confirms otherwise.

 

How should an employer handle personal information in relation to NHS Test and Trace?

Employers will be collecting and sharing health information. Health information is sensitive and higher data protection standards apply. Here are a few key pointers.

  • Update privacy notices to cover the new collection and sharing of employees’ information and provide these to the workforce. Be transparent and fair.
  • Identify the legal basis and condition for use of this information and put any required paperwork in place. The ICO guidance will help. For some conditions such as the employment condition, an Appropriate Policy Document (APD) will be required. The ICO has an APD template.
  • Only use the information for the purpose of managing the workforce during the pandemic.
  • Only collect or share information if it’s necessary – if it’s a targeted and proportionate way of achieving your purpose.
  • Make sure any health information collected and shared is accurate – there may be serious consequences if it’s not.
  • Work out how long the information must be kept for. Keep a record of that period and act on it at the appropriate time.
  • Security is very important – there may be malicious actors trying to trick employers and employees. Make sure employees know how to identify a genuine NHS Test and Trace contact. Keep the information secure. Use the ICO’s data sharing checklists** and keep a record of the disclosures made and why. Control external disclosures – only certain authorised members of staff should make them.
  • Make sure individuals can still exercise their data protection rights – that’s also very important. Keep data protection records up-to-date and ensure any exports of personal information outside the UK are compliant.
  • Before introducing employer-led testing like taking temperatures, thermal imaging or other potentially intrusive tests, work out if a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) is required. It will be if the intended processing is ‘high risk’. If it is, then carry out a full DPIA. It will help address the issues systematically and mitigate risks.
  • All this demonstrates ‘accountability’ – it shows affected individuals and the ICO that the employer is complying with data protection requirements.

If you need further help, please visit the ICO’s data protection and coronavirus information hub or ask our data protection team.

** Please note that this link is to the ICO’s existing checklists and data sharing code of practice. We will update the link to the ICO’s new checklists after they are published.

What steps can we take to avoid sub conscious bias being a factor in our decision making?

There has been a significant amount of press coverage talking about institutional racism within the NHS not only in terms of the treatment of patients but also in terms of the low representation of ethnic minority staff in management positions. Whilst tackling that issue is beyond the brief here, it is important to recognise that sub conscious bias can, regrettably, play a part in decision making processes. An Employment Tribunal will explore a alleged discriminator’s conscious and sub conscious decision making and working in an environment which has not set out sufficient controls to avoid such sub conscious stereotyping places someone at a greater risk of being discriminated against.

In the context of the issues we are addressing here, i.e. risk assessments around BAME staff, as we have stated above, it is essential that BAME staff are represented at all levels in the discussion. Trusts need to be mindful that BAME are underrepresented in management positions.

BAME staff need to be included in the dialogue and need to have a safe place where they can challenge decisions that are being made in relation to them. There needs to be accountability in the processes applied. Meaningful conversations need to happen and concerns should not be dismissed.