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.
- 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.
All employers have a duty to prevent illegal working, and carrying out proper Right to Work checks are a fundamental part of this. In light of Covid-19, the Home Office has brought in some temporary measures for employers to use to carry out the requisite Right to Work checks. Failure to follow these could lead to enforcement action and penalties.
On 18 March 2020, the Government announced that it would pass emergency legislation which would prevent landlords, both social and private, from bringing possession proceedings against tenants who are unable to pay their rent. The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, stated that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”
The announcement came after several organisations, including housing charity Shelter, expressed concerns that more than 50,000 households could face possession proceedings due to the economic uncertainty following the Covid-19 outbreak.
No. You should always treat employees consistently and fairly, but this doesn’t mean treating them all the same, or applying the same requirements. For those employees who have been homeworking and doing so without any problems, then they should be allowed to continue to do so.
We would anticipate that the vast majority, if not all, businesses will be approaching the return on a phased basis, which inevitably means some employees returning to work sooner than others. In reality then, you aren’t treating everyone the same, but try to be fair and consistent; you need to do what works best from a business perspective, but can you rotate people, require them to come in at different times etc. Where people perceive that the planned return is being worked out fairly they are far more likely to buy into this, which will help avoid resentments building up between colleagues.
The Thriving at Work Report and the recent NICE Workplace Mental Health Guidelines provide a good baseline for what all organisations should be doing on workplace mental health – this includes some guidance on training. There does need to be a plan in place and we recommend taking a holistic view of the integration of mental health first aiders into a business – ie it should be one component in a strategy that also comprises training for line managers, awareness training and education for all staff, peer support, and a documented framework for support and signposting. It is also worth ensuring you have senior manager sponsorship, strong links with Occupational Health if available and also raising awareness via any works councils or employee forums helps ensure there is buy in at all levels.
For the purposes of collective consultation, making someone redundant and/or changing terms and conditions of employment, by termination and re-engagement, is also classed as a dismissal by reason of redundancy and so has the exact same consultation requirements.