The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough)
Many of you will already be using the government scheme, designed to save jobs and provide some much-needed financial help to a business by a grant reimbursing 80% of an employee’s wages (subject to a cap of £2500). You can read more about the scheme in our previous guide.
If you have employees who have not been furloughed to date, you need to ensure you furlough them no later than 10 June 2020 to take advantage of the furlough scheme, in its full form or part-time.
Furloughed employees are not currently allowed to undertake any work for the business and the new flexible furlough rules will allow employers to ask employees to work part-time whilst still getting access to furlough grants.
Flexible furlough from 1 July 2020
Previously furloughed employees can return to work, either at home or in the workplace, for any amount of time and in any shift pattern. Despite any partial return to work, employers can still claim the furlough grant for their normal hours not worked.
1 July to October 31
Furloughed employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary subject to the £2500 cap but employers will need to pay part of the furlough salaries over the coming months:
June and July – The Government will continue to pay 80% of fully furloughed employees’ salaries, plus national insurance and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything unless they voluntarily agree to supplement furlough pay or the employees return to work part-time in July.
August – The Government will continue to pay 80% of furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Employers will have to pay national insurance and pension contributions regardless of whether employees are working part-time or not. Employers will also pay for any part-time hours worked.
September – The Government will continue to pay 70% of furloughed employees’ salaries up to a cap of £2,187.50 per month. Employers will also pay national insurance and pension contributions, and 10% of wages to make up 80% of the total, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Employers will also pay for any part-time hours worked.
October – The Government will continue to pay 60% of furloughed employees’ salaries up to a cap of £1,875 per month. Employers will also pay national insurance and pension contributions, and 20% of wages to make up 80% of the total, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Employers will also pay for any part-time hours worked.
Think about your business now and plan ahead. Which category do you fall into?
- Are you operating as normal or indeed busier than normal? – you should think about recruitment, improving longer-term home working, making your workplace safe in line with Govt guidance
- Are you hoping to return to something less than normal over the next few months? – consider taking staff off furlough with some staff rotation, get health and safety right, take advice on the variation of terms and conditions with less pay and hours if appropriate and plan redundancies
- Are you expecting a big reduction in operations? – extend furlough to 31 October and plan redundancies and restructures with appropriate advice
- Are you anticipating that your business won’t survive? – take business turnaround and as a last resort insolvency advice.
Working from home or returning to the workplace?
If people can continue to work from home, they must continue to do that for now. Many of the calls we are receiving from our clients lead me to believe that most businesses want staff to return to the workplace.
Can I force staff to return to work?
It is looking likely that many businesses will be able to open from 15 June. There will be some employees who will refuse to return, some who prefer to be on furlough as long as possible and some who have genuine concerns for their safety. In law, an employee is protected from detriment and dismissal if they refuse to attend a workplace where they are in “serious and imminent danger”. The employee’s belief must be genuine and reasonable. So, your job over the next few weeks is to ensure that you can provide a safe place to work.
How do I make my premises safe?
The government guidance is set out here and more is to follow. You should read the guidance for your sector and if you need help our Health and safety service is a good support for you. The starting point is 5 steps to follow to demonstrate to staff and visitors that you are operating a safe workplace:
1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
Before restarting work, you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:
- carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
- consulting with your workers or trade unions
- sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website
2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:
- encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
- providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
- frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
- enhancing cleaning for busy areas
- setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
- providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers
3. Help people to work from home
You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home where possible if they are for example in an admin or office-based role.
4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
- putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
- avoiding sharing workstations
- using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
- arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible
- switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible
5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk by
- considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate
- keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
- using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
- using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
- staggering arrival and departure times
- reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’
The next few weeks and months are crucial for you, as businesses make a comeback and capitalise on the summer months.
There will also be a number of employment law and HR issues that need to be Covered:
- You should seek written agreement with staff to be furloughed and unfurloughed
- Make sure that your payroll staff or provider are aware that furlough has ended or been adjusted for these staff and they should return to full pay for time worked (taking into account the national minimum and living wage rates increases from April for any staff employed on those rates).
- From 1 July to 31 October the employer and employee can agree working arrangements whereby the employee resumes work part-time whilst the Government will continue to fund a proportion of furlough pay for the non-working time.
- Claim periods will need to be a minimum of one week after 1 July but can be longer to reflect the pay cycle. The grant claim will be based on hours not worked, compared to the employee’s normal working hours which should be paid by the employer as normal. You will need to report the hours that have been worked and the hours the employee has been furloughed when they would usually work.
We are currently having to advise a number of clients about various options, including redundancy. It is essential that you take expert advice before embarking on a redundancy exercise to avoid facing expensive tribunal claims for unfair dismissal.
How can we help?
If you need support and specialist advice you can speak to us in confidence on 0114 3032300/0203 329 0280 or email [email protected].