To support employers and employees throughout the period of disruption, the government have announced a number of new measures.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice. This is in addition to the change that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.
- People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 can obtain a NHS’ 111 service, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.
- Small and medium-sized businesses and employers will be eligible to reclaim SSP paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
- Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible- the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed, as of 28 February 2020. Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19.
- Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website.
- An online service is available for small and medium-sized employers to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.
Off payroll working rules (IR35):
As part of a review into changes to the operation of the off-payroll working rules (IR35), HMRC has made an announcement to give business more time to prepare.
Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme:
The government will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month. Claims can still be made but the scheme is now closed to new registrants. However, parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for furlough scheme even after 10 June cut-off date. More information can be found on GOV.UK.
The claims portal is available here.
Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly salary, up to £2,500 and both parties must agree to this decision. The government website provides more advice for employers and employees.
The scheme has now been extended until the end of March 2021, with a review due to take place in January 2021. The scheme will continue for all sectors and UK regions but employers will also be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time while sharing the wage cost with the government. From 1 July 2020 employers will be able to bring back employees flexibly.
The Job Retention Bonus is a one-off payment of £1,000 to employers that have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for each furloughed employee who remains continuously employed until 31 January 2021. The bonus will provide additional support to retain employees. Employers will be able to claim the bonus between 15 February and 31 March 2021.
Social distancing in the workplace:
The government has produced sector specific guidance for social distancing in the workplace. This is a list of tailored advice for different scenarios as an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers to help protect their workforce and customers.
Following the expansion of eligibility for testing, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published guidance covering how employers should handle data if they decide to test employees for COVID-19. Please visit the ICO website for further information.
Health & Safety:
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance to provide first aid cover and what to do if first aid certificates have expired on or after 16th March.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has published:
- Information for employers and employees including simple steps to the health and safety of staff.
The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority have announced a new employment hub:
- Free impartial support is being offered to help businesses recruit quickly to keep up with the demands of Covid-19, support businesses who have employees at risk of or facing redundancy and to help individuals find new employment opportunities. Full details for business support can be found on the hub website.
Businesses can access the following support:
- Find new employees through the Employment Hub talent matching service
- Access support for employees who are at risk of or facing redundancy
- Gain support to hire a new apprentice
Right to work checks:
The Home Office have updated guidance on right to work checks during the coronavirus outbreak:
- HR teams will be able to carry out right to work checks for new starters at home by video call and scanned copies of documents.
UK visas and temporary UK residents:
The government updated its advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents:
- This advice is for visa customers and applicants in the UK, visa customers outside of the UK, and British nationals overseas who are affected by coronavirus-related travel restrictions.