Following the announcement by the Prime Minister on 31 October, England will go into a national lockdown starting on Thursday, 5 November. As of Thursday it’s back to “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
All hospitality venues (apart from take-away services), non-essential retail, leisure facilities and the tourism sector must close until at least the 2nd of December. Anyone who can work from home in those industries which are allowed to remain open must do so. Construction, manufacturing as well as essential infrastructure remains open and employees should go to work and employers are responsible to provide a Covid-safe working environment.
Judging by government information so far, it seems as if the obligation for employees to work from home unless they’re unable to do their job away from their place of work will be laid down in law this time. This means that employers being found to flout the rules could be liable to substantial fines and other penalties. It therefore will be imperative to ensure to fully assess whether staff really need to be anywhere but at home.
Due to the new lockdown, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until at least the 2nd of December and employers are able to claim 80% of an employee’s wages for unworked hours:
- To be eligible to be claimed for an employee must have been be on an employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 30th October 2020; a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment to HMRC must have been made on or before 30th October 2020.
- Employees can be on any type of contract. Employers will be able to agree any working arrangements with employees.
- Employers can claim the grant for the hours their employees are not working in other words employees can be working part time or be furloughed completely.
- When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of 7 consecutive calendar days.
- Employers will need to report hours worked and the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period.
- For worked hours, employees will be paid by their employer subject to their employment contract.
- For hours not worked by the employee, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. The grant must be paid to the employee in full.
- Employers will pay employer NICs and pension contributions on the total amount of gross wages (including grant money) paid to the employee.
- Employers are still able to choose to top up employee wages above the scheme grant at their own expense if they wish.
- The Government will confirm shortly when claims can first be made in respect of employee wage costs during November, but there will be no gap in eligibility for support between the previously announced end-date of CJRS and this extension.
While detailed guidance has not been released yet, the government has made clear that vulnerable people are strongly advised not to attend work even where they cannot work from home. They are eligible for SSP or Employment Support Allowance. Employers may also choose to furlough vulnerable staff. However, care should be taken to select employees for furlough in a fair manner and non-discriminative way.
More updates, including on more details on vulnerable employees and legal obligation around working from home, as soon as we get them. Please follow us on LinkedIn (Tiger-HR-UK) and Twitter (@tiger_HR_UK).