HR Update Covid19 - Government support measures for employers
Last update: 25 March 2020
All business support measures introduced by the Government are now all listed with supporting information on a new Government business support website. The measures seek to assist some organisations with the immediate decision making required relating to staff and employment in the emerging and ever changing situation relating to the spread of COVID-19.
Some of the measures announced by the Government to support employers and organisations are outlined below with guidance and links to useful support materials. Two of the key financial support measures are in the form of a statutory sick pay relief package for SME's and the Coronavirus job retention scheme. All of the information is clearly set out on the Government COVID-19 website with full details here.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Relief package - key information
- the scheme enables a refund to cover up to 2 weeks' SSP per elgible employee off work because of COVID-19
- employers of fewer than 250 employees are eligible (number employed at 2802/2020)
- employers will not require employees to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by the employer, an isolation note may be obtained from NHS 111 online for those with symptoms and from the NHS website for those living with someone with symptoms.
- at the time of writing (25/03/2020/) the repayment mechanism for employers is still in development
- useful guidance on self isolation and sick pay can be found on the ACAS website
Job Retention Scheme - 'furloughed workers'
This scheme has been set up to enable HMRC to reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. To access this scheme an employer will need to:
- designate affected employees as 'furloughed workers' - these are employees who would otherwise have been laid off or made redundant
- notify your employees of the change of status
- keep the employee on the payroll
- ensure that the employee does no work during the period of being a furloughed worker
- submit information to HMRC through a new portal (this is still being developed - 25/03/2020)
- keep accurate records as the scheme is set up for 3 months from 1 March 2020
For more detailed information and a series of FAQ's, please read NICVA's latest article on the Job Retention Scheme and 'Furloughed Workers'.
What can organisations do now?
- Communicate with staff and ensure this is two-way, whilst adhering to all social distancing measures.
- Give time to consider workable solutions on a temporary basis for some or all of your workforce, including measures such as home/remote working, redeployment, using accrued leave. This may give you time to work through the immediate situation to reach appropriate decisions.
- Think about how you might communicate remotely with workers, what technology can you use to enable ease of communication via text, email, phone, online meetings etc.
- Ensure staff inform you if their status changes. Are they sick? Are they self isolating? Be clear about what information you need to record.
- Particularly if you are considering implementing the Job Retention Scheme, be clear with employees what changes you are making, seek to agree this with your employees and agree how you will communicate/review this ongoing as the situation develops and evolves.
- Read the Labour Relations Agency guidance on changing and agreeing contracts, as a basis for discussions with staff.
- Contact your organisation's insurer where you may be able to access some free employment law advice as well as informing them of changes you are making to staff terms and conditions.
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