It’s a very worrying time for businesses at the moment and the landscape seems to change on a daily basis, depending on what guidance is being issued from the PM. We fully understand that dealing with staffing issues and knowing what to do for the best can be extremely stressful, but please don’t feel you are left to your own devices. We are very able to help with any of your queries or questions, so please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We will keep this page as up to date as possible, as further information is known. In the meantime, please take a look at some of our FAQs on managing employees.

I can’t pay my employees wages or salaries, what do I do?

The Chancellor has introduced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Under this scheme, all UK employers will be able to continue paying part of employees’ salaries for that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. All UK businesses are eligible and HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement, and likely this be available by the end of April.

This new scheme will mean that employees can be kept on the payroll rather than being laid off or made redundant. Employers can also choose to top up salaries.

The scheme won’t cover everyone, it is for PAYE employees only. However, zero hours workers may be paid through the scheme if they are paid through PAYE and have set regular earnings.

What happens if an employee has Coronavirus?

Essentially, the employee will be regarded as taking sickness absence and will be treated in the same way as any other absence. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will begin from day one if the absence is related to Coronavirus, and businesses can reclaim Coronavirus SSP up to a maximum of 14 days. Maintain regular contact and check in with their well-being.

Employees unable to work for more than 7 days because of Coronavirus can obtain an isolation note without contacting a doctor at www.111.nhs.uk/isolation-note

What if the employee is staying at home because of stress or worrying about the Coronavirus?

If the absence is related to stress your normal sickness absence policy will be followed as above.

What if I need the employee to stay at home?

If you are asking the employee to remain at home if they have symptoms of the Coronavirus they are entitled to full pay, as you are effectively suspending them on health and safety grounds.

Can I ask the employee to work from home?

Absolutely! Ensure the employee is set up to work away from the office in terms of setting passwords, remote working log-ins and security protocols etc. Also ensure protocols are in place for using removable devices such as USB sticks, and that the employee is aware of their GDPR responsibilities. Please click on the link for a questionnaire you can amend or use, to help you capture any concerns and requirements that will be needed for staff to work from home. https://hrforyou.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Preparing-for-homeworking-or-flexible-working-questionnaire-1.xlsx

What if the employee has to take time off to care for others?

The employee will be entitled under the ‘time off for dependants’ regulations to take emergency leave, to put in place care arrangements, although there is no legal right to be paid for this. The right to time off covers a breakdown in childcare; to put longer term care plans in place; to care for a dependant who has fallen ill or taken into hospital and to arrange or attend a funeral. In most cases a day or two will be sufficient to deal with the immediate crisis, but it will depend on individual circumstances – many employers will choose to pay for up to two days. Time off beyond this should be agreed and how any further absence will be covered, such as taking annual leave, taking unpaid leave, parental leave, making the time up at a later date etc.

What if the employee has children at school?

From Friday afternoon on 20th March, all schools in the UK will close. Those that are able to work from home should continue to do so as far as they can. If more time off is needed beyond emergency leave, employees can request to take parental leave. Each employee is entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child or adopted child, up to their 5th birthday – or 18th birthday if the child has a disability. The limit on how much parental leave each parent can take in a year is four weeks, and must be taken as whole week blocks, unless the employer agrees this can be taken in odd days. All employment rights remain protected, such as annual leave entitlement and a right to return to work. To qualify, employees have to have worked in the business for more than a year, have “parental responsibility” for a child and be named on the child’s birth certificate or have formal legal parental responsibility.

What other contingency plans can I put in place for employees?

  • Transfer staff to different areas to keep the core functions running
  • Reduce working hours or working days
  • Limit the number of staff in the office on a daily rota basis
  • Assess the possibility of enforcing annual leave
  • Assess if meetings can be carried out via Skype etc
  • Reorganise working roles and functions

What if my business has to enter a lay-off period?

If the business has to temporarily close, payment for employees will be dictated by the reason for the closure and the contract of employment. If there is no lay-off clause in the contract, the employee is entitled to full pay. If there is a lay-off clause in the contract, the employee is entitled to a statutory guarantee pay for a maximum of 5 days in a 3 month period. However, if the employee is laid-off for 4 consecutive weeks, or for 6 weeks in a 13 week period, they will be entitled to provide written notice they intend to claim a redundancy payment.

What if I have to make redundancies?

If, the very unfortunate event of making redundancies has to be taken as a last resort, ensure your redundancy policy is followed. In the absence of a policy then the statutory redundancy processes will apply.

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