We round up the latest employment news.
Furlough scheme extended to end of October
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that
the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended by a further four months to the end of October.
The scheme will continue as it is until Friday 31 July, but from Saturday 1 August a number of changes will be made to make it more “flexible”:
1. Workers will be able to return on a part-time basis and claim furlough for their full time hours –
something that unions and employer representatives have been asking for.
2. Employers will also have to “make a contribution” towards the employee's furloughed salary. It’s not entirely clear what percentage the government will continue to fund, but there have been suggestions that it’ll reduce funding to 60%. If that's the case, the remaining 20% will have to be topped up by the employer. The Chancellor made it clear that employees must still receive up to 80% of their normal salaries capped at the existing rate of £2,500 per month.
There was some debate about whether the scheme would be withdrawn from those sectors who can continue to operate – that doesn't appear to be the case.
The Chancellor’s official Twitter feed explicitly states that the scheme will continue “for all sectors and regions of the UK.”
We don’t yet know if other changes are anticipated. For example, many businesses have asked for the minimum furlough period of three weeks to be reduced so that they can more easily rotate workers required to be in work. That may be answered when further information is published later this month.
New government guidance to get England back to work
The government has published
guidance designed to ‘make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during the coronavirus pandemic.’
There are eight documents which apply to the following sectors available under the
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance:
Construction and outdoor work
Factories, plants and warehouses
Labs and research facilities
Offices and contact centres
Other people's homes
Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
Shops and branches
These guides all contain
five practical steps which the government says should be ‘implemented as soon as it is practical’.
The guidance applies to England only. Public health is devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and businesses in those countries must follow their devolved government's advice.
Coronavirus – business support finder tool
The government has launched a new
coronavirus business support finder tool. This provides a web-based questionnaire to help businesses learn if they’re entitled to support from the following schemes:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Deferring Self-Assessment payments on account
Statutory Sick Pay rebate
Self-employment Income Support Scheme
Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure
Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund
Small Business Grant Funding
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay Service.
One in five UK workers furloughed
The government has announced that
approximately 800,000 employers have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough 6.3 million workers at a cost of £8 billion so far. Coronavirus – guidance on apprenticeships updated
The Department for Education, working together with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, has updated its
guidance note for apprentices. The updates relate to furloughed apprentices, end-point assessments, functional skills apprentices and qualification certification.
Importantly, the guidance says that if an employer asks a furloughed worker to undertake training, they should be paid the relevant national minimum wage for this time.
The guidance also covers frequently asked questions to help apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations understand the changes that have been introduced.
Government asked to rethink IR35 legislation
The House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee has called for the government to ‘address IR35’s inherent flaws and unfairnesses’ in its new report
Off-payroll working -treating people fairly. It says that IR35 ‘has not worked properly throughout its 20 year history’.
The government has delayed its plans to extend the off-payroll rules to the private sector until April 2021. The sub-committee now suggests that it ‘use this extra time to completely rethink this legislation’.
TUC sets out strategy to get the UK back to work
The TUC has a report setting out the steps it wants the government and employers to undertake to ensure a safe transition from lockdown. The report,
‘Preparing for the return to work outside the home,’ calls on the government to make it clear that restrictions won’t be eased until adequate measures are in place to protect the health and safety of working people.
It recommends that any businesses employing more than five members of staff should be required to carry out a new, robust risk assessment before employees are allowed to return to work. This should identify the risks of exposure to Covid-19, and provide an outline of the business's health and safety (H&S) plan and the measures it’s taking to reduce the risks identified.
This might include changing the layout of the working space to ensure that people can socially distance themselves, while also adjusting shift patterns. For example, employers might adjust start times and alternate the working patterns of sections of the workplace to reduce the numbers of people working in the same place at the same time. If these steps can't be taken, employers must supply appropriate PPE.
Employers should also have to consider the specific health and safety requirements of anyone who’s shielding or is more vulnerable if they catch the disease. This includes pregnant women and those from a black and minority ethnic background, as this group is thought to be at greater risk than other ethnic groups.
The TUC wants these plans to be approved by an accredited H&S representative or an inspector from the H&S executive before businesses re-open.
Furloughing staff: House of Commons examines the inconsistencies between government guidance and the Treasury Direction
As regular readers of this blog will know, there are significant inconsistencies between
government guidance about the scope of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Treasury Direction.
The House of Commons Library has published a
Briefing Paper providing frequently asked questions about the CJRS. Its aim is to inform MPs about the issues rather than to help employers decide how to interpret the rules. But it has some interesting things to say about the differences between the two documents, including those relating to:
Agreement to furlough
Sick leave and furlough
Staff who are shielding.
read our overview of the inconsistencies here. New regulations governing calculation of statutory maternity and other parent payments for furloughed staff
New regulations came into force on 25 April 2020 dealing with the calculation of ‘normal weekly earnings’ for the purposes of statutory maternity pay (SMP) and other statutory parental payments where the recipient is on furlough. Law Commission recommends changes to the employment tribunal system
The Law Commission has recently published its detailed
report into the ways in which employees can bring employment claims in the employment tribunal, employment appeals tribunal and civil courts. The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and may lead to change.
It makes a number of recommendations including extending the time limit to bring claims from three to six months, increasing the cap on breach of contract claims to £100,000, extending the types of claims that can be issued as unlawful deductions and improving the way in which claimants can recover awards.
You can read a more detailed summary here.
Read more – May 2020
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