4th April 2020:
HMRC has updated its guidance for employers on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
The scheme enables employers to furlough employees (with their agreement) and claim back 80% of their wages up to £2,500 per month. The updated guidance, published on 4 April 2020, adds some clarifications and detail to the original HMRC guidance published on 26 March.
The updated guidance clarifies some areas of the scheme but leaves a number of questions unanswered:
- Employees who have been dismissed for any reason since 28 February 2020 can be rehired and placed on furlough (whereas the original guidance referred only to employees who had been made redundant since that date);
- Employees with two jobs can still work for one employer while on furlough from the other;
- CJRS can also cover non-employees who satisfy the definition of ‘worker’ so long as they are paid through PAYE.
However, there is still no guidance on how the CJRS affects annual leave. Can employees take or be required to take annual leave during furlough? Would there be an entitlement to full pay? Acas says furloughed employees can still take holiday in the usual way but does not say whether they should be paid their normal remuneration or the furlough rate (https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/using-holiday).
The guidance is clear that an employee who is already receiving SSP cannot be furloughed until he or she returns to work. But it does not address the situation where an employee on furlough becomes sick. It says that furloughed employees have the right to SSP but also says that employers cannot claim under the CJRS for an employee who is getting SSP.
24th March 2020
Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees:
The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
- this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
- 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
- eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
- the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.
23rd March 2020
The Government’s latest guidance:
- Only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work
- Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
23rd March 2020
“Freelancers” and the “Self-Employed”
A proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Bill was announced on 23 March 2020, entitled Statutory Self-Employment Pay.
It will compel the Government to introduce regulations that provide the self-employed with:
a) 80% of their monthly net earnings (averaged over the last 3 years); or
b) £2,917 per month.
whichever is the lower.
20th March 2020
Government announces “unprecedented” measure to protect wages
This evening the Chancellor has announced “unprecedented” and comprehensive support measures to support businesses and protect people’s jobs and income during the Coronavirus crisis. The timing of this announcement was particularly crucial tonight as the Government gave immediate orders for theatres, leisure centres, cinemas, pubs, cafes and restaurants to close without delay.
Most notably an historic measure was announced to protect all jobs and income with the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The Government will step in to assist any employer to cover the wages of all employees retained on payroll but at risk of being laid-off due to the impact of Coronavirus. For those employees retained but not working due to workplace closures or a downturn in business, up to 80% of wages will be paid (subject to a limit of £2,500 per month – just above the medium income). Employers can choose to top this up. This measure, to be back-dated to 1st March 2020 and available initially for an initial 3 month period (to be reviewed and extended if required) will assist employees to retain their jobs. The first grants, to be administered by HMRC, are expected to be paid within weeks.
Further details of this scheme will provided by the Government next week and in turn we will provide a more detailed update for you.
The Chancellor also clarified that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) Scheme, originally outlined in the budget, will now be offering interest free loans for 12 months starting on Monday. Further measures regarding the deferral of VAT payments were also announced.
This evening’s announcement follows the measures announced as part of the Spring 2020 Budget when the Government announced several measures to help employers who are struggling with the economic consequence of Covid-19. These included:
- A Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs
- A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
- Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
- Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
- A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
- The HMRC Time to Pay Scheme – support for businesses paying tax
20th March 2020
People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service.
People who need to claim Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note or an isolation note.
20th March 2020
Guidance released for businesses and employers:
- encourage employees to work at home, wherever possible
- if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home
- employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
- frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
- employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
- those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work
- use your discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell
- 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
- employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from there if possible
19th March 2020
Key Workers have been announced to be the following:
- Frontline health workers such as doctors and nurses
- Some teachers and social workers
- Workers in key public services including those essential to the justice system, religious staff and public service journalists
- Local and national government workers deemed crucial to delivering essential public services
- Workers involved in food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery
- Public safety workers including police, armed forces personnel, firefighters and prison staff
- Essential air, water, road and rail transport workers
- Utilities, communication and financial services staff, including postal workers and waste disposal workers
The Government is urging parents to follow the following principles:
- If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
- If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
- Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
- Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
- Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.
18th March 2020
The Prime Minister has announced that all schools will be closed from Friday 20th March 2020 until further notice as the pandemic continues to escalate. This wall be for all children except those of Key Workers (yet to be defined) and the most vulnerable pupils. He confirmed his objective to be to slow the spread of the virus. The Prime Minister further announced that there would be additional measures in place to ensure the support for individuals and families as well as businesses.
More detail will be provided tomorrow as to how this will take place.
17th March 2020
The new guidance is to stay at home for 14 days if someone in your house has symptoms of COVID-19, announced by Matt Hancock today.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“Coronavirus is the biggest public health crisis we have faced in a generation, and we will do whatever is necessary to protect our elderly and most vulnerable people and keep the public safe. This is an unprecedented situation and it’s so important for each of us to rally together and do our bit to protect ourselves and each other, as well as our NHS, from this disease. Washing hands regularly for 20 seconds or more remains the single most important thing each of us can do, but we now also need to ask everyone in a household to stay at home if anyone in their home shows symptoms. Combating this virus will require a huge national effort. We must do all we can to save lives, protect the NHS and keep the most vulnerable people in our society safe.”