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You HR have put together these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) we have been asked by clients following the recent government guidelines during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Our FAQ’s are under continuous review and are updated often. Be sure to check the ‘Other Resources’ links over on the right of this page for the latest updates from the Government and other reliable sources.  

To read our FAQ’s simply click on the relevant section below or the drop down menu over on the right.

Please get in touch if you have any further HR or OD related questions regarding your employees and the current situation, we will answer where we can and as soon as we can for you. If there are any other areas where you want us to create useful tips to assist you and others during this difficult time please let us know.

Email alice@youhr.co.uk

We would hope that all employees would talk and seek advice from their employer if this was their concern. Most importantly that they would act responsibly and follow advice to stay at home.

It is vitally important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home. Staying at home will help control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community, and particularly the most vulnerable.  

Employees could also look to seek help independently, if they foresee a financial hardship during this period, through contacting Citizens Advice and/or accessing the Government’s Universal Credit system or Employment and Support Allowance Advice (refer to the link opposite).

Like any period of sickness absence, each situation should be dealt with on an individual basis and understanding personal circumstances. This current extraordinary time we all find ourselves in may trigger other physical and/or mental ill-health matters for your employees, so it is vitally beneficial to take time to listen to their situation.

You should still follow your workplace sickness absence procedure as usual, ensuring that you keep a record of any period of absence and completing a virtual ‘return to work’ meeting when the absence ends.

Records employers should keep (especially if you are claiming SSP from HMRC) for at least 3 years are:

  • The reason why an employee could not work
  • Details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • The SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
  • NI number of the employee you have paid SSP to

Your employee can ‘self-certify’ for the first 7 days of absence. Those self-isolating due to COVID-19 for more than 7 days can get an online self-isolation note from the NHS website (please refer to the 111 online coronavirus service weblink opposite). You should of course ensure that your process and policy is understanding to each individual’s circumstances (i.e. those presenting severe symptoms may not be able to timely provide you with certificates/notes).

Throughout any sickness absence period, keeping in regular communication with your employee is paramount to ensure you are there to support them and also to be kept informed of how their situation is progressing.

Please see our ‘Pay’ section regarding managing employee sick pay during a period of absence.

Like any period of sickness absence, each situation should be dealt with on an individual basis and

If your employee needs to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19, whether they are ‘sick’ themselves, a member of their household is presenting symptoms, or your employee needs to care for them, they will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from Day 1.

From the first day of symptoms being presented, the period of isolation required is 7 days.

Anyone else in the household should then self-isolate for 14 days, however, should someone start presenting symptoms during this period, they should self-isolate for 7 days from the first day symptoms are present regardless where they are in the 14 day self-isolating period.

If your employee is clinically extremely vulnerable, they should have received a letter telling them that they are in this group or told they are by their GP. If an employee has not been told and is concerned they should be shielding, they should contact their GP or hospital clinician. Deciding to shield if advised to do so is a personal choice, should your employee decide they do not want to do so, they should discuss this with you so you can understand their reasons why.

You should keep in regular communication with your employee to ensure you are there to support them, that they are getting the support they need (i.e. prescriptions, food parcels, visits from essential care if required) and also to be kept informed of how their situation is progressing.

If your employee lives with someone that is shielding they do not need to start shielding themselves, but they should do what they can to support the person shielding carefully by following Government guidelines.

If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the workplace, you should safely send them home immediately and they should follow the Government’s stay at home guidance

If you or another employee assisted a colleague who was taken unwell with symptoms, you do not necessarily need to go home unless of course symptoms develop. You should wash your hands thoroughly for no less than 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms.

You should also follow the following guidance on cleaning and disinfecting public areas where an asymptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time, such as corridors, which may not be visibly contaminated with body fluids. These should be cleaned thoroughly and all surfaces that the asymptomatic person may have come into contact with must be cleaned and disinfected.

It is not necessary to close the workplace where the employee was present when they became ill or send employees home unless Government policy changes. Please use the link on the right to keep monitoring the latest updates from the Government.

Any employee on furlough from 1 July 2020 will be regarded as on ‘flexible furlough’, whether they are furloughed full time or part-time.  

As an employer you will:

  • only furlough those employees who have been previously furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020.
  • be able to flexibly furlough employees – this means you can bring your employees back to work for any amount of time, and any work pattern.
  • still be able to claim the furlough grant for the hours your flexibly furloughed employees do not work, compared to the hours they would normally have worked that period.

The employer pays its employees for the hours they work, at their normal rate of pay, and then claims a CJRS grant from HMRC for the hours not worked.

There must be an agreement between the employer and the employee (or a collective agreement) entered into before the flexible furlough starts and it must be sent to the employee in writing setting out what has been agreed in relation to the hours to be worked under the flexible furlough.  

For September:

The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for the time they are furloughed.

For October:

The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for the time they are furloughed.

Employers will continue to able to choose to top up employee wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense if they wish. Employers will have to pay their employees for the hours worked.

The scheme covers zero-hour contracts or casual workers paid through your PAYE system.

Businesses are restricted in terms of numbers they can claim for after 1 July. For instance, an employer claiming for 30 workers in April, 30 In May and 50 in June, is restricted to claiming for 50 workers in total from 1 July.

There are three exceptions to this:

  • Those on parental leave who are furloughed on their return can be added to the total
  • where there has been a TUPE transfer of employees who have been furloughed for more than three weeks as at 30 June, the transferee can claim in respect of the furloughed employees who transferred as well as the maximum number of their own staff who they furloughed.
  • where a company is in compulsory liquidation and the liquidator transfers assets/employees in circumstances where TUPE would have applied, then employees of the company who had been furloughed for three weeks by 30 June can also be counted by the new owner.

The scheme will close on 31st October 2020. For more information please look at our guide ‘Furlough Facts & Thinking about the UK Job Retention Scheme’.

What do I need to do to bring back my employee out of furlough?

Employers should regularly review furlough agreements to see if staff can be put on flexible furlough or return to work full time.

It can help employers to consider:

  • which job roles and skills are needed in the workplace
  • if all furloughed staff are needed back at the same time
  • if any staff might be kept on furlough because they’re temporarily unable to work, for example if they’re caring for someone or are shielding

To bring back staff from furlough:

  • Provide staff with notice in writing that their period of furlough is coming to an end however there’s no minimum notice period for furlough, but employers should also provide them with confirmation on when you expect them to return.
  • Clearly outline the new measures that have been put into place at your workplace. In particular, this should detail social distancing measures.
  • Employers should have carried out a risk assessment to ensure that your workplace is COVID-19 secure and that this assessment remains valid
  • During this period, have further discussions with employees to talk through any concerns they have. From these meetings, you should discuss any adjustments that can be made to their job if necessary.
  • On their return, staff should be carefully monitored and invited to come forward with workplace issues. Remember, some of them may have been away for some time. This might mean they need further training to settle back into their role.

 If a member of staff is reluctant to return to the workplace then employers should take the personal circumstances of your employees into account. For example, they may live with someone who is vulnerable to serious illness. Staff in this situation should be reminded of all steps the company has taken to keep them safe and consider extra adjustments for them.

If they still do not feel comfortable, consider alternatives to their return to the workplace. Can they work from home? Could they remain on furlough for a time? Could their working hours be adjusted to avoid peak travel times? If staff refuse to return without a valid reason, you may be entitled to treat it as a disciplinary issue. However, given the circumstances, this should be the last resort. Explore all other possible solutions first.

Right now, the Government are advising that employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about any additional (occupational) sick pay beyond Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) entitlement.

Employers can access other means of financial support from the Government that may be available (click the ‘Government Guidance to Employers and Businesses’ opposite to access the latest information).

If employees are self-isolating because of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) they will now be eligible to an SSP payment of £94.25 per week, including for those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice.

This change took effect from the 13th March 2020 and is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.

Employers can claim up to 28 weeks of SSP to be paid to your employee in the same way as normal wages.

The changes to SSP for COVID-19 mean that employers can claim for up to 14 days of SSP under Government’s Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme which is being developed. Further details from the Government will be provided in due course on how employers can access this scheme over forthcoming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP. Please use the link to the Government’s website opposite for the latest information on SSP and COVID-19.

An employee cannot be placed on furlough whilst on sick leave, but if they are currently furloughed they can still be claimed for once they are no longer receiving Statutory Sick Pay under the flexible furlough arrangements, although new entrants to the furlough scheme ceased as of 1st July.

To be eligible for CJRS an employer must agree with the employee that they are a ‘furloughed worker’. Employees must be consulted and agree to be furloughed unless there are existing terms in their contract of employment allowing employers to take such action. Changing the employment status of employees will be subject to existing employment law. Please also see our FAQ relating to ‘lay-offs’ and ‘employment contracts’.

The scheme opened on 20th April 2020 for claims. The scheme will close on 31st October 2020.

To access the system via the GOV.UK website you will need to have a Government Gateway ID and password along with an active PAYE enrolment.

If you want to receive payment from the scheme by the end of the month in line with your pay day, you will need to submit your claim at least 6 working days (shortly before or during running your payroll) in advance for the money to clear, via BACS into your UK bank account (payments are due to be received 6 working days after making an application).

You must submit the following information to make a claim:

  • The number of employees being furloughed
  • The dates employees have been furloughed to and from
  • Details of employees – the name and National Insurance Number of each furloughed employee
  • Your employer PATE scheme reference number
  • Your Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference, Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number as appropriate for your entity
  • Your UK bank account details
  • Your organisation’s registered name
  • Your organisation’s address

You must claim for all employees in each period at one time as you cannot make changes to your claim and you cannot make more than one claim during a claim period. You must pay the employee all the grant money, as gross pay, that you receive for them that is granted.

From 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked. From this date, only employees that you have successfully claimed a previous grant for will be eligible for more grants under the scheme. This means they must have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020.

From 1 July the minimum claim period is 7 days and this can be claimed 14 days ahead of you running payroll. However, this cannot straddle months because the scheme will now change month to month so that from August no employer NI or pension can be claimed, from September the employer contributes 10% and for October, the employer contributes 20%.

For employers with more than 100 employees you will need to provide more detail in your submission which could be uploaded in mass, i.e. in an excel document.

We would also expect that employees will need to move in and out of the Furlough worker status to be available as and when employer’s need them to work. The scheme is being designed to allow for flexibility i.e. for employee’s to be brought into work if their colleagues still working who later become sick.

To keep up to date with this scheme please use the Government weblink opposite for the latest information.

Many companies traditionally increase salaries at the start of the Tax year but this year, due to COVID 19, it may be sensible to pause all annual pay increases at this present time until the impact of the pandemic is more evident.

There are, of course, some businesses that continue to thrive during this time and recognition for employees’ hard work to keep up with business demand would be welcome.

Deferring all pay increases until later in the year, particularly to any staff currently on furlough, should be an understandable action to all during this unprecedented time.

However, employers must pay workers the correct minimum wage. The latest increases to the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage came into force on 1st April 2020.

Naturally, this may have Tax implications for pay and is a matter we would advise you to discuss with your financial colleagues/accountants.

If an employer cannot pay the full amount of pay owed, the first urgent step to take would be to discuss with the employee(s) the reasons for this and when the employer anticipates being able to pay the money owed. Obtaining agreement to this contractual change in advance from your employees affected is key to ensure you do not make an ‘unlawful deduction from wages’ or indeed breach your own employment contract.

Employees should start their leave as normal. If earnings have been reduced because they were put on furlough or off sick before their leave started, you will need to check any effects to their Statutory Pay entitlement.

Parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed.

This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

Yes you can, providing you have agreement to do so.

You can claim through the CJRS for enhanced (earnings-related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

  • maternity pay
  • adoption pay
  • paternity pay
  • shared parental pay
  • parental bereavement pay

Parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for furlough scheme even after the 10th June cut-off date.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close to new entrants at the end of June as new flexibilities are introduced to support the economy.

To enable the introduction of part-time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. This means people must be on the furlough scheme by 10 June.

The government have confirmed that parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed.

This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

We would expect employers to take a pragmatic view on this situation and if it is not a financially viable business decision / counter-intuitive to invest in kit right now, we would advise that you place your employee on furlough. You may even choose this as a reason to determine who you place on furlough if you have to select certain employees.

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week, and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.

If you do decide to do this, you must tell your employees at least twice as many days beforehand as the number of days they need people to take.

For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

This could affect employees who have already booked or planned leave. So employers should:

  • explain clearly why they need to close
  • try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

Employees that have not been able to take all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 are able to carry it (up to 4 weeks)over for the next 2 leave years.

Whilst this will give businesses flexibility, we would recommend that businesses review the future potential implications of this change and ensure that carry over is managed carefully so as not to cause business disruption later on.

If of course demand is high for businesses right now, then, of course, deferring leave would be a good decision to make. However, if demand has lessened and employees are placed on furlough, then taking leave during this time may be a better business decision to make.

No, we do not believe that those on such types of leave can also be asked to take their annual leave, as you would not do so in normal circumstances. However, it is a grey area with many opinions as to how legislation (both UK and EU) may be interpreted against furlough guidelines from HMRC. Whilst we await further clarification, we would urge you to get in touch if you need further advice and clarification on your situation.

Yes. However whilst furloughed you cannot ask an employee to do work for another linked or associated company.

If your employment contract allows, your employees may undertake other employment while you have placed them on furlough, and this will not affect your grant claim under CJRS.

Your employees will need to be able to return to work for you if you decide to stop furloughing (including returning to part-time work from 1st July whilst remaining on furlough), and they must be able to undertake any training you require they undertake whilst on furlough.

We understand that not all businesses are able to work from home in part or in full.

However, we believe that the request to work from home where you can as an attempt to limit the amount of spreading COVID-19 where possible.

Where you need to continue and go out to work we would, of course, urge you to follow national guidance from the Government and professional bodies such as the NHS (quick links to their advice and information are on the righthand side of this page).

If employees need to remain in the workplace you should follow the latest government advice and guidance in understanding how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. You should increase ‘social distancing’ by minimising contact between people. Ensure the workspace is cleaned and disinfected more frequently, especially door handles, toilets, telephones and desks/workspaces. Stop any non-essential travel and ensure the cleanliness guidelines are followed regarding regular hand washing, providing hand santitiser gel where possible.

Remote working may be unfamiliar territory to some employees. It’s important to ensure that staff are aware of the work expected to be completed at this time. Regular phone calls or video calls, where screens can be shared to discuss work can help keep things on track. Most importantly regular contact enables employers to ensure their employees are maintaining a good sense of health and wellbeing.

Encourage staff to still got out and get fresh air while abiding by the Government’s requirements. There are many great ideas emerging on social media and via YouTube of how people can remain active and keep well during this period, all of which will, of course, assist their productivity in work and to prevent them from feeling/becoming isolated.

Please use the link opposite to find out how Mind is advising us all to maintain wellbeing during this period.

My employees are working from home due to school closures what can I do?

Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19 can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.

All new applications to the furlough scheme close after 1st July 2020 and to be eligible an employee will have needed to have been placed on furlough 3 weeks prior to this date.

All employees have a right to take time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. Employers should be allowing their employees to take time off to sort out alternative arrangements. 

Normally, a couple of days should suffice as an initial emergency period to plan and put alternative measures in place. If after this period alternative arrangements cannot be put in place, you will need to agree to other flexible arrangements to cover any non-worked contractual time, arrangements for leave, or remote working (i.e. change to contracted hours/days, compressing contracted hours on certain days etc)

Ultimately, you shouldn’t restrict an employee of their right to time off for dependants, but you can look to consult with them and agree what happens during the full period where flexible working needs to be applied in this exceptional unprecedented time.

With flexible working, during the COVID-19 crisis, changing the minds of many employers that may have not previously championed remote working, there are certainly many reports demonstrating the successful transition to move to remote working and enhanced trust between employers and employees in doing so.

68% of those recently surveyed (CIPD April 2020) have said that they are more or as equally productive working from home, with the work-life balance becoming easier.

With such positive benefits in mind we would encourage any employer to consider an individuals’ right to request a flexible working arrangement, whatever their reason for doing so (not just for those with carer/parental responsibility).

Technically, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible for the right to request a flexible working contractual change, however, even if this length of service has not yet been accrued during the crisis, it may still be a matter that an employer would want to consider for their employee.

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.

If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the number of days they need people to take.

For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:

  • explain clearly why they need to close
  • try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

You can lay off an employee (i.e. ask them to stay at home or take unpaid leave) when you temporarily cannot give them paid work – as long as their employment contract allows this. We would always recommend you engage your staff at the earliest opportunity to discuss and agree necessary actions with them first.

Please also refer to our FAQ’s regarding ‘furloughed workers’ and ‘contracts of employment’.

Right to work checks have been temporarily adjusted due to coronavirus (COVID-19). This is to make it easier for employers to carry them out.

As of 30 March 2020 the following temporary changes have been made:

  • checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • employers should use the ‘Employer Checking Service’ if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents

Conducting a right to work check during the temporary COVID-19 measures:

  • Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
  • Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give you permission to view their details

Checks continue to be necessary and you must continue to check the prescribed documents listed in right to work checks: an employer’s guide. It remains an offence to knowingly employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK.

Because of COVID-19, some individuals may be unable to evidence their right to work. During this period, you must take extra care to ensure no-one is discriminated against as a job applicant or employee because they are unable to show you their documents.

For more information please do click the link opposite for the latest Government advice.

What happens to holiday and sick pay entitlement during a period of furlough?

The accrual of continuous service and the entitlement to holiday and sick pay, whilst on furlough, to continue as set out in employment contracts.

Employees can take holiday whilst on furlough. If an employee is flexibly furloughed then any hours taken as a holiday during the claim period should be counted as furloughed hours rather than working hours

Employers will be obliged to pay employees who are on holiday additional amounts over the grant, though will have the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need and the correct notice is given. This applies for both the furlough period and the recovery period.

The following should be included in the overarching arrangements of your agreement during furlough and that communication throughout the period between parties should be maintained, that the agreement could be subject to further change if required, and if so how this will be advised.

We would recommend that an agreement includes:

  • The details (name, job titles) of who the agreement is being drawn up by and for
  • Start and end dates of furlough periods
  • That the employee is not required or allowed to undertake any work for the employer, or any associated organisation, during the furlough period
  • Confirmation that the employer could bring the period of furlough to an end at any point if the employee is required to return to work
  • That the employee could volunteer to assist the COVID-19 crisis, should they choose and also, if their employment contract allows, undertake other employment during this period (however, this point should be linked to the one above, regarding your expectation for them to return to work and end the furlough status)
  • What the pay arrangements will be during a furloughed period (i.e. if you are continuing to pay 100% of normal pay. Note: if you are paying a lesser amount i.e. 80% then you should also seek agreement of this if you have not done so already)
  • The continuation of any statutory entitlements and enhance contractual payments if the employees are on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave (note: the agreement in the point above, if contractual levels of pay are to be less)
  • That the employee may be required (except where they are on periods of leave detailed in the point above), if applicable, to take an amount of annual leave (contractual or statutory) whilst on furlough
  • Any training the employee could complete (note: that at least the minimum wage will need to be paid for this activity)

All other terms (expressed or implied) will remain as is (note: providing you have checked that there are no other terms to be varied during a furlough period)A signature section where the name and date can also be printed. It may also be of benefit to set out a section of contact details (telephone number and email, for example) if existing work contact details are not being used during furlough.

What if I make a CJRS claim for my employee but they have more than one job?

If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.

However, if workers are required to, for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the National Living Wage /National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

If your employment contract allows, your employees may undertake other employment while you place them on furlough, and this will not affect your CJRS claim. However, they must still be able to return to work for you if you decide to stop furloughing them.

Short-time working is when you reduce your employee’s hours for a period of time similar to a period of ‘lay-off’.

Whilst there are no set rules for how consultation should be carried out if you are considering redundancies for 18 or less staff or indeed the timeframe to consult before the first dismissal if there are less than 20 redundancies to be made. There are, however, fundamental steps to follow to ensure a fair procedure is applied if your situation results in a dismissal on the grounds of redundancy. Furthermore, a general rule of thumb for a reasonable timeframe to meaningfully consult would be for a 2 week period. Please contact us for further advice on your situation. To find out more about how we can help with redundancies visit our Organisational Change service line page.

Given the current circumstances of COVID-19 and the impact on businesses, if you need to postpone a start date of employment and provide clear reasons as to why, we would hope that anyone, as unideal as this situation may be, would understand the predicament you have been placed in.

Our view would also apply, should it be the case that unfortunately, you need to withdraw an offer of employment that has been accepted due to the impact of COVID-19 on your business. Whilst a withdrawal would technically result in a breach of contract and you may incur a claim to pay damages/compensation, this is usually limited to the contractual notice period within the contract. If less than a month has been worked then the notice period should be nil unless the contract of employment states otherwise.

Employer’s whose business is affected by a downturn in work due to COVID-19 may also consider putting in place other temporary measures to avoid the need for redundancies, such as introducing a temporary reduction in pay, working hours, or removing/reducing certain contractual benefits.  Employers will need to consult with staff to obtain their agreement to the proposed changes in the absence of any relevant contractual clauses.

If, however, there is an increase in workload for staff that are able to continue working during the COVID-19 outbreak, employers need to consider what measures they can put in place to support those staff in helping them to manage increased workloads.  In the absence of existing contractual overtime provisions, employers will need to seek staff agreement to work overtime.

There’s no limit for how long you can be laid off. However, employees can claim a redundancy payment from you if the lay-off runs for:

  • 4 or more weeks in a row
  • 6 or more weeks in a 13 week period, where no more than 3 are in a row

Whatever circumstance, the employee must give you written notice in advance that they want to make a claim. Please note, you do not have to pay redundancy if the employees return to normal working hours within 4 weeks. However, if you do not give guarantee pay to someone who’s entitled to it, they could make a claim to an employment tribunal against you.

Face coverings are not compulsory. However, if you can, people are advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible or where you are more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

For travel on public transport from 15th June it will be mandatory to wear a face covering as a ‘condition of travel’.

Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.

The impact of COVID-19 is felt by all and this scar will take time to heal. Business leaders need to be pragmatic when managing people that have been absent (isolating, furlough, homeworking or otherwise) from the workplace for a long time, probably a period of absence that many employees have never experienced before. A must have is good HR practices enabling you to keep a handle on each situation and how best to manage.

It goes without saying that people are, therefore, understandably concerned, possibly for a multitude of reasons right now (work v caring responsibilities; inability to work due to self-isolation, being furloughed; working from home and feeling isolated; risk of redundancy; using of public transport to travel to work; the future and the ability to make plans).

There is a lot for employers to review and change how employees can best perform in a safe working environment and how this can be sustained. You HR have set out a number of key areas to assist your thinking and actions.

  • Re-orientate staff back into the workplace (even if still working from home but furlough is ending/changing). Ensure line managers are: able to champion any changes you have made; familiar and remain vigilant for symptoms; knowing how to manage such situations
  • Ensure your policies and processes reflect any changes you are introducing to manage health and wellbeing (i.e. sickness absence, homeworking, flexible working)
  • Conduct a series of pulse surveys to test out how your plans are progressing to maintain health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on engaging and involving employees and encouraging them to give feedback
  • Limit the number of employees ‘in office’ to maintain social distancing, continue to work from home where you can. Consider any flexible working requests (i.e. change of working hours) and/or staggering start/end work times, but don’t lose sight of maintaining social interaction, especially for those experiencing loneliness
  • Introduce ‘spot inspections’ of workstations / office space to ensure your guidelines are being adhered to and actions taken from risk assessments you undertake

Please email alice@youhr.co.uk for a copy of our homeworking survey (that includes DSE) or any of our other wellbeing guides and templates.

If you live with someone who is one of the following categories and you cannot find somewhere else for them to stay try to limit your distance and occupy different rooms.

  • Aged 70 or over
  • Has a long-term condition
  • Is pregnant
  • Has a weakened immune system

If this is not possible then ensure surfaces are kept clean / disinfected and follow the ‘guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection’ from the Government.

Yes, this is the guidance set by the Government if it is non-essential travel or even trying to avoid ‘rush hour’ periods if work times can be adjusted. If you cannot work from home and have to travel to work, or if you must make an essential journey, you should cycle or walk wherever possible. Before you travel on public transport, consider if your journey is necessary and if you can, stay local. Try to reduce your travel.

Staff must not travel on public transport if they, of course, feel unwell. If staff need to be sent home and have to use public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue.

If you are travelling via public transport for an essential journey, as from 15th June it will be mandatory to wear a face covering as a ‘condition of travel’.

It is also advisable to wear a face mask in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods of time in enclosed crowded areas.

It is so important to support your staff. Identifying vulnerable members of the team, for whatever health (mental or physical) reason is a priority. Reassure your employees through setting frequent and regular contact times and take time to listen to understand what action you can take to assist in any way. Draw on advice from great organisations such as Mind (see the link opposite) for you and your employees.

Ensure that your business continuity plan is clear and available to all employees and that you have support from your employees to help others in the team where they can.

Covid You HR virtual meeting

Regular contact is vital to keep workplace wellbeing. Virtual group chats through a variety of mediums can be utilised with a little bit of fun injected here and there. A GiF can speak a thousand words! Video calls can help with connectivity and minimise the feelings of isolation.

We know that staying at home for a prolonged period of time can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people and that it may cause your employees to feel low. Encourage your employees to stay in touch with you, family and friends over the phone, on social media by virtual Facetime calls however you/they can.  

They may find it helpful to structure their day, make sure they are doing so and including plenty of breaks, particularly if their VDU use is increasing.  

You can access the Government’s latest advice and tools on managing mental health and wellbeing by clicking here, or use the link opposite to find out how Mind is advising us all to maintain wellbeing during this period. 

For those employees who need to shield and protect themselves and/or people in their households defined on medical grounds (including children) or other Government groups as extremely vulnerable (i.e. for those aged over 70), they should follow this Government advice (click here). 

People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions but can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing. If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household. If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time. If you do go out, you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by maintaining social distancing.

Employers have a statutory duty of care for their employees’ health and safety, this should be covered through embracing responsibility to ensure that employees feel safe and secure in their employment.

We know that staying at home for a prolonged period of time can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people and that it may cause your employees to feel low. Encourage your employees to stay in touch with you, family and friends over the phone, on social media by virtual Facetime calls however you/they can.

They may find it helpful to structure their day, make sure they are doing so and including plenty of breaks, particularly if their VDU use is increasing. Employees can also now spend time outdoors and meet in groups of up to 6 whilst maintaining social distancing as well as exercising and playing sport individually or in groups of up to 6.

You can access the Government’s latest advice and tools on managing mental health and wellbeing by clicking here or use the link opposite to find out how Mind is advising us all to maintain wellbeing during this period. Find out more about how we can help with Workplace Wellbeing on our service line page.

We appreciate that there is an absolute whole change for many workplaces/work arrangements during such unprecedented times that naturally give cause for concern, uncertainty, or at times, reaction. We would always urge employer’s to maintain a zero-tolerance to bullying and harassment, but particularly during this time, even if there are degrees of ‘banter’ to lighten the mood at present – employer’s should remain vigilant to any situations that may be construed as bullying, harassing or discriminatory.

Currently, the Government are advising against all but essential international/national travel, and whilst employers cannot force their employees not to travel, they should urge their employee to follow Government advice.

Whilst annual leave already requested and approved can be cancelled, as long as the required period of notice is given (this is the same length of time as the period of leave to be cancelled). However, this may not be good for employee relations and pose a risk to claim of unfair treatment, possibly discrimination, therefore, we would urge employers to get in touch and seek further advice on the matter.

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be carried on paper, but we would advise taking precautions and maintaining hygiene standards, nevertheless. Concentration on high standards of disinfecting and hygiene should be given to potentially contaminated surfaces such as high-contact areas like bathrooms, door handles, telephones, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells.

Whilst the disclosure of data/information about an employee’s health is classed under the Data Protection Action 2018 as a ‘special category of personal data’, employers have a duty of care to all employee’s to inform them of any potential risk as a matter of priority. Employers should be mindful to not disclose the identity of the individual but focus more on advising employees of the precautions and measures they need to take to minimise any risk of infection

Where possible social distancing is recommended. Segregating teams and ensuring that close proximity to others is avoided wherever possible is important to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Email, phone or video calls are better than visiting other members of staff, even if they are just in the office next door!

The Government’s latest guidance has been issued and should be referred to an where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity. Businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

Mitigating actions include:

  • Set staggered start/end times for work, shift patterns, rotas containing the same small group of employees.
  • Encouraging frequent handwashing, surface cleaning, catch-it-bin-it-kill-it, wearing face masks where applicable, and for managers to be alert of situations of non-compliance or indeed symptoms emerging.
  • Creating screens or barriers to separate people from each other, reduce the use of communal areas where possible.
  • Using back-to-back or side-to side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others), reduce close contact work and ensure you adhere to the 2 metre distancing rule.
  • Engage your employees with your plans so everyone can take responsibility for creating a safe and secure workplace.
  • Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) relief package for SMEs
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to cover 80% of pay for laid-off employees
  • 12 months Business Rate Relief for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business 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
  • a Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund of up to £25,000 aimed at small businesses who were not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Fund to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates.
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • the coronavirus Future Fund offering convertible loans of between £125,000 and £5 million to innovate companies subject to at least equal match funding from private investors
  • 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

Looking after your own physical and mental health is paramount and there are ways you can do this, as well as encourage your employees to do so, as a means to keep your ‘in it together’ spirit going… you could even encourage others in your household to participate in these weekly ideas:

  • Regularly check-in with each other and ask, ‘how are you feeling’, ‘is there anything anyone can do to help’?
  • Stay connected with your business network, friends, family using a range of applications. We are in this together, there will be others that will be able to relate to what you are experiencing
  • Keep your communications flowing consistently and ensure you keep control of the key messages from reliable sources
  • Schedule time in the week where you can all do something together
  • Schedule in a routine and try your best to stick with and encourage others to do so, this will help reduce disruption and for you to feel a sense of control
  • Inspire hope where you can, share and celebrate positive news, achievements, group success where you are helping each other
  • Try something new and discuss this learning experience, especially if you all try together
  • Identify what ‘self-care’ activities work for you to provide a sense of relaxation and restoration

Remind yourself of what you have achieved and the business you have successfully developed thus far. Take time to reflect on what you desire in the future and take steps to start building your ‘new normal’ for when this crisis is over… go back to your foundations that have held your business together and look at what you need to rebuild.

As the Astronaut, Scott Kelly advised, in a recent New York Times interview, having spent nearly a year on the international space station, it is important that we follow a routine to try and foster a sense of normalcy under extraordinary circumstances. He said “one of the side effects of seeing Earth from the perspective of space, at least for me, is feeling more compassion for others. As helpless as we may feel stuck inside our homes, there are always things we can do”.

At You HR, we have been working remotely and fully operational since the 16th March 2020. We truly appreciate the implications such change has on your business, whether you are in a similar position to us, or like some of our clients, or those across our network, have had to close or even remain open with restrictions. Whatever impact this crisis has had on your business, in some way shape or form there has been an impact on you, your business and your wider network.

You HR have not referred to such turbulent times as a way for us to acclimatise to as we have remained hopeful and inspired by how if managed well, this period will be short-lived.

However, a phrase that we have consistently used and looked to factor into our business plans is, looking at what our ‘new normal’ will be when returning to some form of business as usual.

The latest Government advice and guidance is encouraging businesses to open up again in a safe and measured way. All business owners should seek to explore this guidance so they can safely resume their activities and ensure what ever plans are formulated, adhere to the changing national pandemic plan (adapting within each of the plan’s phases).

We would highly recommend breaking down your future thoughts and planning in a short (1 – 6 months), medium (6 – 12 months), and long term (next 2 years) when looking at business post COVID-19. We would also recommend, as none of us can provide clarity as to how our economy on a local, national, international scale will pan out, that you continuously review your plans, once made, to ensure they remain fit for business purpose and take you to where you want to go.

When planning, think about:

  • Spend time envisioning your future – dedicate a healthy amount of time each week over the next few months to do so… where are you drawing your inspiration from, who are you including when you consider your aspirational plans for your new normal?
  • What is about to change for your customers / clients, other key stakeholders, how will your demand and supply change?
  • What new areas of capacity and capability have you gleaned from the ‘lock-down’ period and what will you preserve and take with you as you transition into your new normal way of working?
  • How will you monitor track and manage with agility your levels of business resilience and learning to be able to continue coping with the unknown as the Government’s exit strategy and wide economic implications pan out?
  • Working backwards, lay out a path from your long-term aspiration to the mid-term (your post-crisis focal point), and from there to today and put milestone and bench-markers in place at appropriate intervals. This end goal focus and working backwards will help you greatly in ensuring your plans is SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely).

Please email us at alice@youhr.co.uk to ask for a free copy of our Business Leader’s Guide ‘Coming out of Lockdown’.

With your best laid plans in place at the point of lockdown, did they really encapsulate the core areas of your business that you needed to keep a grip and control of when business disruption arose?

As we begin to move out of lockdown and reflect on this experience, it is crucial that you preserve organisational memory of what saw you through the difficult times and learn from what you have gone through. This will give you greater assurance to be in a ‘ready state’ to cope with any continuing or future issues that may arise as we attempt to comprehend and adjust to an economical and social landscape that is yet to be fully understood.

Engaging your employees and taking them on your journey of reflection will enable them to be at the core of your thinking, after all they are your most important asset. They will help you identify what has worked and what you can improve on in order for your business to establish a new normal.

So as you begin to reflect, learn and adjust your continuity plans, preserving what you can and want to whilst introducing newness in your business thinking, You HR have outlined some of the key areas as a business leader, you should be focusing on to be responsive to emerging risks or issues whilst enabling organisational resilience… for instance

  • Have an Emergency Response Checklist and Risk Register where you can monitor, manage and mitigate risks and prevent further issues arising
  • Ensure your business insurances cover any changes you are putting in place (remote working, reopening business with adjustments)
  • Channels of regular communication internally (specifically team updates, board) and externally (customers, suppliers, networks)
  • Ensure policies, procedures and practices (recruitment, sickness management, flexible / home working), and Terms / Conditions enable you to manage, change and transition to your new normal
  • Have a checkpoint plan to manage and monitor these critical business areas as you transition out of a ‘continuity state’ to a new normal way of working

For more information about business continuity support available to you, or to obtain our business leaders guide please email alice@youhr.co.uk you can also book a free no obligation conversation to discuss your business continuity needs.

Knowing how you are going to transition from ‘continuity’ mode to a new normal way of working will require careful planning and management. Through developing your own ‘checkpoint’ plan this will assist you in moving forward and away from the business continuity mode you may find your business in currently.

Focusing on the areas being maintained as part of your continuity plan will bode well when exploring broader areas of your businesses needs and to really understand the changes to be made to your business model. Using your business plans effectively to be able to recover is key to repositioning your business and checking in on vital areas of your business is crucial.

Your priorities and needs will have changed as a business, a business leader, so will your clients and prospective’s needs have changed so how will this affect your business and what do you keep checking in on will be important aspects to consider in developing your checkpoint plan for instance:

  • Who do you need to involve, how and with what, when you start to create your ‘New Normal’? How are existing relationships evolving and new ones forming?
  • How will you be maintaining a grip and control of forecasting your finances and resource management, regularly reviewing; your cash-flow, your supply and demand of resource, your key targets to monitor and assess business performance?
  • How will you test that your systems, processes and practices are fit for purpose, that you are scrutinising the right areas you need to within your business, that you are focusing on the right areas of business redesign / change?
  • How are you planning and prioritising who needs to return to the workplace and how this can best happen? What do you need / want to review regarding current ways of working?

The above are examples of areas that you as a business leader you would need to consider, but your future business needs are unique to you so please email alice@youhr.co.uk for a copy of our Checkpoint Plan Template or to book a free no obligation virtual chat to get our advice and guidance on your plans to transition and transform out of lockdown.

In the first instance, employers should continue to make every effort to support working from home, including by providing suitable IT and equipment as they have been already. This will apply to many different types of businesses, particularly those who typically would have worked in offices or online.

Where work can only be done in the workplace, the Government has set out tailored guidelines for employers to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running. The Government has published detailed COVID-19 secure guidelines, which have been developed in consultation with businesses and trades unions to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The 8 guides cover a range of different types of work to ensure they are COVID-19 secure. Click on our link opposite to see the latest information from the Government, or take a look at our articles on this page.

Communication is key at any time in business, especially during a crisis, so keeping in touch will help you all greatly.

Have you thought about the different ways you can keep in touch, alongside the new innovative ‘virtual’ team screen visibility, quick chats or a good old fashioned telephone call will help. Regular contact is important, schedule these in and stick to them and strike a good balance between checking in to keep in touch with work but also the social enjoyment too… try and think of activities that everyone would enjoy, not just you ‘pub quiz’ suggestions – there’s ample out there to think about.

You can furlough your apprentice and still allow them to continue their training as long as it does not result in services provide or revenue generated for your business, or an associated organisation.

You must continue to pay apprentices at least the apprenticeship minimum wage, national living wage or national minimum wage as appropriate for all the time they spend training.

Whether you have furloughed your employees, or they are working remotely, there is a great opportunity for them to access training online with a lot of businesses provided free access during this difficult time.

Developing your employees should be an evolving focus in your business. If you are able to review plans to train and develop your employees, now would be a good time to do so, as a means to keep connected and keep ‘learning’ moving but also for you to forward think what development plans will need to contain as we progress to our ‘new normal’ post COVID-19

There are many benefits to be reaped if you can focus on progressing your employees’ knowledge, skills and experience. It will help to maintain levels of motivation, strengthen the commitment and loyalty in your working relationship, go some way to close any gaps of knowledge, skill and experience. Ultimately it could enable an opportunity to skill-mix, up-skill, progress careers, talent and your succession plans, all benefits that will help you to keep a competitive edge.