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Coronavirus (UK): detailed guidance published on the extended furlough scheme – key points for employers

In our blog on 5 November 2020, we flagged that further government guidance on the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) would be provided on 10 November 2020. HMRC has now published that guidance.

Key details of the government guidance

The updated guidance includes the following key details:

  • During the period 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2021, the government furlough grant will pay 80% of wages for hours not worked up, capped at £2,500 per month. Employers will be liable for employer National Insurance contributions and employer pension contributions only. The government will review the terms of the scheme in January 2021 and may then require that employers make a contributions towards wages (as it did under the original scheme).  This is likely to be dependent on the state of the economy and the general prevalence of the virus.
  • The extended CJRS applies to employees who were employed as at 30 October 2020, as well as employees who were made redundant or stopped working on or after 23 September 2020, if they are then re-employed by their employer.
  • Employers can make a claim under the extended furlough scheme in relation to employees who have not previously been furloughed and claimed for, and there is no cap on the number of employees that an employer can claim for under the extended scheme.
  • The scheme is fully flexible – employers can furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern.
  • Any claims under the initial CJRS

Coronavirus: UK Job Support Scheme – key details for employers

As we reported previously, on 12 May 2020 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) would be extended until 31 October 2020.  With just over 5 weeks until the CJRS ends, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made an announcement setting out the government’s package of measures designed to protect UK jobs through the winter.

Job Support Scheme

With effect from 1 November 2020, the new Job Support Scheme (“JSS”) will come into force.  The key details of the JSS are as follows:

  • It is designed to support the wages of employees who are in viable jobs, but on shorter working hours.
  • Employees must work at least 1/3 of their normal working hours and be paid by their employer for those hours.
  • For the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of an employee’s salary.
  • The level of grant will be calculated based on an employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
  • All small and medium enterprises are eligible to participate in the JSS.
  • Larger businesses, whose turnover has fallen as a result of coronavirus, are also eligible to participate in the JSS, subject to complying with certain conditions, including restrictions on capital distributions to their shareholders.
  • The JSS is open to all employers, including those who have not participated in the CJRS.
  • The JSS will remain in force for 6 months from 1 November 2020.
  • Employers will not be permitted to issue notices

California Passes COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law

On September 9, California Governor Newsom signed a bill that establishes COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (“COVID-19 PSL”) for California workers generally not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).

Important Dates

Employers are required to begin providing COVID-19 PSL by September 19.

Employers must also post a notice in their workplace by September 19.  If employees are not physically present in the workplace, the employer may disseminate the notice electronically.

Starting in the first pay period after September 9, employers must provide notice in a wage statement (or a separate writing provided on pay day) of an employee’s available COVID-19 PSL each pay period.

The requirement to provide COVID-19 PSL expires on December 31, 2020 or upon the expiration of any federal extension of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act established by the FFCRA.

Covered Employers & Employees

California’s new law applies to private employers with 500 or more employees in the United States.  It also applies to any public or private entity that employs health care providers or emergency responders and that has elected to exclude such employees from emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

Workers are entitled to COVID-19 PSL only if they are (1) employed by a covered employer AND (2) leave home to perform work for their employer.

Reasons for Leave

Employees are entitled to COVID-19 PSL when they are unable to work because they:

  • are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related

US COVID-19: DOL Issues Revised FFCRA Regulations In Response to NY Decision

In August, we informed you of a decision by a federal district court in New York (the “Court”) that invalidated four key provisions of the federal Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) regulations interpreting the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  On September 11, 2020, the DOL acknowledged the nationwide impact of the Court’s ruling, and issued much-anticipated revised regulations addressing the four provisions.  The new regulations will be formally published, and become effective, on September 16, 2020.

As described in detail below, in the new regulations, the DOL: (a) affirmed the “work-availability” requirement; (b) affirmed the “employer consent” requirement for intermittent leave; (c) narrowed the scope of the “health care provider” definition for purposes of the available exemption from the leave entitlement; and (d) clarified the timing of notice and documentation requirements.  The DOL also provided new and revised Q&As on these subjects (see Q&A #s 16, 21, 22, 56, and 98-103).

Work-Availability

In the revised regulations, the DOL held firm to the requirement that employees are only entitled to leave if they are unable to work “because of” a COVID-19 qualifying reason.  The DOL addressed the Court’s concerns with consistency by clarifying that this work-availability requirement applies to all qualifying reasons for FFCRA leave.  Thus, according to the DOL:

  • FFCRA leave (both Paid Sick Leave for any qualifying reason and Expanded FMLA leave) may only be taken if the employee has work from which to take leave. In other words, an employee cannot take FFCRA leave if the employer would

U.S. COVID-19: DOL Issues FFCRA Guidance Regarding School Reopening Plans

Last week, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) published guidance (Q&A #s 98-100) on the impact of various school reopening plans on employees’ entitlement to leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  As anticipated, leave rights depend on the specific circumstances, with the key being whether the school is “closed” (not available for the child to attend in person):

  • No In-Person Program: If the school is not offering any in-person instruction and instead is providing only remote learning (aka virtual learning; e-learning; distance learning) to students, then an employee will have a qualifying reason for leave.
  • Hybrid Program: If the school is providing a hybrid program pursuant to which students are receiving in-person instruction on some days and doing remote learning on other days (such as alternating days or weeks in the classroom vs. at-home), then an employee will have a qualifying reason for leave but only on the days when in-person instruction is not available to their child.
  • Choice Between In-Person or Remote Program: If the school provides families with a choice between an in-person program or a remote program, and the employee chooses the remote option, the employee will not have a qualifying reason for leave.  This is true regardless of the reason for the employee’s choice (e.g., choosing remote learning due to fear of exposure to COVID will not provide a qualifying reason for leave when in-person learning is available).

Importantly, even when the school is closed, an employee will still be

U.S. COVID-19: New York Federal Court Invalidates Several Provisions of FFCRA Regulations

Employers’ efforts to comply with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) were further complicated on Monday when the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York invalidated several key provisions of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule (or regulations) interpreting the law.  Unfortunately, the Court’s holding creates a number of questions on key issues, including retroactivity and the applicability of the decision on a nationwide basis in light of the court’s failure to issue a nationwide injunction.  Further, the holding may not be final, because the DOL may appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  At minimum, it appears likely that the DOL will issue revised Questions & Answers, and potentially revised regulations, in light of Monday’s ruling.

As we await further guidance from the DOL and/or the courts, employers should become familiar with the changed FFCRA landscape and consider how Monday’s ruling may impact their FFCRA policy and practices.  Below is a discussion of the four provisions that have been struck down, at least within the Southern District of New York.

Work-Availability

The FFCRA statutory language provides that employees are only entitled to leave if they are unable to work “because of” a COVID-19 qualifying reason.  The DOL interpreted this language to mean that employees are not entitled to FFCRA leave if their employer has no work available for them, even if the lack of work is the result of a government directive such as a closure or “stay-at-home”

US COVID-19: Risky Business – Navigating Workplace Issues Involving High Risk Employees

As states across the country see spikes in COVID-19 cases, employers continue to wrestle with how to handle “high risk” employees, i.e., employees who are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  Guidance from a variety of agencies on the topic, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), has been published in waves, leaving many to wonder how this guidance may or may not continue to be relevant.

Below are six important areas of the law to consider when navigating this evolving landscape.  As a reminder, each individual employee’s circumstances are unique, so while employers should have a consistent procedure in place for triaging high risk employees’ presence in the workplace, employers should also be prepared to develop individualized solutions based on an employee’s specific needs.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”): Employees with certain underlying health conditions may qualify as “high risk” and thus be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  While accommodations may include a leave of absence or telework arrangement, other possible accommodations include permitting the employee more frequent hygiene breaks, excusing the employee from attending group meetings/gatherings, and reconfiguring the employee’s workspace.  It is important that employers not act unilaterally with respect to implementing accommodations.  Instead, the interactive dialogue process should be used early on to identify what, if any, accommodations an employee may need and/or receive.  As a reminder, employers’
  • Coronavirus: the UK government’s Job Retention Bonus scheme – key points for employers

    On 8 July 2020, we reported on the UK government’s Job Retention Bonus scheme.  The Job Retention Bonus Scheme (“JRBS“) is designed to incentivise employers to retain furloughed employees after the CJRS finishes at the end of October 2020. Employers will receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed on 31 January 2021.

    Today, the UK government has issued a policy paper providing more information in relation to the JRBS. The key details for employers to note are as follows:

    • All employers are eligible for the JRBS, including recruitment agencies and umbrella companies.
    • A new employer may be eligible to claim under the JRBS in respect of employees of a previous business who were transferred to the new employer if either TUPE applies, the PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership, or there is a business transfer where TUPE would have applied if the company was not in compulsory liquidation.  To claim under the JRBS under these circumstances, the transferred employees must have been furloughed and successfully claimed for under the CJRS by their new employer. An employer will not be eligible for a bonus under the JRBS in respect of any employee transferred under TUPE or under the business succession rules after 31 October 2020.
    • Employers will be able to claim for employees who meet all of the following criteria:
      • were furloughed and had a CJRS claim submitted for them that meets all relevant eligibility criteria for that

    US COVID-19: Remember the FMLA: DOL Issues New Q&A on COVID-related FMLA Issues

    With all of the attention being given to COVID-19-related leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), we mustn’t forget the (traditional) Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  To remind us, the federal Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently issued new FMLA Q&A on COVID-19-related subjects.

    COVID-19 Testing:  The DOL clarified that the FMLA’s “reinstatement” requirement does not interfere with an employer’s ability to require all employees to take a COVID-19 test before coming to the office.  (See Q&A #13.)  This is because employees who have taken FMLA leave are still subject to the same actions that would have applied to the employee had the employee not taken FMLA leave.

    For BCLP discussions about what the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has said about COVID-19 related testing, see this blog post on 4 Takeaways from the EEOC’s New Guidance on Antibody Testing, Older Workers, and Accommodations and this one on EEOC Updates COVID-19 Guidance, Permitting Employers To Administer COVID-19 Tests and Clarifying Accommodation Obligations.

    Telemedicine:  The DOL clarified that, until December 31, 2020, and in light of the current pandemic-related demands on health care providers and PPE/supplies, “telemedicine” visits will count as “in-person visits” for FMLA purposes.  (See Q&A #12.)  This decision is significant because one of the common categories of serious health condition under the FMLA – “incapacity plus treatment” – requires certain “in-person” visits to a health care provider.  According to the DOL, a telemedicine visit will constitute an in-person visit as long as

    US COVID-19: New FFCRA Q&A – Return to Work Issues

    July 21, 2020

    Categories

    On July 20, as part of a barrage of new guidance relating to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the federal Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued four new FFCRA Q&As relating to “return to work” issues.

    Three of the new Q&As (95-97) explain the interconnection between FFCRA leave and furlough:

    • Hours of FFCRA leave taken prior to furlough count against an employee’s total FFCRA leave entitlement (i.e., the fact that an employee took FFCRA leave and subsequently was furloughed does not mean that the employee’s FFCRA entitlement starts over upon return to work);
    • Hours/weeks on furlough do not count against an employee’s FFCRA entitlement;
    • Post-furlough requests for FFCRA leave should be treated as “new” requests for FFCRA leave (i.e., employees should be required to provide appropriate documentation in support of post-furlough leave requests); and
    • Employers may not make furlough decisions (such as which employees to recall from furlough) based on a desire to avoid providing FFCRA leave.

    The remaining new Q&A (94) relates to the “reinstatement” obligation under the FFCRA.  While recognizing that employees who take protected FFCRA leave are, generally, entitled to be restored to their same or equivalent position when returning from leave, the DOL clarifies that employers may take certain steps to reduce potential exposure of employees in the workplace.

    Specifically, in regards to an employee who took Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA to care for a family member who

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