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Coronavirus: changes to UK Job Support Scheme – key details for employers

We previously reported on the establishment of the Job Support Scheme (“JSS”).  The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made a further announcement setting out significant changes to the JSS .  These changes are primarily aimed at providing support to businesses in Tier 2 which are not legally required to shut their premises as part of further lockdown measures, but which are suffering a significant decline in revenue.  However, the changes go even further than this.

Key details of the changes

The key details of the changes to scheme, which will apply to all of the UK, are as follows:

  • The JSS will apply to all businesses in every alert level (i.e. Tiers 1, 2 and 3).
  • Employees only need to work at least 20% of their normally working hours and be paid by their employer for those hours (not at least 33% of their normal working hours as originally required when the JSS was first announced).
  • Under the initial JSS announcement, for the hours not worked, the government and the employer were each required to pay one third of an employee’s salary. Following today’s announcement, the employer contribution will be reduced to just 5%.
  • The government will provide up to 61.67% of wages for hours not worked, up to £1,541.75 per month (more than doubling the maximum payment of £697.92 under the previous rules when the JSS was first announced).

In addition, the government is increasing support for self-employed individuals and implementing a new grant scheme

Coronavirus: new detailed UK guidance on part-time furloughing and reduction in grants under the UK furlough scheme – implications for employers

The UK government has now released its detailed guidance to implement flexible furlough and gradually wind down the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) to its expected end date of 31 October 2020.

Key highlights of the new flexible furlough regime and winding down payments

From 1 July 2020, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim a CJRS grant for the hours not worked. Some of the key aspects of the flexible furloughing regime are set out below:

  • Employers will still be able to claim the CJRS grant for the hours that its employees are flexibly furloughed (that is, not working), compared to the hours they would normally have worked in that period.
  • The existing three week minimum furlough period will be removed. CJRS claims made via the online portal will, however, need to be for a minimum period of one week.
  • Wage caps will be proportional to the hours an employee is furloughed. For example, an employee is entitled to 60% of the £2,500 cap if they are placed on furlough for 60% of their usual hours.
  • Save for employees returning from family leave:
    • employers will only be able to claim for employees who have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020; and
    • the number of employees an employer can claim for in any claim period starting

Coronavirus: UK Furlough Scheme – timeline of key dates including collective consultation triggers

The UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) is evolving and winding down. In addition to knowing when these changes take effect, UK employers need to bear in mind the risk that they may also trigger collective consultation obligations. Set out below are some key dates for UK employers to bear in mind:

10 June 2020: furlough claims can only be made in respect of employees who have been registered under the scheme by this date.

16 June 2020: ‘cliff-edge’ date for conducting minimum 45 days collective consultation prior to any changes from 1 August 2020.

30 June 2020: employers will not be able to put additional employees on furlough.

1 July 2020: part-time furloughing is permitted.

1 August 2020: employers will have to pay employer National Insurance contributions and employer pension auto enrolment contributions for furloughed employees.

1 September 2020: employers must contribute 10% towards the pay of furloughed employees.

15 September 2020: ‘cliff-edge’ date for conducting minimum 45 days collective consultation prior to the end of the CJRS on 31 October 2020.

1 October 2020: employers must contribute 20% towards the pay of furloughed employees.

31 October 2020: the CJRS ends.

BCLP has assembled a COVID-19 Employment & Labor taskforce to assist clients with employment law issues across various jurisdictions. You can contact the taskforce at: COVID-19HRLabour&EmploymentIssues@bclplaw.com. You can also view other thought leadership, guidance, and helpful information on our dedicated COVID-19 / Coronavirus resources page at https://www.bclplaw.com/en-GB/topics/covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-resources.html

COVID-19 redundancy issues: HR frequently asked questions in multiple jurisdictions

Summary

We understand that our clients and contacts will be addressing complex redundancy issues related to COVID-19 in multiple jurisdictions. BCLP, together with our local counsel friends, have produced a global Q&A document covering 40 jurisdictions. We cover questions around dismissals, compensation, collective consultation and alternatives to redundancy.

Please download our global Q&A document here.

The document covers the following questions:

  • Is there any legislation, order or mandate prohibiting an employer from dismissing an employee in circumstances where the employer has obtained the benefit of Coronavirus government support?
  • Does an employee with a qualifying period of employment have any statutory protection against redundancy dismissal?
  • What redundancy compensation is payable to an employee who is dismissed by reason of redundancy?
  • Should an employer take into consideration a Coronavirus government support scheme before dismissing an employee?
  • Are employers subject to separate collective consultation obligations?
  • If an employer is subject to collective consultation obligations, is there any defence for a failure to comply?
  • If an employer is subject to collective consultation obligations, what is the sanction for a failure to comply?
  • What alternatives to redundancy dismissal are open to an employer?

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme – UK online service to be launched on 26 May 2020

Today, the UK government announced that a new online service will be launched on 26 May 2020 for small and medium-sized employers (with fewer than 250 employees) to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (part of a package of support measures for businesses affected by Coronavirus) covers all types of employment contracts, including full-time employees; part-time employees; employees on agency contracts and employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.

Employers will be able to make their claims through a new online service in respect of payments made to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020 on condition that they have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started before 28 February 2020 and they had fewer than 250 employees before that date.  Employees do not have to provide a doctor’s fit note for their employer to make a claim under the scheme.

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks of SSP and is payable in respect of employees who are unable to work because they have Coronavirus; are self-isolating and unable to work from home or are shielding because they have been advised that they are at high risk of severe illness from Coronavirus.

BCLP has assembled a COVID-19 Employment & Labor taskforce to assist clients with employment law issues across various jurisdictions. You can contact the taskforce at: COVID-19HRLabour&EmploymentIssues@bclplaw.com. You can also view other thought

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – extension until 31 October 2020

Since its inception, almost one million employers have applied to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) to help pay the wages of 7.5m jobs (almost a quarter of all employees in the UK).  Although there is no doubt that the CJRS has been a great success in protecting jobs whilst businesses have been in hibernation, the cost to the UK taxpayer has been extraordinary – an estimated £49 billion up to 30 June 2020, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The government will be hopeful that as lockdown is eased and employees who cannot work from home gradually return back to the workplace, reliance on the CJRS will decline.  However, there are some sectors which will not be able to reopen until 4 July 2020 (at the earliest) and there will be some employers who will not be able to put in place a COVID-19 secure workplace.  With that in mind, and with a collective redundancy consultation “cliff-edge” on 15 May 2020, the government has taken steps to extend the CJRS.

Today, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the following:

  • the CJRS will be extended for a further four months, up to 31 October 2020;
  • no changes will be made to the CJRS until the end of July 2020;
  • with effect from 1 August 2020, part-time furloughing under the CJRS (which is currently prohibited) will be permitted;
  • the existing government grant of 80% of wages (capped at £2,500 per month) will continue to remain in place; and

Coronavirus – measures that UK employers need to take to “help get Brits safely back to work”

Yesterday, the UK government published eight different workplace-specific guidance documents on measures that employers need to take to “help get Brits safely back to work”. The guidance is tailored for different workplace environments, such as offices, factories, retail shops etc.

Whilst the basic position remains that employers should take all reasonable steps to help their staff work from home, where this is not feasible and the employer has not been told to close, staff should be encouraged to come back to work – as long as there is a ‘COVID-19 secure’ environment put in place by the employer.

In order to take steps to ensure that the workplace is COVID-19 secure, employers are required to take the following key steps:

  • consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union (or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by staff) about a risk assessment to be carried out in order to establish what specific guidelines need to be to put in place;
  • share the results of the risk assessment with the workforce – the UK government has stated that it expects all employers with over 50 workers to publish this data on their website;
  • display a standard form notice in the workplace to demonstrate that the employer is following the guidance;
  • re-design workplaces to maintain (wherever possible) social distancing by, for example, ensuring a 2 metre distance between staff; staggering working hours and opening up more exit and entry points;
  • if it is not

Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme online portal now open / employee consent

Online portal

Today, the UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’) online portal has opened for employers to make applications for furlough grants.  You can find the portal here.

Claims can only be made in respect of furloughed employees who were on an employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and who were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020.  Employees who were employed as at 28 February 2020 and on payroll (that is, notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 28 February 2020) and who were made redundant or stopped working for the employer after that date, but prior to 19 March 2020, will also qualify for the CJRS if the employer re-employs them and puts them on furlough.

In relation to claims made under the CJRS, employers should retain all records and calculations in respect of its claims, including records of the amount claimed for each furloughed employee and the period for which each employee is furloughed.

If an employer is furloughing less than 100 employees, in addition to providing certain employer-related details, it is required to enter various employee-specific information. This includes the employee’s name, National Insurance number, claim period and claim amount, and payroll/employee number (optional).  If an employer is furloughing 100 or more employees, it can upload a file with the above information rather than input it directly into the portal.  HMRC will accept .xls .xlsx .csv .ods file types.

For more information

Coronavirus: UK’s first judgment on the Job Retention Scheme – the Carluccio’s administration

On Monday 13 April 2020, the High Court released its judgment in the United Kingdom’s first case relating to the government’s recently announced Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”).

The case considered the use of the CJRS by the Administrators of Carluccio’s Limited (“Carluccio’s”). Due to Carluccio’s being in administration, it was heard by the High Court as a matter of urgency.

The case raised several important points because the government had only outlined the CJRS in broad terms, nor has it detailed the way the CJRS interacts with existing insolvency legislation.

This blog deals with the administration and insolvency issues as well as the employment law implications regarding employees impliedly consenting to changes to their terms of employment.

Facts

  • Carluccio’s entered administration subsequent to the imposition of the government’s ‘lockdown’ measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Administrators’ current strategy is to “mothball” Carluccio’s whilst it seeks a buyer. As part of this strategy the Administrators wish to retain its employees and claim for their wages through the CJRS.
  • Carluccio’s has no money with which to pay the continuing wages of its employees. If Carluccio’s cannot take advantage of the CJRS and in turn limit its liability for wages to the amount it would be able to obtain under the scheme, the Administrators would be forced to make the workforce redundant.
  • The Administrators made an offer to place the employees on furlough under the CJRS. The “overwhelming majority of employees” accepted the offer, a “handful” indicated that

Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme – previously excluded employees now in scope to be furloughed

Summary

Key points arising out of the revised guidance and the legislative framework include:

1. Eligibility cut-off date extended from 28 February to 19 March: This is the most significant change to the UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) guidance. It brings into scope many new recruits who previously could not be furloughed. Earlier versions of the guidance said that new recruits who joined after 28 February were excluded from the scheme. However, the latest guidance now says that individuals put on the employer’s payroll on or before 19 March, and in respect of whom the employer has also made an RTI submission to HMRC on or before 19 March, can be furloughed.

It may well be that employers have already taken action to terminate new recruits who, according to previous versions of the guidance couldn’t be furloughed. Employers still have the option to rehire these individuals and then furlough them, if they wish to do so.

2. Requirement for employer/employee agreement: the legislative underpin for the CJRS (the ‘CJRS Direction’) has now also been published and says that to be furloughed, the employer and employee must agree in writing that the employee will cease all work. This conflicts with the guidance, where the employer only has to confirm in writing that the employee has been furloughed, not that the employee has agreed to cease working. The best evidence of employee agreement is express confirmation from the employee that they agree to the furlough letter terms (which include the

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