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Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme – government fills in some gaps in the guidance

Summary

As an update to our 27 March blog “Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme – further government guidance”, the UK government has revised its online guidance to provide more information on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) operates. A number of points have been clarified, whilst some important issues have still not been addressed.

The following CJRS points have been clarified:

Who can be furloughed?

Clarifications on who can be furloughed include:

  • Terminated and rehired staff: employees who were terminated on or after 28 February, whether or not for redundancy, can be furloughed, providing the employer rehires them. Previously the guidance only talked about those who were made redundant;
  • Carers/shielding employees: employees who are unable to work from home because they have caring responsibilities, or because they are shielding in line with public health guidance, are expressly covered;
  • Insolvency: employees of a company which is in administration may be furloughed, although the government expects administrators to only access the CJRS if there is a reasonable likelihood of rehiring them; and
  • Non-employees: whilst we already knew that non-employees such as agency workers who are paid through PAYE could be furloughed, the updated guidance highlights that company directors

U.S. CORONAVIRUS RELIEF BILL: The CARES Act – Provisions Affecting Employers and Employees

Following tense negotiations throughout last week, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act” or “Act”) became law on March 27, 2020.  The CARES Act represents the third Phase of Congressional relief responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Phase I (Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-123)) and Phase II (Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127)) were signed into law on March 6 and 18, respectively.   At 883 pages, the CARES Act is the largest relief bill in U.S. history and addresses on multiple fronts the hardships faced by individuals and businesses throughout this crisis.  These efforts include an unprecedented expansion of unemployment benefits, significant funding for the health care industry, aid to large and small businesses valued in the billions, and even direct payments to individuals.

The majority of economic relief provisions for U.S. workers and employers is provided in Titles I through IV of Division A of the Act (Division B consists of emergency appropriations to fund various program). The CARES Act also has specific provisions regarding relief for airlines, financial institutions, and other sectors that are considered critical to national security.  Titles I through IV of Division A of

Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme – further government guidance

Summary

As an update to our earlier blog “Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme – what we know so far from the UK government’s 20 March 2020 announcement”, please see below for further details.

Analysis of updated government guidance in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (as at 27 March 2020) >

COVID-19 Update – Employee Assistance Through Interest-Free Loans

As we explore ways to manage through these difficult economic times, employers who are looking for ways to assist employees who have seen their compensation reduced or former employees whose jobs have been temporarily eliminated due to the impact of the coronavirus quarantine may want to consider making interest-free loans available to those employees as a way to assist them economically during this difficult period.

Click here to read the Alert in full.

Coronavirus: UK Job Retention Scheme – what we know so far from the UK government’s 20 March 2020 announcement

Summary

As an update to our earlier blog “Coronavirus – UK job retention scheme”, we have analysed the Retention Scheme announced by the UK government on 20 March 2020, based on the information released so far.

 

Analysis of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (as at 20 March 2020) >

Coronavirus – UK job retention scheme

As an update to our earlier blog “Coronavirus – update on UK government measures in relation to employee absences and statutory sick pay”, set out below is a brief overview of the key measures that have, today, been announced by the UK government in relation to employees.

  • Employers will be provided with a grant to cover 80% of the salary (up to £2,500 per month) of employees who are not able to work, so that they can be furloughed, rather than dismissed. Employers can choose to top this up if they wish.
  • These grants will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and will be available for at least 3 months.
  • There will be no limit on the amount of funding under the scheme and the first grants are expected to be paid within weeks.
  • Additional measures have also been announced, including the business interruption scheme being interest-free for 12 months rather than 6 months, and VAT payments being deferred to the next quarter.

Extension of UK Off-Payroll Working Rules (often referred to as “IR35”) delayed to April 2021

Summary

The extension of the UK off-payroll working rules to private sector clients, due to take effect from April 2020, has been delayed by one year. This follows growing calls from businesses and business leaders given the difficult and uncertain times faced by many in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a huge relief for many contractors and businesses but it is just a postponement. The extra time should be used wisely to prepare for the changes; given the year-long extension it is unlikely that HMRC’s promise not to be ‘heavy handed’ on penalties during the first year of IR35 will stand.

The delay may, however, put some in a difficult position. If, in anticipation of the new rules coming into force, it has already been determined by a private sector client that a relationship would be one of employer/employee if the intermediary was not involved, the intermediary (in most cases the contractor’s PSC) should seriously consider operating PAYE and account to HMRC for employer/employee NICs and employee income tax accordingly. HMRC previously stated that it will not carry out targeted campaigns into earlier tax years where a client determines that a worker would be an employee if engaged

COVID-19 / Coronavirus: HR frequently asked questions in multiple jurisdictions

Summary

We understand that our clients and contacts will be addressing complex COVID-19 related HR issues in multiple jurisdictions. BCLP, together with our local counsel friends, have produced a global Q&A document covering 35 jurisdictions.

Please download our global Q&A document here.

The document covers the following questions:

  • What if an employee refuses to attend work due to fear of the coronavirus?
  • What if an employee refuses to undertake work travel to an ‘at risk’ area?
  • Can an employee be stopped from holidaying to an ‘at risk’ area?
  • If an employee is off sick due to the coronavirus are they entitled to sick pay?
  • What should we do if someone suffering from the coronavirus comes into the workplace?
  • What if the workplace needs to be closed?
  • Can an employee be required by their employer to ‘self-isolate’?
  • What physical measures should employers be taking?
  • How should employers deal with discriminatory behaviours?

If you have any questions that we have not covered, please contact any member of the team and we could be happy to help.

IR35 – 5 key milestones to ensure you’re ready for the new UK regime

Summary

With the revised IR35 (off-payroll working) rules coming into force in the UK for private sector employers in just a few weeks, are you ready for the new regime? Here are 5 key actions to benchmark your readiness.

Are you definitely in scope for the new IR35 rules?

‘Small’ companies can continue to operate the existing IR35 regime (obligation to assess IR35 status and account for tax/NICs falls on the Personal Service Company (PSC)), rather than apply the new regime which puts the obligation on the fee payer/client.

‘Small’ companies are those that satisfy at least two of the following requirements:

  • annual turnover not more than £10.2 million;
  • balance sheet not more than £5.1 million; and
  • not more than 50 employees.

If you are a subsidiary within a group, your parent company must also satisfy the small company test for the exemption to apply.

Have you mapped all your Personal Service Company (PSC) relationships?

This includes identifying both direct engagements with PSCs as well as those provided through an agency.

Have you set up robust processes to make consistent employment status determinations and appropriately communicate them?

The client (the recipient of the consultancy services) must take

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: philosophical belief; equal pay; sexual harassment

Summary

Our February 2020 update outlines key UK employment law developments from January. It includes cases on ethical veganism as a philosophical belief, equal pay and the difficulties in defending such claims, the impact of the drafting of the employment contract on territorial scope, the EHRC’s technical guidance on sexual harassment in the workplace with practical steps employers can take to tackle harassment, and the FCA’s letter on non-financial misconduct for wholesale general insurance firms. We also outline other points of note, including the draft Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 and changes to the ICO guidance on the timescales for complying with a data subject access request.

Ethical veganism held to be a philosophical belief

An employment tribunal has found that a belief of ethical veganism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. The Claimant, a qualified zoologist and vegan since 2000, had worked in animal protection most of his working life. He adhered to the philosophy of the Vegan Society and exhausted all reasonable steps to ascertain whether a product or service complied with ethical veganism.

The tribunal noted that “ethical veganism” is not just about choices in diet, but also choices relating to what a

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