Unpicking the Job Support Scheme

Orchard Employment Law provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

Both Employers and employees have been concerned about the future of jobs once the Furlough scheme ends on the 31st October so it is no surprise that people were eagerly awaiting the announcement of the new job support scheme. 

We bring you answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is the Job Support Scheme in a nutshell?

This scheme will allow employers to reduce staff hours and to claim some monies from the government.

All small and medium businesses will be eligible to use the scheme but large businesses will only be able to claim if they can show that their turnover has reduced as a result of the pandemic.

How many hours must an employee work to be eligible for the scheme?

Under the new scheme the employees work at least at least one third of the employees normal hours. The minimum hour requirement might increase after January 2021.

What will I have to pay as an employer?

As an employer you will be required to pay national insurance and pensions. You will also have to pay 100% of the hours which the employee works.

You will also have to contribute towards the hours which the employee does not work. Your total contribution will vary depending on the percentage of time the employee works. The total minimum contribution from an employer (including hours worked) will be 55% but it could be as much as 80%.

Just as with furlough, it is likely that the employee will be on a reduced salary on the job support scheme.

Can I use the scheme on a new employee?

Employees who been employed on of after the 23rd of September 2020 are eligible for the scheme.

What if the employee has not been furloughed in the past?

There is no requirement for the business to have used furlough in the past or for the employee to have been furloughed before.

Can I rotate staff on the scheme?

Yes, you can rotate staff  on and off the job retention scheme but they must be on the scheme for a minimum of 7 days at a time.

Is there an automatic right to put an employee on the scheme?

No, as this will be a reduction in wages you will need to check your contracts to see whether or not you have the right to reduce pay. If you do not have the right to reduce pay you should negotiate with your staff and have a written agreement for them to be on the scheme. We recommend you take advice on this so as not to end up with a claim against you.

You should also have clear and transparent reasons as to who is put on the scheme and who isn’t. You are still required to follow UK employment laws and this means not discriminating against people.

Will I still be able to make redundancies if I use the scheme?

You will still be able to make redundancies but you cannot use the scheme during the notice period. Employees should receive their full redundancy and notice pay (pre furlough and job support scheme.

Do I have to use the scheme instead of using redundancies or lay off?

No, there is no obligation for an employer to use the job support scheme.

Can we contact you for support?

Yes, we provide advice and support to employers  with all HR and Employment Law matters. You can contact us at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Stepping into Quarter 4 of 2020

Adverse weather, Furlough, Redundancies and Annual Leave

October is almost upon us and so now is a good time to start preparing for the colder months. We have a few hints and tips for you for coping with the colder weather: –

Adverse Weather

It happens every year. Snow, ice, frost and fallen trees can cause havoc on our roads and also on public transport, so much so that you could have staff who are late to work or even unable to make it in at all because of the winter weather.

You are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work, but it is always a good idea to put things in place which allow your staff to maintain pay and also for your business to continue to function.

Think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home (if they are not already) or make up their hours on another occasion.

If you do decide to pay staff who cannot attend work, ensure that they are told that it is an act of goodwill and is not intended to be contractual.

School Closures

This year has been a difficult year with the school closures that we have already had because of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the weather can also be a factor when it comes to school closures and sometimes, even if your staff can travel to work, their children’s schools may decide to close, meaning that your staff have no childcare and, therefore, might be unable to get into work.

As above, you are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work but it might be a good idea to think about what staff could do if they have no childcare.

Many businesses will have had staff working from home due to the pandemic and know that this can be successful. So letting staff work from home when their children’s school is closed is a good idea. It may well be that your staff are still working from home anyway.

You should also think about allowing staff to arrive later at work or make up their hours on another occasion.

In past years, we have suggested allowing staff to bring their children into work to give the children some educational, interactive and inspiring experiences. However, this year due to the pandemic, we would not suggest this.

Annual Leave Reminders

Some businesses have their annual leave year starting on 1st January and ending on 31st December. If this is the case for your business, now is the perfect time to remind staff about their unused annual leave allowance.

Employees who have been furloughed during the pandemic will continue to have accrued statutory annual leave entitlements, as well as any additional entitlement provided for in their Employment Contract.

You do not usually have to allow staff to roll over their unused annual leave into the next year unless there are exceptional circumstances such as maternity leave or illness.

However, the Government passed new emergency legislation at the start of the pandemic to ensure businesses have the flexibility they need to respond to the pandemic and to protect staff, and all other workers, from losing their statutory annual leave entitlement.

This means that staff are able to carry annual leave forward if the impact of pandemic meant that it has not been reasonably practicable to take annual leave this year.

Where it has not been possible, the untaken annual leave may be carried forward into the following two leave years.

If you are not allowing your staff to carry their holiday forward into 2021 and 2022, now is the time to remind them that they still have unused leave to take.

And believe it or not, you are also able to refuse an annual leave request if it is not a convenient time for your business or if there are too many staff off.

That being said though, it is essential that staff have time off to rest, so you should be reasonable when refusing holiday requests.

Many employers are also unaware that they can impose annual leave on their staff. So if your business has a down period or if your staff have unused annual leave, you can simply give them a day off. Remember to give notice though.

Sickness

It is inevitable that staff will become sick over the winter months with colds, coughs and flu, as well as the continuing risk of contracting COVID-19.

It is important that all businesses have a clear Sickness Policy in place so that staff know who to contact, and by what times and by what means, if they need to call in sick.

Furlough

As you will all be aware, the Government’s Furlough Scheme is ending on 31st October 2020, meaning that businesses will be required to go back to paying their staff their full wages as well as employer contributions to NIC and any pension schemes.

Redundancies

Unfortunately, due to the Furlough Scheme ending, sadly some businesses may need to think about making staff redundancies.

It is important that businesses follow the consultation regulations carefully when making redundancies, including the correct time limits if more than 20 staff will be made redundant.

Remember to also keep in regular contact with your staff if redundancies are inevitable. Staff will already be feeling anxious about their futures and keeping them up-to-date with current progress and consulting with them about how to move forward it important.

Preparations for a Second Wave of COVID-19

We are all expecting there to be a second wave of COVID-19 in the future, whether that be in the next couple of months or after Christmas.

If and when it does happen, it is important to be ready in terms of how your business is going to be able to function. Make sure your systems and processes are all in order and tighten up all those that aren’t, including a Homeworking Policy and keeping in regular communication with your staff.

If you would like any other information on things to deal with in the run-up to winter, drop us an email at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

The importance of managing misconduct (even if it is a small issue)

It is important to deal with employee matters as soon as possible, even if they are minor issues.

One reason for this is to avoid what we call ‘The Straw Effect’. The straw effect is where managers ignore small issues (usually because they want to be nice or do not wish to make a fuss) and then act what seems like unreasonably for a minor issue when in reality is is ‘the last straw’ or ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

Employees need to be aware of what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace and if they are not informed of these then they will behave and carry out their work in the way(s) that they feel are correct.

It may be the case that minor issues are dealt with by having an informal chat with the employee. If the employee then carries as before then formal disciplinary actions may be required. If an employer does not deal with conduct issues at the time that they occur, there is very little that can be done about these in the future. They can be used as historical evidence in any future matters but, unless a disciplinary or conduct hearing is held and warnings are given to the employee at the time of the incident(s), an employer cannot give warnings for these incidents in the future, without reasonable reasoning. Misconduct issues should be dealt with and investigated as soon as they become known to management.

Failure to investigate misconduct not only sends the wrong message to employees but also runs the risk of scrutiny by third parties. Fair disciplinary procedures should apply to all alleged incidents of misconduct. These include investigation and disciplinary meetings (where necessary), the right for the employee to appeal the decision, and different individuals carrying out the different aspects of the process, i.e. one person carrying out the investigation, a second person carrying out the disciplinary and a third person dealing with any appeal.

If a business does not have enough members of management to carry out the different stages of the process, it may be that an outside party, such as a business owner from another business or an HR consultancy firm, carries out some of the process.

When disciplinary proceedings involve accusations of alleged historical misconduct that have only now come to light, additional issues must be taken into consideration, including: –

● Why have the allegations only come to light now?

This could simply be down to evidence only emerging now. The investigator should consider the time of the alleged incident(s) and whether the employee’s behaviour might not have merited disciplinary action at the time of the incident(s).

● Was the employee’s line manager aware of the alleged misconduct at the time it occurred?​

If the answer is yes then it is crucial that the investigation considers why disciplinary action was not undertaken earlier. If the misconduct was ignored or accepted by the line manager, there is the possibility that this could undermine any subsequent decision to dismiss or impose any other disciplinary action on the employee. If you have concerns that line managers are not performing to the correct duties, you should consider providing training on how to deal with misconduct in the workplace, including the importance of dealing with misconduct when it arises.

● How can we investigate something that happened in the past?

You must believe that the alleged misconduct actually took place, and be serious enough, for a dismissal to be considered fair. A proper investigation and disciplinary hearing must be carried out and evidence provided to support this belief. The circumstances of the alleged misconduct will determine what is reasonable. If witnesses are no longer available, you could base your decision on evidence if this evidence can be corroborated, sounds feasible and there appears to be no ulterior motive. If documents or other evidence are unavailable, then it may not be reasonable to rely on personal recollections of the contents of that evidence.

A recent case held at the Employment Tribunal has awarded the Claimant £25,000 compensation for unfair dismissal. Mr. Trice had worked for Southeastern Railway for eight years and, at the time of the incident which led to his dismissal, was working light duties at Paddock Wood Railway Station after suffering a broken ankle.

Mr Trice had found himself alone in the ticket office after his colleague had left the window open to go to the shop. A customer approached the window to buy a ticket and, although Mr Trice was not authorised to issue tickets, he went ahead and assisted the customer. Southeastern Railway started an investigation and during this period, Mr Trice admitted that he had acted incorrectly and was very apologetic.

Despite his contrition, Southeastern Railway dismissed him without notice. The colleague who had left the ticket window unattended to go to the shop was only giving a warning, despite also breaking the rules. The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Trice had been wrongly dismissed, saying: -​

“We agree that the Claimant’s actions constituted misconduct and warranted at least a warning but we do find it outside the reasonable range to dismiss. “The Claimant’s motive was to assist a customer, albeit misguided, and there was clear contrition and acceptance he should do differently in future.”

The tribunal went on to say that, instead of dismissing Mr Trice, Southeastern Railway should have provided further training.

This case highlights the fact that employers should consider both motive and whether or not a staff member is remorseful about any alleged misconduct.

We do not know the history of Mr Trice’s employment with Southeastern Railway and, therefore, cannot say if there had been any previous incidents which should have been investigated by Southeastern Railway but in which nothing was done.

It could be that Mr Trice’s conduct and disciplinary record with Southeastern Railway was, on paper, very good but if there were incidents that were not investigated and/or dealt with following correct procedures, then this could have influenced the decision to dismiss Mr Trice.

If you would like any further guidance on carrying out or assistance with conducting a proper disciplinary hearing, or for more information on management training, please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

“We agree that the Claimant’s actions constituted misconduct and warranted at least a warning but we do find it outside the reasonable range to dismiss. “The Claimant’s motive was to assist a customer, albeit misguided, and there was clear contrition and acceptance he should do differently in future.” The tribunal went on to say that, instead of dismissing Mr Trice, Southeastern Railway should have provided further training. We do not know the history of Mr Trice’s employment with Southeastern Railway and, therefore, cannot say if there had been any previous incidents which should have been investigated by Southeastern Railway but in which nothing was done. It could very well be that Mr Trice’s conduct and disciplinary record with Southeastern Railway was, on paper, very good but if there were incidents that were not investigated and/or dealt with following correct procedures, then this could have influenced the decision to dismiss Mr Trice. If you would like any further guidance on carrying out or assistance with conducting a proper disciplinary hearing, or for more information on management training, please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

If the answer is yes then it is crucial that the investigation considers why disciplinary action was not undertaken earlier. If the misconduct was ignored or accepted by the line manager, there is the possibility that this could undermine any subsequent decision to dismiss or impose any other disciplinary action on the employee. If you have concerns that line managers are not performing to the correct duties, you should consider providing training on how to deal with misconduct in the workplace, including the importance of dealing with misconduct when it arises. ● How can we investigate something that happened in the past? You must believe that the alleged misconduct actually took place, and be serious enough, for a dismissal to be considered fair. A proper investigation and disciplinary hearing must be carried out and evidence provided to support this belief. The circumstances of the alleged misconduct will determine what is reasonable. If witnesses are no longer available, you could base your decision on hearsay evidence if this evidence can be corroborated, sounds feasible and there appears to be no ulterior motive. If documents or other evidence are unavailable, then it may not be reasonable to rely on personal recollections of the contents of that evidence. A recent case held at the Employment Tribunal has awarded the Claimant £25,000 compensation for unfair dismissal. Tony Trice had worked for Southeastern Railway for eight years and, at the time of the incident which led to his dismissal, was working light duties at Paddock Wood Railway Station after suffering a broken ankle. Mr Trice had found himself alone in the ticket office after his colleague had left the window open to go to the shop. A customer approached the window to buy a ticket and, although Mr Trice was not authorised to issue tickets, he went ahead and assisted the customer. Southeastern Railway started an investigation and during this period, Mr Trice admitted that he had acted incorrectly and was very apologetic. Despite his contrition, Southeastern Railway dismissed him without notice. The colleague who had left the ticket window unattended to go to the shop was only giving a warning, despite also breaking the rules. The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Trice had been wrongly dismissed, saying: -​

Back To Work As The Lockdown Is Eased

With many businesses having re-opened or planning to re-open shortly, employers will need to consider how to keep staff and customers and clients safe and put certain measures in place.

Risk Assessments

It is important to remember that businesses have a legal obligation to protect employees and visitors to their workplace. Employers should carry out a Risk Assessment and make sensible adjustments where necessary.

If an employer refuses to carry out a Risk Assessment, the Health and Safety Executive or local council can issue an enforcement notice.

Employers can visit https://bit.ly/31mmi6u to carry out a Risk Assessment.

Social Distancing

Two-metre social distancing will still be required, albeit that the Prime Minister has stated that where it is not possible to stay two-metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a distance of ‘one-metre plus’, meaning people should stay one-metre apart, and also take other precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.

To help staff and customers to adhere to the social distancing rules, employers should: –

  • Put up signs to remind staff and visitors of social distancing guidance;
  • Avoid sharing workstations;
  • Use floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a two-metre distance;
  • Arrange a one-way traffic system around the workplace.

If it isn’t possible for staff and visitors to keep two-metres apart, employers need to think about how they can be kept safe. Employers should, therefore, consider the following: –

  • Does an activity need to be carried out in order for your business to be able to operate?
  • Keep the time required for an activity as short as possible;
  • Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other;
  • Stagger arrival and departure times of staff and visitors.

Hygiene Procedures

It is extremely important that staff and visitors carry out good hand-washing, cleaning and hygiene procedures.

The frequency of surface-cleaning and hand-washing should be increased: –

  • Encourage everyone to follow the guidance on hand-washing and hygiene;
  • Provide hand sanitiser around the workplace;
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces which are used and touched regularly.

Home Working

Many businesses have decided that their staff will not return to their workplaces until January 2021, with staff continuing to work from home. If this is the case for your business, it is important that staff continue to be consulted and feel valued.

  • Make sure that staff have access to all remote working systems;
  • Communicate regularly with all staff, both as part of team-meetings (via video conference) as well as individually;
  • Ensure that staff have the right home insurances in place.

Employers are also still responsible for the health and safety of staff who are working from home, so you should ensure that staff complete a DSE risk assessment (https://bit.ly/3eJQ88S). This will need to be completed each time a staff member moves their workstation (from one room to another, for example) and also when they return to their workplace.

Staff morale is likely to be low and people will be missing their colleagues. It is extremely important to ensure that staff are looking after their own physical and mental well-being.

Further Guidance

The Government has produced guidance for different sectors to help employers, as well as employees and the self-employed, to understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find this here https://bit.ly/3g81GTv

Remember that your staff are likely to be nervous about returning to the workplace. You should talk to your staff and ask them if they have any concerns, and reassure them of the measures that you have put in place to keep them safe.

If you would like any more advice, please email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or call us on 01634 564 136.

The Furlough Scheme Is Ending. What Are My Options?

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retentionsion Grant also known as the Furlough Scheme has been a welcome gift to both employees and employers across the UK. It has meant that businesses have been able to keep staff in jobs which will help some businesses to recover to full health.

The option to have staff return to work on a part-time basis will also be a great resource for many but we know that it is coming to an end in October 2020.

Businesses will need to start thinking about how they rebuild the business in an economic landscape which has changed rapidly over the last 4 months. The goal will be to protect the business so that it can be restored and save some jobs. We will take a look at some options that you may want need to consider:

  • Reduced Hours also known as Short Time Working

In an ideal world business would bounce back in an instance and everyone would return to work on full hours and full pay. If a full quota of staff is not an option for the business you may consider reducing the hours of some or all staff members.

In order to reduce staff hours you must have the contractual right to do so. This would be stated in the Employment, Worker contract or in another document. If you do not have a contract you will need to negotiate  with staff and create a new agreement or agree to amend the existing agreement. This must be done in writing and staff should be made aware of their right to claim redundancy if the reduced hours continue for a period of time. Staff will want assurances that if they are made redundant in the future will be based on their original pay and hours.

Do ensure that you are not acting in a discriminatory way if you are reducing the hours of some staff.

Always seek advice before reducing hours.

  • Lay-off with no or limited pay

Some contracts allow an employer to place an employee on standby without pay. A lot of furlough agreements also sneakily added this right into the contract. With this option staff receive no pay other than guarantee payments of £29 per day for 5 days within a 3 month period. Staff also have the right to request redundancy after a period of time and it is important that the correct procedure is followed. Failure to do this correctly can be very costly to a business.

  • Redundancy

Redundancy is where a role has significantly reduced or disappeared. It is about the role and not the person and so employers must think about placing all those who do a particular role at risk. 

Staff should not be discriminated against and the correct monies should be paid. 

It is worth noting that there is no redundancy pay for staff who have less than 2 years service. They will still be entitled to notice pay and other outstanding payments such as unused holiday. 

For businesses who will be making 20 or more redundancies within a 90 day period. There is a strict procedure which must be followed so employers really need to think ahead. One of the things they need to think about is timing as the process will be a minimum of 30 days for business making between 20 and 99 staff members redundant. For business making over 100 redundancies within a 90 day period there must be a consultation period of at least 45 days.

There will be instances where putting a settlement agreement in place is the best way of protecting the business.

  • Restructure

This is similar to a redundancy. This may be where the role still exists but you may decide that it can be done differently or absorbed into another role. In this instance staff should be consulted and just like any other dismissal they will be entitled to notice pay.

If you would like advice or support with any of the options above or for guidance with any Employment Law or HR matter please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

If you have found this blog useful please share it with someone else.

Jemma’s experience and tips for managing teams remotely during the pandemic

This month’s blog is all about managing a team remotely. Probably for the first time in history more businesses than I care to imagine are managing whole teams remotely and whilst that can be good it certainly comes with some challenges.

At Orchard Employment Law we have always had an element of working home but it was nothing like this. We still tried to have an office day together at least once a week, however, since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of the term self-isolating, we have been working from home since 17th March 2020.

The biggest challenge was not doing the work. We try to be eco friendly where possible, our clients have always been able to contact us via telephone, email, and video conferencing. We have a CRM, a cloud storage system, electronic invoicing, and the ability to sign things electronically so we can technically work from anywhere. My preference would be a beach in the Caribbean but a few sunny days in the UK will have to suffice.

The challenge was and is keeping the team happy and motivated. Not one to do things by half, I onboarded a new member of staff at a time when we are compelled to work remotely. So I want to share some of the tips that might help other managers during this time.

 

  • Health and safety

 

For many working from home was not planned, this means your staff could be working around the kitchen table, on an ironing board or some other makeshift office space. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees and whilst you cannot pop round to their home at the moment you can talk to them about protecting their health. One easy thing you can do is to ask your staff to complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) questionnaire. You can find this online and it is free to fill in.

 

  • Let clients know that team members are working remotely

 

This will help to manage the client’s expectations and ultimately relieve some of the pressure from you and your team. Your clients will probably understand your position and may well be working from home too.

 

  • Have daily video meetings.

 

Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, Whatsapp, Google hangouts and all of the other video conferencing apps are not a substitute for human contact but they are still very good. Most people communicate with more than just words, we use eye contact, facial expressions and other forms of body language to convey how we are feeling.

We have found that daily video meetings with the whole team each morning have been helpful in building and maintaining a working and personal relationship. 

 

  • Have a plan

 

I am not usually one to plan each day but in times of uncertainty, it is even more important for staff to have a sense of leadership and direction. I have found it useful to have a written plan for the next day. This plan is then used in the daily morning video meetings.

 

  • Understand the plan won’t always go to plan

 

Sometimes stuff happens, sometimes the best plan in the world can’t be followed through. This could be for a number of reasons. A piece of technology could fail, the internet might be slow, a client may do something different, your staff might have a personal concern or there could be a power cut.

It is ok if the plan doesn’t go to plan. 

 

  • Acknowledge that your people are people

 

This is not like being at work in the office and it is probably not like the usual working from home. The house might be full of people they live with, your staff may be trying to homeschool, the neighbors might be noisy, the dog might be barking or they could just be feeling stressed due to the pandemic.

Take all of these things into consideration and let your staff know that you are available to talk.

 

  • Be clear about your expectations of work

 

You may have acknowledged that your people are dealing with a lot of unusual external factors but the work still has to be done right?

Be clear and realistic about your expectations, this is not a chance for staff to make unreasonable mistakes, be rude to customers or to spend very little time working. If staff are struggling to work in their normal hours consider moving their hours temporarily, you may get more output early in the morning or late in the evening.

Sometimes you may still need to look at capability or disciplinary procedures.

 

  • Open your eyes to flaws in your systems and processes

 

This may be an opportunity to see weaknesses in a system that you believed was functional. Now is the perfect time to take feedback from staff on processes that could be improved to aid remote working. The chances are that it will strengthen the business in the long run.

 

  • Keep giving feedback

 

Don’t forget to provide reassurance and positive feedback when you can, it will help to boost morale. At the same time let staff know what can be improved, provide training and examples remotely if possible.

 

  • Have a switch-off time

 

Try not to contact staff on non-working days and outside of working hours. Encourage your team to switch the emails off and to divert phone calls so that they can switch their brain off from work. This will help with their mental health and stress levels.

Ask for help

We are here to help you with your queries about Employment Law, HR or general managing people. Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog,

Jemma

Essential Businesses, we haven’t forgotten about you

We love the NHS but we also want to show our appreciation to all of the Keyworker businesses working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic which is why we are extending our 20% charity discount to all those Essential Businesses.

Community is one of our core values and we try to add value to the community wherever possible. 

Supporting each other as a community during this time of uncertainty has become even more important, lots of businesses are struggling, individuals are losing jobs and others are literally risking their lives to provide services to the public.

We understand the challenges that you are facing in these unprecedented times. Some of you are recruiting paid staff and or volunteers to meet the demand for your essential service. You might need help with permanent or temporary employment contracts.

Some of your staff are worried about what is happening around them, they are working long hours, homeschooling children, facing abuse from the public and are concerned about loved ones. We want to help you to help them at a time when they may be feeling stressed.

Other businesses may need to furlough staff who are shielding or who you are unable to provide work for and we to give you peace of mind. We want you to be confident that you have done everything right.

Perhaps you need help with covid1 19 frequently asked questions, a contingency plan or you are so busy on the front line that you need help with day to day HR and Employment Law. Whatever the problem, we want to help you find a solution.

We are practising social distancing. We don’t want to put you or others at risk and so we are all working from home. We will still hold your hand (albeit virtually) through your challenges. 

We are using technology to provide clear and uncomplicated support to employers over the phone, via email, video meetings and webinars.

Thank you Essential Businesses for doing your part in our community.

Carers, cleaners, teachers, GP’s, Doctors, Nurses, Transport, Freight, Refuse, food retailers, Veterinary practices, Pharmacies, MOT services, Petrol stations, Funeral directors. 

We salute you all.

Furlough Explained

Many businesses across the UK have been experiencing a downturn in revenue as a result of the worldwide covid19 outbreak and had to make some difficult decisions about staffing levels.

On Friday 20th March 2020 the government announced that they would support businesses and staff by introducing a Coronavirus Retention Scheme. The scheme means that the government will pay up to 80% of an employees salary up to the value of £2,500 if they have been furloughed during the pandemic.

The big question is what is Furlough and how do you do it?

The general rule is that employers have an obligation to provide work for employees (not zero-hours workers) as stated in the employment contract. This means that you are still required to pay your staff for their contractual hours if you send an employee home due to a shortage of work.

However, you will not have to pay employees to stay at home if you have the right to lay-off (also known as furlough) their staff. 

Lay off or furlough is not redundnacy or dismissal and they continue to accrue annual leave and other employment rights during this period. Lay off us usually or reduced pay with a minimum payment of £29 per day for 5 days within a 30 day period. In this instance, the staff will be paid a reduced salary.

Do I have the right to furlough staff?

Employers can furlough staff if they have a contractual right to do so. This is often termed as a lay-off clause in the contract.

If you have a lay-clause you must still follow some rules including:

  • Explain to staff what lay-off means
  • Tell staff of their rights during lay-off
  • Tell staff how long you expect the lay-off to last
  • Tell staff how much pay they will receive.

What if I don’t have a  lay-off clause in the contract?

The Coronavirus Retention Scheme is still subject to current UK Employment Law. This means that if you do not have a lay-off clause contract you will need to negotiate with staff to add an additional lay-off term.

At the moment, many staff are agreeing to the term but you cannot force them to do so.

It is important to note that any amendment to the terms of employment should be done in writing.

Choosing who to furlough

If all staff are not subject to lay-off it is important that you have a clear and transparent selection criteria for who will be laid-off.

Employers should be careful not to discriminate on the against staff on the grounds of 

  • Race
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Pregnancy or Maternity
  • Religion or belief
  • Disability

We hope that you have found this information useful, Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk  if you would like advice or help with documentation for furlough or any other HR matter. 

Questions & Answers on Managing Staff Who Isolate Due To Coronavirus

We are all aware of COVID-19, the Coronavirus which is spreading throughout the world. We are, also, all aware of the preventative measures which we all need to be thinking about and doing in order to help stop this disease from spreading further.

Therefore, we did not want to give you another generic blog post preaching about and reminding you of all the things that you’ve already heard and read.

Instead, we thought it would be much more useful for you all to have some practical steps about what to do in your business in relation to COVID-19.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff cannot attend work because their child’s school is closed and they do not have childcare?

Answer

Just because your business is staying open and your staff are well and have not been told to self-isolate, their children’s schools or childminders may decide to close, perhaps for a deep-clean, which means that some of your staff have no childcare and, therefore, might be unable to work.

You are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work but it might be a good idea to think about what staff could do if they have no childcare.

Perhaps think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home or make up their hours on another occasion, and perhaps even allow them to bring their children into work. Of course, you need to ensure that the child in question is well and also not showing any signs of illness. They also need to be aged over 8 years old for insurance purposes. Allowing children into the workplace is a great way to give some educational, interactive and inspiring experiences to school-aged children, and also takes the pressure off their parents a bit as well.

Get the children involved in simple tasks and keep their minds occupied. But make sure that your insurance covers you when children are in the workplace.

Parent’s are also entitled to take parental leave which is unpaid leave to look after children.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff has not been informed to do so by NHS 111 or their GP but still chooses to self-isolate?

Answer

If a member of staff is showing no signs of illness and has not been advised to self-isolate by a medic, but they still CHOOSE to self-isolate, you are under no obligation to pay that staff member.

However, it is good practice to allow the member of staff to take annual leave or unpaid leave or have alternative working arrangements.

Question

If I choose to close my business down for a period of time, do I still have to pay my staff?

Answer

You are under a legal obligation to provide work for permanent staff (unless you have a lay-off clause in your contract).

If you feel it necessary to close your business premises then, if possible, you could ask your staff to work from home or another location in order for you to not have to close down completely.

If you do not have a lay-off clause and you are unable to offer home-working or provide any work then you will still be required to pay your staff their normal wage or salary.

You can also force your staff to take annual leave. However, we strongly recommend against this unless it is absolutely necessary and you must give them 2 days notice for every day you want them to take off. Of course, you could ask your staff if they would prefer to take annual leave but we would recommend that they be the one to make that decision.

Question

What is the current legislation in relation to Statutory Sick Pay and Coronavuris?

Answer

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be initiating emergency legislation in relation to Sick Pay.

It is proposed that the new Law will allow staff who self isolate to reduce the spread of Coronavirus to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1 of isolation.

Although this is emergency legislation, it could still take up to 3 months to come into effect.

Currently, staff who are unwell and earn on average at least £118 per week are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from day 4 of illness.

Employers are encouraged to pay Statutory Sick Pay to staff who self-isolate even though the law only applies to staff who are unable to work due to illness (or medical recommendation) and not those who self-isolate by choice.

Do you have more questions?

For further advice and guidance in relation to staff and Coronavirus or any other Employment Law query, contact us on 01634 564 136 or email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

What Do I Need to Know Before Taking on An Unpaid Intern?

As a nation, we are more qualified than ever before. Higher education and apprenticeships have increased and yet employers are still complaining about a skills shortage. 

Whilst qualifications are important, there is no substitute for on the job experience. That is where we learn how to put what we have learnt into practice, it’s also where we build upon our soft skills.

With this in mind, it is not surprising to see more people both young and old wanting to do unpaid internships and work experience.

There are other benefits to employers In addition to a feeling of fulfilling your corporate sense of social responsibility.

Taking on an intern or volunteer can give an employer an opportunity to assess whether their processes are working. This is done by testing whether a person outside of the company can follow your instructions.

It is an opportunity to learn and get fresh ideas from your intern and you may even find a suitable candidate for future employment.

From an Employment Law perspective, there are some do’s and don’ts which are listed below.

 

DO

  1. Ask volunteers, interns and work experience candidates to sign a volunteers agreement. This will set out the level of expectation between you and the volunteer.
  2. Take information from the intern which you may need for health and safety. This includes next of Kin details, Allergy information and Health complications or illnesses.
  3. Give your volunteer lots of support, introduce them to staff and assign a dedicated mentor

 

DON’T

  1. Promise to offer them a job before or during the placement. If you tell an intern that they will get a job they will be entitled to the minimum wage for the duration of the placement.  That being said, you may decide to offer the intern a job once the placement has been completed.
  2. Pay for anything which is not an expense. You can pay for travel but you should be able to show receipts are equal to the payment. If you pay more than the expenses are worth you may find that you are liable for minimum wage for the duration of the placement.
  3. Leave your intern to do work which is unsupervised. Try to remember that they are there to learn and to shadow others.

If you would like advice about hiring an intern or any other Employment Law or HR matter feel free to contact us via our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk