With the UK Government having introduced a series of measures to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of employers have had to adapt the way their employees work.
We look at some of the key points that employers should be aware of while the UK is in the grip of the COVID-19 outbreak:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, was introduced to allow all UK employers to access a financial subsidy originally worth 80% of their workers’ wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per worker per month.
Employers would need to class their employees as ‘furloughed workers’ to be eligible for the scheme. Initially due to run until the end of July, the scheme was extended until the end of October with reduced levels of subsidy, and changes were introduced to support staff furloughed on a part-time basis.
The scheme has now been further extended until 31st March 2021. The level of support will also return to the levels seen previously, so the grants for November 2020 to January 2021 will be worth 80% of worker’s wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per worker per month. The level of grant for February and March 2021 is yet to be determined.
A Jobs Retention Bonus was originally due to be paid in February 2021. This will no longer take place, and the Government has stated that a retention incentive will be deployed ‘at the appropriate time’.
Kickstart Scheme & apprenticeship incentives
Two schemes have been launched to combat the prospect of long-term unemployment in young people. Aimed at those aged 16-24 the Kickstart Scheme provides funding for six month quality work placements for those on Universal Credit. In addition to this scheme, for six months from 1st August the Government has been bolstering the incentives for apprenticeships. For every new apprentice aged 16-24, employers will receive a £2,000 cash bonus, and £1,500 for apprentices aged 25 and above.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) arrangements
Among its package to help employers, the Government introduced legislation to allow employers to reclaim SSP relating to employee absences as a result of COVID-19. This refund will cover up to 14 days’ SSP per eligible employee. From 6th April 2020, SSP is £95.85 per week, which can be paid from the first day of absence.
The reclaim can be made the employer’s HMRC PAYE online account, and appropriate records in respect of the claim must be retained for three years after payment is received.
Remote working during the COVID-19 outbreak
Remote working has changed the way that many businesses operate for their foreseeable future, with the Health secretary Matt Hancock saying: “Employers should be taking every possible step to make sure that remote working can happen. I want to be clear that where people absolutely cannot work from home, they can still go to work. Indeed, it’s important that they do to keep the country running.”
While many businesses may already have a business continuity plan in place before the pandemic, for others remote working could prove challenge, so employers may need to seek external IT support. Once in place, technology such as Skype, Facetime and Zoom will enable workers to continue holding face-to face meetings with customers and colleagues ‘virtually’.
However, remote working may not be possible for all employers, especially for those jobs that require employees to travel to their place of work, such as if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services.
On 28th March, Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced that workers unable to take all their statutory annual leave entitlement as a result of the pandemic will now be able to carry it over into the next two leave years.
Currently, employers are obliged to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year or lose their holiday.
The new regulations will allow up to four weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next two leave years. This will ease the requirements on their employers to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.
Off-payroll working in the private sector (IR35)
The Government has deferred new rules affecting contractors working for the private sector, directly or through an agency, that were set to be introduced on 6th April 2020.
The rules have been pushed back to 6th April 2021.
Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated that the delay was “a deferral, not a cancellation, and the Government remains committed to reintroducing this policy”.
How we can help
We can help employers navigate the support measures available to them. To arrange a telephone or video consultation, call us today on 0800 0523 555.
Last updated: 5th November 2020This article is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayer’s circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.