As it stands, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or ‘furlough’ comes to an end on 31st October 2020. So, with just over 5 weeks to go, you may be thinking about your options going forward.
Written on September 23, 2020 by Xeinadin Group
Reminder of CJRS claim for October
From 1st October, the employee will still receive 80% of salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 (gross) per month, however, the government contribution will be a maximum of 60%.
This means that the maximum amount an employer can claim via the CJRS is 60% of salary or a maximum of £1,875 (gross) per month.
Employers are expected to pay the additional 20% and all NI and pension contributions for hours worked and not worked (up to 80% or a maximum of £2,500 gross per month).
All claims must be submitted by 30th November 2020. This includes all adjustments to previous claims.
Job Retention Bonus
Businesses will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for every previously furloughed employee that is still employed as of 31st January 2021. This bonus will be taxable.
To be able to claim, employees must have earnt at least £520 per month, from November to January, or £1,560 average earnings across 3 months. For those with average earnings, the employee must have had some earnings in each of the 3 months – November, December and January. These earnings must have been paid and reported to HMRC via RTI.
All previously furloughed workers are eligible, so if they met the criteria previously, you will be able to claim. This includes: fixed term contracts; office holders; company directors; agency workers and umbrella companies.
Those employees who returned from statutory parental leave or being mobilised as a military reservist after 10th June 2020 and were eligible to be placed on furlough and claimed for via the CJRS, will also qualify for the bonus, so long as they meet all the other criteria.
You cannot claim for anyone who is within their notice period.
Claims will be submitted via GOV.UK from February 2021. We believe this will be an online portal, much like the CJRS one. The government have promised to release more information on this by 30th September 2020.
You could choose to take advantage of the governments Kickstart Scheme. This is where the government contributes 25 hours per week in exchange for you offering anyone between the age of 16 and 24, who is out-of-work and claiming Universal Credit, a six-month work placement.
The Jobcentre will identify people at risk of long-term unemployment to refer to the scheme, and Jobcentre work coaches will support candidates before and after their placement.
The government aims to have the first placements on offer from November. To register your interest, you can visit http://www.gov.uk/kickstart. Employers interested in offering fewer than 30 Kickstart roles should apply through a representative organisation. This includes Local Authorities, Chamber of Commerce and Trade Bodies.
The scheme will run until at least December 2021 and covers the whole of the UK.
Lay-off or Short-time Working
A temporary reduction in working hours and wages, may be a consideration after furlough has ended. You may not be in the financial position to bring people back full time, or the business just isn’t there yet, so you don’t need them to work.
If your contracts of employment contain these clauses then you can impose either lay-off or short-time working, without agreement from your employees.
With lay-off, employees can be laid off for up to 4 consecutive weeks (or 6 weeks, of which no more than 3 are consecutive) in a 13-week continuous period and if they have over 1 months’ service they would qualify for statutory guaranteed lay-off pay of 5 days normal pay (pro rata for part-time employees). One thing to be mindful of, is that anyone with over 2 years’ service might be able to claim for a redundancy payment if they have been laid off for more than this.
Short-time working refers to a reduction in working hours which equates to less than half of their normal working hours and pay.
If you do not have these clauses within your contract, then to impose it you would be at risk of a claim for constructive dismissal and/or unlawful deductions from wages.
However, what you could consider is discussing and agreeing a period of lay-off or short-time working with your employees. Normally, if the situation is explained clearly enough, they know that it is temporary and as an alternative to redundancies, then they are agreeable. In this scenario, it would be advisable to get signed consent to such an agreement and place it on their personal file.
It may be that as a result of a decrease in business, or the change in the way you do business, that you need to consider restructuring your organisation. It may be that since employees have been on furlough you have found new, more efficient ways of doing things and so the role has changed or isn’t there anymore.
It’s so important to look at what job roles you have, compared to what you need going forward and make the necessary changes.
As a result, you may need to consider making some redundancies.
In this scenario it is important to follow a fair and proper procedure. Despite the pandemic, there are no allowances within legislation which allow you to cut corners and all employment law should be adhered to as normal.
If you are making less than 20 roles redundant, then there is no set consultation period, it simply must be ‘reasonable’ to allow for meaningful consultation. If you are making 1 role redundant, but more than 1 person is in that role, then you would need to consider pooling these employees together in the process.
It is a complex area and can be expensive to get wrong. So, it is recommended that you get some expert advice if you are thinking of making any redundancies.
The New ‘Normal’
As it looks like the current restrictions are going to last at least another 6 months, you are probably considering how best to do business during this time and what the ‘new normal’ will look like.
Returning to Business Premises:
You will probably already have this in place, but if you are bringing people back to the business premises, you will need to make sure that you are ‘COVID secure’. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to £10,000 and businesses being closed.
It is important to complete a risk assessment to ensure that you are doing all that you can to keep your employees safe – social distancing; hand wash areas; protection screens; one-way systems etc… There are a number of sector specific guideline documents on the government website to help you. Your H&S advisor will also be able to help.
Working from Home:
With the announcement yesterday that those that can work from home, should work from home, it looks like home working is here to stay – at least for the next 6 months.
Many businesses have found that working from home has been a welcomed shift in culture and are embracing it. Businesses are reporting much higher productivity rates; lower costs and increased employee happiness. Employees like the increased flexibility and autonomy. It’s been reported by Recruitment Agencies that candidates are no longer looking for a 5 day per week, 9am – 5pm job – they want, and are insisting on, increased flexibility in a new role.
The culture of remote working is not without its challenges. Managers and Business Owners are concerned with managing results remotely; keeping people engaged and keeping an eye on employee wellbeing and metal health. All these areas are certainly a concern, but there are a few things you can do to minimise the impact.
How do you manage results with more people working remotely?
Some Managers and Business Owners are really concerned with how you manage performance remotely. They are worried that their employees are not spending all their working day working as they should be. BUT – if they’re getting the job done and getting the results – does it really matter? There are a few things that can help ensure that the results are met:
- Clear individual KPIs (linked to business KPIs).
- Regular reviews and conversations.
- Clear job descriptions.
- Development plans.
- Having difficult conversations quickly – nip any negative behaviour in the bud – more likely to fester when WFH.
How do you keep people engaged?
Often, it’s the social side of things that people miss – the chitchat; the team lunches and nights out. Other than being in regular contact, here are some things you can do to keep employees motivated, engaged and feeling part of the team whilst working from home:
- Virtual wine and cheese tasting evenings.
- Zoom quizzes.
- Fancy dress competitions.
- Smaller teams of up to 6, meeting up for lunch or in the pub for a drink.
- Sending out small gifts to say thank you for all the effort and to show that they haven’t been forgotten about.
Engagement is about the team sharing a common purpose and working towards that goal. It takes regular constant communication and commitment. The most important things are Trust and Empowerment.
How do you keep an eye on employee wellbeing and their mental health?
- Regular 1 to 1 meetings are essential.
- Employee Survey to understand how your employees are feeling.
- Individual DISC report on remote working to understand how they might adapt to working from home and what their individual challenges might be accordingly to their behavioural preferences.
There is a lot to think about here and we are certainly in unprecedented, unpredictable times. On Thursday 8th October we are holding a webinar to discuss these topics in more detail. We will be circulating invites next week, so if you would like to attend, please let us know.
How Xeinadin HR can help