Coronavirus COVID-19: FAQ’s – 31.03.20

Amy Owens

Written By Sarah Robinson, Technical HR Consultant

2nd April 2020

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What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or furloughing?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus. Using the scheme you may be able to claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave due to coronavirus.

The scheme will be open to all UK employers with a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February and will run from 1 March for a period of at least 3 months.

Using an online HMRC portal you can claim up to 80% of an employee’s wages up to a cap of £2,500 plus the associated employer NIC and minimum automatic pension contribution. You can choose to make up the difference in pay to 100% but do not have to.

The scheme covers employees who were on your payroll on 28 February and includes those who have been made redundant since then if you rehire them. It does not include new starters who were not on your payroll on 28 February.

To change an employee’s status to furloughed you will either need to have a contractual provision allowing you to change their status, or alternatively seek their agreement. It is recommended you confirm any changes in writing.

For full details relating to the scheme including who can be furloughed, how to claim the payment and help if you have short-term cash flow problems in the meantime check the gov.uk website.

I have had an employee request emergency volunteer leave, what is it and do I have to agree to it?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 creates a new type of statutory leave – Emergency Volunteer Leave which entitles workers (not just employees) to take unpaid leave to help organisations specified by the regulations such as the NHS and social care.

Volunteers will receive an emergency volunteering certificate and will be entitled to be absent for the period specified on the certificate, which will be two, three or four continuous weeks.

Employees will need to provide a minimum of three days’ notice prior to the leave commencing and can only be absent once per volunteering period, which is currently set to 16 weeks.

There are some exceptions to who can take emergency leave, where the worker is employed by a business with a headcount of less than 10, is employed by the Crown or if a relevant member of the House of Lords.

Employees taking emergency volunteering leave are entitled to the same benefits and conditions as if they had not been absent. You do not need to pay an employee during their absence and they can claim to be compensated for their loss of earnings and expenditure by the Secretary of State.

An employee who is dismissed because they took, sought to take or made use of the benefits of emergency volunteering leave or the employer believed the employee was likely to take such leave will be regarded as unfairly dismissed and the 2-year qualifying period will not apply.

Following the latest government guidance on Monday 23rd March you should be allowing all your workforce to work from home if possible. It is particularly important that you support those people in the vulnerable and extremely vulnerable group with working from home if this is feasible for their role. If they cannot work from home consider alternatives such as using annual leave or unpaid leave, or perhaps alternative duties they can complete if reasonable.

Social distancing and shielding is not mandatory and it is the employees choice if they follow them. If the employee still wants to come to work understand why and try to agree a suitable alternative, carry out risk assessments, protect them as far as possible.

 

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