With COVID-19 taking hold once more, the government has put the UK under a third lockdown, forcing all non-essential shops to close once again.
Although the country now knows what to expect, that doesn’t mean it will be any easier for the businesses impacted by these restrictions.
However, by taking the time to understand the latest changes, organisations can make it through this unwanted sequel.
Previous iterations of the government’s support packages have been a challenge to interpret, leaving employers seeking last minute legal advice to ensure they have understood them correctly. Fortunately, many of the resources now available to businesses have not altered much from those first available in spring.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - a support scheme for all
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) continues, having been extended to March 2021, pushing back the recently announced Job Support Scheme. Remaining much the same as its initial iteration, the rules are as follows for the extended CJRS:
- The government will pay up to 80% of wages (up to £2,500).
- Employers must continue to pay national insurance and pension contributions, even if employees are furloughed.
- Furloughed employees must not carry out work that generates income or provides services. Instead, furloughed employees should be urged to undergo training, join non-work related gatherings, or do volunteer work.
- If the furloughed employee is part of a union or a non-union representative, this work may be carried out for representation purposes.
- The scheme is available to all businesses (where workers are paid through PAYE), whether they have claimed furlough previously or not.
- Employees must be furloughed for at least seven calendar days.
On 5 January 2021 the guidance was updated to confirm that employees can also be furloughed if they are working reduced hours or unable to work due to caring responsibilities which have arisen as a result of COVID-19.
Our comprehensive Q&A guide on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme addresses those commonly asked questions about the concept of ‘furlough’ and how you may be able to utilise this to keep your business going.
Prioritising people and wellbeing through redundancies
Even with this support, some businesses will inevitably have to make difficult decisions as the months pass, such as redundancies. Nevertheless, it is vital that HR departments are given the resources and support they need to make this challenging period as stress-free as possible, protecting people’s livelihoods and prioritising wellbeing. Read our advice on making redundancies during COVID-19, particularly if your employees are working remotely.
This includes ensuring that the redundancy process is done fairly and that all employees, even if they are furloughed, are given both redundancy pay and notice pay, based on normal wages.
Watch our 30 minute webinar on how to apply the best practice when dealing with redundancies.
Alternatively, our webinar on alternatives to redundancy outlines what else can be done to save on overheads when redundancy isn’t an option.
Will the government support be enough?
Although the government has extended the furlough scheme until the end of March, tough times still lie ahead for businesses directly impacted by the new restrictions. The UK will have to wait and see whether they are enough for businesses to survive through spring.
We’re here to help
If you have any queries on the furlough leave scheme, or need any guidance or support with any employment-related issue, speak to a member of your local employment team.
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