COVID employer guidance updates | September 2020

Government guidance for employers on testing their own employees for COVID-19

Although there is currently no obligation on employers to run any employee testing programme, the guidance sets out how an employer may go about engaging a private testing provider to carry out the tests if it wishes to do so.

The guidance suggests that whereas symptomatic employees may be able to rely on the NHS Test and Trace service, if an employer has decided to test asymptomatic employees, it should look for a private provider to provide the service, and reminds employers that they should continue to comply with their obligations in respect of data protection, health and safety, and employment law, when doing so.

It also recommends that any process is well planned and considers obvious questions such as which employees would be tested, the frequency of tests, consent for testing, use of test results, and communications and consultation with staff. The full guidance can be found here.

Government guidance on furlough pay for those returning from furlough during a claim period

The government's long running guidance note on calculating furlough pay (available here) has been updated to include a new section on calculating how many furloughed hours to claim for, for those who come off furlough leave during a claim period. In brief, when making a claim for furlough pay, the employer should only include the employee's usual hours up to the last day of furlough and not the last day of the claim period. It should also exclude any working hours after the last day of furlough. The calculation will be required for claims submitted from 14 September 2020.

It is worth nothing that furlough, or the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to give it its full title, will soon be withdrawn in favour of a new Job Support Scheme. For more information on the new scheme, please see Karen Bates' detailed article on it here.

Local help for small South West businesses.

A local initiative launched by the Heart of the South West organisation provided grants of between £1,000 to £3,000 to assist certain eligible small businesses within their catchment area in adapting to the challenging trading environment under COVID-19. Grants could be used to fund professional advice including IT, HR and finance, or to purchase equipment or technology to support the business. The scheme recently closed its second round on 22 September 2020, but one hopes that similar schemes will become more prevalent up and down the country in coming months. See here for details. 

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