Covid employer guidance updates | November 2020

Old furlough returns in the new lockdown…

Despite promises that it would not be possible to extend the original furlough scheme (CJRS), the announcement of a new national lockdown at the beginning of November was coupled with the announcement that the original scheme would be extended. The period has been extended to March 2021 and applies UK-wide.

This marks the postponement of the Job Support Scheme (JSS) that was due to begin on 1 November 2020. It also marks the end (before it started) of the Job Retention Bonus Scheme, which will not take effect as its purpose has fallen away in light of the extended furlough scheme. However, it is possible that another retention incentive scheme will be considered again at the relevant time, if necessary.

The extended CJRS scheme means that government will reimburse employers for up to 80% of their employees' usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The £2,500 cap is proportional to the hours not worked. Employers will need to cover the costs of employer NICs and pension contributions for the unworked hours.

Neither employers nor employees need to have previously used the CJRS to be eligible under the extended scheme. An employer is able to claim for employees who were employed on 30 October 2020 and on an RTI submission between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020 (or, where an employee has recently stopped working for an employer, stopped on or after 23 September 2020 and has been re-employed).

The government is due to review the policy in January 2021 to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more with effect from February 2021.

Amended guidance has been published by the government since the announcement of the CJRS continuation. It should be noted in particular that:

  • The guidance now makes clear that, after 1 December 2020, it will no longer be possible for employers to make claims under the CJRS in respect of employees who are serving (contractual or statutory) notice.
  • From 1 December 2020, HMRC will publish the names of employers who make claims under the CJRS for that month onwards (which was previously not a feature of the CJRS).

Please click here for our article on this subject and here for the policy document provided by the government and here for checking which employees you can put on furlough.

Shielding guidance update

The latest guidance on shielding, which now only applies to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), was published on 4 November 2020. To qualify as CEV the employee must either (a) have one of the conditions listed in the guidance which automatically deems them as  CEV or (b) have been added to the Shielded Patients list by their GP or hospital clinician (and provide a letter to this effect).

The updated guidance for employees who are CEV does state that they should work from home or, if they cannot work from home, should not attend work during the lockdown.

The amendments to the SSP regulations made earlier in the year entitles those who are shielding to SSP, so absence owing to shielding is a form of sickness absence. If someone lives with a CEV person, they should still attend work (if they cannot work from home) in line with the wider rules set out in the new national restrictions from 5 November. They do not qualify for SSP unless they themselves are signed off as sick.

For the guidance on shielding please click here and for our article providing practical advice click here.