Covid employer guidance updates | October 2020

Changes to the Job Support Scheme

On 22 October 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced further changes to the Job Support Scheme. We recommend reading our detailed summary of the announcement to help you understand what financial support you can claim from the Treasury to help keep employees on the books.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 have imposed a new legal duty to self-isolate if presenting with symptoms, have someone in their household displaying symptoms, or have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace. It is now a criminal offence if an employer knowingly allows a worker/agency worker to attend any workplace during an isolation period for any purpose related to their employment. Breach of this provision is an offence with fines starting at £1,000 for the first offence, raising to £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences. It is worth noting that it does not need to be the employee/worker themselves that notify the employer for the employer to be "aware". In most cases, those required to self-isolate will be entitled to SSP.

In light of the new liability that employers face, employers should consider advising employees of their obligation to tell their employer if they have a need to self-isolate, and unless employees can carry out work at the place where they are self-isolating, most probably their home, employers should not be allowing employees to carry out work at any other place.

Job Retention Bonus

The Job Retention Bonus is available to employers in respect of each employee who has been on furlough at some point and remains employed (and not under notice) on 31 January 2021. HMRC will make a payment of £1,000 to the employer for each eligible employee. This is a bonus to the employer, and the employer is not obliged to pass it over to the employee. A claim for the bonus needs to be presented within a 6-week window between 15 February and 31 March 2021. Further guidance is expected as to how the claim is to be made.

Full guidance can be found here and useful examples of employees who would qualify can be found here.

UWE Grant scheme

In September's bulletin we made mention of the Hearts of the South West's grant scheme to support SME businesses going through the impact of COVID. This month, we are delighted to see another scheme operating to supporting SMEs in the South West – the University of the West of England has opened its Digital Innovation Fund, to help support local businesses innovating their way to recovery. More details can be found here.

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