Covid employer guidance updates | October 2021

Updates to the red list

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that from 11 October 2021, the red list will reduce to seven countries (Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela). In addition proof of vaccination will be recognised from 37 new countries and territories meaning vaccinated passengers returning to England from these destinations will no longer be required to enter hotel quarantine.

It will remain a legal requirement for an individual in England to self-isolate if they test positive for COVID-19 or are an unvaccinated close contact of an individual who has tested positive until at least 24 March 2022. This is after the government stated that self-isolation will remain crucial in breaking the chain of transmission.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1073) came into force on 27 September 2021, extending the effect of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1045).

DHSC guidance for those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that doctors, specialist clinicians or midwives may give approval to update a person's NHS COVID Pass to show someone is vaccine exempt for medical reasons.

The possible reasons for exemptions are limited. Examples given are:

  • People receiving end of life care where vaccination is not in the person’s best interests.
  • People with learning disabilities or autistic individuals, or people with a combination of impairments where vaccination cannot be provided through reasonable adjustments.
  • A person with severe allergies to all currently available vaccines.
  • Those who have had an adverse reaction to the first dose (for example, myocarditis).

The guidance says other medical conditions could also allow you to get a medical exemption. Short-term exemptions will also be made available for those with short-term medical conditions.

Until 24 December 2021, individuals can self-certify that they are medically exempt if they work or volunteer in a care home. In all other instances, the individual will need to phone 119 and ask for an NHS COVID Pass medical exemption application form, which will be posted to them. The completed application must then be returned to the GP or relevant clinician to be reviewed and approved. Results of the application will be confirmed by post 2 to 3 weeks after applying.

Some businesses in England may choose to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry, and until 24 December 2021 businesses can decide whether to allow in people who self-declare they are medically exempt. From 25 December, the domestic NHS COVID Pass will look and work the same for people with medical exemptions as it will for people who are fully vaccinated. The pass will not show an exemption or what exemption has been applied.

Mandatory vaccines

A survey of 400 HR directors, found seven in 10 (70 per cent) were planning to implement vaccine mandates, including one in five (22 per cent) who said jabs would be mandatory for all workers regardless of any potential exemptions. Just under half (48 per cent) of respondents said they would require all staff to be vaccinated excluding those with a medical exemption.

Please do get in touch if you are considering a policy on vaccinations. We have discussed this issue with many clients – it is far from straightforward and has many legal considerations, risks and benefits to weigh up, particularly around  the exposure for an unlawful discrimination claim linked to disability or even philosophical belief. 

£500 million expansion of the government's Plan for Jobs initiative as furlough ends

On 4 October 2021 the Chancellor announced  over £500 million to  support  those leaving the furlough scheme and unemployed people over the age of 50 as part of an expanded Plan for Jobs. Though not a direct successor to the furlough scheme, the investment has been badged as targeting groups, such as older workers and those on the lowest wages, identified as at greater risk of redundancy following the end of furlough in September 2021.

  • Starting in April 2022, there will be an enhanced support package for older workers aged over 50 and older job seekers on Universal Credit.
  • There will be support for the recently unemployed after furlough who receive Universal Credit through the Job Finding Support (JFS) scheme (including recruitment advice, support with CVs and mock interviews).
  • The Job Entry Targeted Support Scheme (JETS) will be extended to September 2022 to give tailored support for people who have been unemployed for over three months.
  • People aged 16-24 and on Universal Credit will be eligible for the Kickstart Scheme, which is being extended to March 2022 and will be open to applications from employers and gateways until 17 December 2021.
  • The government is also extending its Youth Offer to 2025 and expanding eligibility to include 16 and 17 year olds in addition to 18-24 year olds. This provides additional support to unemployed young people on Universal Credit who are searching for work.
  • The Government is also extending its £3000 incentive payment for every apprentice a business hires up until 31 January 2022.

HMRC has provided updated guidance on paying Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants back

HMRC has updated its guidance on paying back Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grants by adding a new section on offsetting amounts overclaimed by employers. Through this, employers should include all employees in a single claim period when working out the amount they've overclaimed for in that period. This means an employer can offset an amount, equal to any amounts that they've underclaimed for another employee, in the same claim period. However, they cannot offset an overclaim made in one claim period against an underclaim in another claim period.

Where employers have underclaimed for any employee, they must make that value good to the employee.

Any balancing overclaim after offsets for any period must be repaid to HMRC.

The updated guidance includes a worked example of offsetting an amount overclaimed.

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