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Newsletter                                              May 2020


Recent Updates

Welcome to our May Newsletter and what a unique couple of months have passed since our last one!

Let’s have a look back at some key updates …. Here is a snapshot of the ever-moving picture:

Friday 20th March- The chancellor announces the government will pay up to 80 per cent of wages for workers at risk of being laid off. Boris Johnson orders all pubs, restaurants, gyms and other social venues across the country to close their doors for the foreseeable future.

Monday 23rd March- Boris Johnson announces a UK-wide partial lockdown, to contain the spread of the virus. The British public are instructed that they must stay at home, except for certain "very limited purposes" such as shopping for basic necessities; for "one form of exercise a day" for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when "absolutely necessary".

Wednesday 8th April- Using figures from the British Chambers of Commerce, it is reported that more than 9 million workers are expected to be furloughed under the government's job retention scheme, with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of between £30 and 40bn.

Friday 17th April- Chancellor Rishi Sunak extends the job retention scheme for furloughed workers for another month, to the end of June.

Monday 20th April- Online applications for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are opened, with 67,000 claims registered in the first 30 minutes.

Tuesday 5th May- Trials of the NHS contact-tracing app start on the Isle of Wight with the app being made available to healthcare and council workers.

Sunday 10th May- The UK government updates its coronavirus message from "stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives" to "stay alert, control the virus, save lives".  Leaders of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland say they will keep the original slogan. Boris Johnson addresses the Nation in which he outlines a "conditional plan" to reopen society, but says it is "not the time simply to end the lockdown this week", and describes the plans as "the first careful steps to modify our measures".  In England, those who cannot work from home, such as construction workers and those in manufacturing, are encouraged to return to work from the following day, but to avoid public transport if possible. 

Tuesday 12th May- Chancellor Rishi Sunak extends the UK's furlough scheme until October. 

Wednesday 20th May- Boris Johnson confirms that a track and trace system will be in place from 1 June.

Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until end of October 2020.  There will be no change to the current system from now until the end of July. However, from August until October there will be new flexibility introduced to get employees back to work. This includes allowing furloughed workers to return to work part-time, with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.

More specific details and information around its implementation will be made available imminently.

Employers can claim online for a grant for 80% of furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month, through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)... If you, as an employer, have made a claim, it is important to:
- Keep a note or print-out of your claim reference number – you will not receive a confirmation SMS or email;
- Retain all records and calculations for your claims, in case HMRC need to contact you;
- Expect to receive the funds six working days after you apply, provided your claim matches records that HMRC hold for your PAYE scheme. Employers should not contact HMRC before this time;
- Ask your furloughed employees not to contact HMRC directly – they will not be able to provide any information on individual claims.

Who is eligible?

You can claim for employees on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts. Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. Grants under the scheme are not counted as ‘access to public funds’, and you can furlough employees on all categories of visa.

The normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply. You can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:
- maternity pay
- adoption pay
- paternity pay
- shared parental pay

Employees who are unable to work because they are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) can be furloughed.

To be eligible for the grant, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation or any linked or associated organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue. Employers can consider allocating any critical business tasks to staff that are not furloughed.

Employees can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for another employer and receive their normal wages.

If your employee has more than one employer, they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

SSP Rebate Scheme

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme launched online on 26th May. It will repay employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

If you are an employer who pays more than the current rate of SSP you can only claim the current rate amount. The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they are either:
- have coronavirus
- cannot work because they are self-isolating at home
- are shielding in line with public health guidance 


Managing your Employees who are Working from Home

As always communication is the key!

- Share your plans – what is the plan? What are you focussing on this week and next week? Share how the business is doing and what part are they playing. Involve your teams as it will keep them connected to you, the team, and the business.

- Set clear expectations and goals – whilst working remotely it is important to give guidance and direction.  Set clear goals that will engage your teams and allow them to get on with their work.

- Check in regularly – see how they are doing and if there are any problems. Review progresses give feedback and praise on goals achieved.

- Have clear communication - check in with your team regularly, even if this is not to discuss work it gives your team the time and opportunity to ask any general questions that they may have.  

- Utilise video calls - according to some studies, 70% to 93% of our communication is non-verbal. As a result, face-to-face contact feels intuitive and give you the chance to read cues that you may otherwise miss.

- People processes – follow through with usual people processes such as 1:1’s, probationary reviews, absence return to works.

- Engage in small talk - small talk can be important— particularly if your team member has not seen someone else all day. This situation can be tough on mental health and the intense isolation that comes with working from home can exacerbate this.


Communicating with furloughed emloyees

At Wurkplace we have had several calls from clients asking if managers can still get in touch with their teams whilst they are on Furlough Leave and if so, how often.  

The answer of course is yes – they are still your teams, just temporarily furloughed.  However, you must follow the clear instruction given that furloughed staff must not work for their employer until furlough ends, and that if the employees do any work, the employer’s claims for the government grant may be jeopardised.  

From a wellbeing and engagement point of view it’s important that employers maintain non work-related contact with furloughed staff to discuss any personal matters, including their health and well-being, and to allow employees to ask any questions or raise concerns.  How can you do this? 

- Communication - As always, the key is good communication.
| Be clear, concise, and as open and honest as you can 
| Explain what is happening … do not assume that people know 
| Invite and answer questions – adopt an open-door policy – this has been a huge period of change for all 
| Check in regularly

- Point of contact - be clear who their point of contact is regarding any questions or concerns they may have – have a ‘virtual open door’. Check that their contact details are up to date.

- Frequently Asked Questions – collate frequently asked questions; you will find that a question one person may have asked may also be a burning question for others who do not ask.  Send out FAQ’s on a regular basis. Do not assume that people are fully aware of all the aspects of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they may not fully understand how it works and the mechanics of the scheme.  

- Business news – newsletters, business updates, plans and a general ‘how the business is doing’ will keep your teams engaged in the business and provide security and information that keeps them connected.

- Social news – continue to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries – you can have social and business communication that does not involve asking your furloughed team members to work.

- Government announcements – when the government has ‘announcements’ be prepared to share what this means to your teams and business, and even if it’s not having an impact, tell them.

Returning to work after Furlough Leave or Working from Home

As the Government starts to ease restrictions, some businesses will be returning to work. Below are some key points on how to effectively bring employees back to work.

- Listen to all members of staff and reassure employees as much as possible.

- Social situations will need to be correctly managed to ensure social distancing rules are complied with i.e. meetings, work breaks/lunches in social areas. This could be done by staggering working hours (so all staff are not in at same time) or rearranging furniture to ensure there is sufficient space to be seated 2 metres apart.

- Communicate the practical measures you are taking to staff on a regular basis to help reassure them that their health, well-being, and safety is your top priority. Make sure employees are clear about what procedure they should follow if they begin to feel unwell, both in the workplace and at home.

- Have a re-induction process for returning staff, especially for those who have been furloughed. Employers should address any changes in company services, procedures, and any changes to work duties or tasks. 

- Looking ahead, employers should make contingency plans in case there is a second wave of coronavirus and limits are reintroduced.

Please refer to our Health and Safety Pack which you can find here for further guidance regarding managing the health and safety of your teams during their return to work.

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