Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Employers on Covid-19 (October 2020)

Is an employee entitled to their normal/full pay during their notice period if they are made redundant while on furlough?

Yes, where an employee is given notice of redundancy while they are on furlough leave as long as they are ‘ready and willing to work’ they are entitled to be paid their normal pay for the duration of their notice period.

Can an employer require employees to be tested for Covid-19?

Anyone with one of the three main symptoms of Covid-19 are eligible for a test provided by the NHS to see if they have the virus.

Some employers may provide testing for employees to prevent a transmission of the virus in the workplace.

Employers wishing to do this, should only do so if they can ensure they can comply with the GDPR obligations relating to the processing of such data.  Individual consent must be given to undertake a COVID-19 test.

As employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, it is likely that they can reasonably instruct an employee exhibiting symptoms to be tested. If the employee fails to follow the employer’s instruction to arrange a test, the employer may be justified in taking disciplinary action against them.

Do employers have to tell employees if someone has tested positive for Covid-19?

Employers should tell their employees if someone has tested positive for Covid-19 so that steps can be taken to prevent further spread. Employers must adhere to data protection when doing so and disclose no more information than is necessary. The identification of the employee may not need to be disclosed to other employees.

The information commissioner’s office states that employers should keep employees informed about potential or confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the workplace, but they should avoid naming individuals where possible.

What do we do if an employee has the virus?

 Where an employee has coronavirus or suspected coronavirus the advice is as follows:

  • The employee with the confirmed diagnosis must stay at home with immediate effect and be advised to follow the government advice on self-isolation.
  • If the employee has symptoms of the virus or someone in their household has symptoms, they should also self-isolate.

Self-isolate means not leave the house or go to work and under the government advice get tested.

Any employees who have been exposed to an infected colleague should be sent home. The government advise is that anyone in recent close contact with an infected, or suspected affected person should self-isolate.

What should employers do if part of the business is based in an area that is in a local lock-down? 

Some businesses will be in areas where there is a local lock-down. In these situations, employers should advise employees to comply with the government advice, which will more than likely be to not commute to, from or in the lock-down area, unless the work is an essential service.

The government have confirmed that employers forced to close because of a local lock down will be able to re-furlough employees, before 31st October 2020. From 1st November employers will need to claim through the Job Support Scheme or expanded Job Support scheme.

What is the Job Support Scheme?

The job support scheme opens on 1st November 2020 and will run for 6 months until April 2021.

Employers will continue to pay employees for time worked at full pay, and any hours not worked will be split between the employer and the Government through wage support and the employee through a wage reduction.

The scheme is to support businesses that need it most, with a main focus on those that are being impacted by Covid-19 and who can support their employees doing some work but need more time for the demand of the business to recover.

  • The government will pay one third of any hours not worked up to a cap, with the employer also contributing one third. This ensures that employees can earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages, where the Government contribution is not capped.
  • The government contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month.
  • Employees must be on an employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 23rd September 2020, meaning a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment to that employee must have been done on or before 23rd September 2020.
  • For the first 3 months of the scheme, employees must work at least 33% of their usual hours. The government will review whether to increase the minimum hours after 3 months.

What is the expanded Job Support Scheme?

The expanded Job Support Scheme (JSS) is a temporary grant available to employers who have had to:

  • Legally shut down as the result of a local lock-down or national lock-down;
  • Employees are off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.

The grant is two-thirds of each employees’ salary (67%) and is capped at £2,100 per month which is payable in arrears.

The scheme starts on 1st November 2020 for six months, but it will be reviewed in January 2021.

What is the difference between the specific local lock-down support and the general support for employers under the new job support scheme?

Both parts of the new job support scheme run between 1st November 2020 and last for six months until 30th April 2021.

  • The lock-down scheme applies if a business is closed due to a national or local lock-down. The grant enables employers to claim extended government funding to help to protect jobs.
  • General job support scheme applies for employers with reduced demand whose employees are working a minimum of one third of their usually worked hours.

What if an employee has child-care restrictions due to the schools being closed as areas enter further lockdowns?

Employees can take a reasonable amount of time off to take care of dependents, there is no set time limit for this and is dependent on the individual situation.

Employers must talk to employees to understand the individuals’ situation and hopefully mutually agree next steps. These steps could include the following options:

Employers could look at:

  • Keeping an employee on furlough if they are temporarily unavailable to work;
  • Arrange for an employee to work different hours temporarily or the option of remaining working from home, working in a different department or area or short time working;
  • Taking holiday;
  • Unpaid leave.

Is there any financial support for individuals in areas in the high-risk category who cannot work from home but are required to self-isolate?

In September, the government confirmed a Test and Trace Support payment scheme paying £500 to both employed and self-employed people who are on low incomes that are required to self-isolate from 28th September 2020. This payment scheme is designed so that those people on low incomes can self-isolate without breaking the rules.

The scheme supports those who are asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

To be eligible people must:

  • Be asked to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace;
  • Cannot work from home and will lose income due to self-isolating;
  • Be claiming one of the following, universal credit, working tax credit, income related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income support, pension credit or housing benefit.

 

If you would like further guidance on any HR topics please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk


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