Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that cafes, bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and leisure centres should close this evening until further notice, a package of measures was announced to provide financial reassurance for businesses and employees alike.
We understand that the measures include the creation of a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, under which any employers, large or small, charitable or non-profit, can apply to HMRC for grants to cover up to 80% of the salary of retained workers, who are not working but are kept on the payroll rather than being laid off, up to a total of £2,500 a month. It appears that grants can be accessed if employers furlough employees (put them on a paid leave of absence). We understand the grants are to be made available in the next few weeks and by the end of April. Mr Sunak says there is no limit on the funding for this scheme and that grants will be available for at least three months, extended if needed. Mr Sunak said detailed guidance on the scheme and how to apply would follow in due course.
The immediate crisis on employers was recognised, with Mr Sunak announcing that the next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred, with businesses having until the end of the financial year to pay.
Mr Sunak acknowledged that some employees will already have been made redundant, and there were therefore also changes to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, some of which are designed to provide an increased safety net for self-employed individuals.
The government website has not yet been updated with these developments but we expect that this will be done imminently. We await the details of these announcements and will provide further updates in due course.
The Government has today launched isolation notes which are intended to provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to Coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or live with someone who has symptoms.
The isolation notes are intended to act as evidence to employers of sickness absence in place of fit notes, which are usually required from the eighth day of absence onwards. Employees can self-certify for the first seven days of absence.
Isolation notes can be obtained from – https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note.
Employees who are self-isolating but who have agreed with their employer that they will work from home should not need to provide an isolation note.
Schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings are being asked to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can. Some private institutions may not be able to do so, but local authorities are working flat out to ensure provision is made for these children.
Yesterday, we were awaiting confirmation of who would be classed as a “Key Worker”. Shortly after midnight, the Government published a full list of roles which fall within the definition of “Key Workers” for the purposes of deciding which children will receive childcare during the school shut down.
Guidance has now been published for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision
Vulnerable children include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, looked after children, young carers, disabled children and those with education and care (EHC) plans.
Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and other key sectors. If parents working in these sectors can keep this child at home using other care such as partners or siblings over 18, they can do so. Many parents working in the key sectors will be able to do so. However, for those that can’t, educational settings are being asked to remain open.
The key sectors are (see the above link for more detail):
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