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Coronavirus - What Are the Latest Employment Updates?

on Friday, 09 October 2020.

This week has seen a number of coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments which have an impact on employers. We summarise the main updates below.

Job Retention Bonus Treasury Direction Published

We previously reported on the Job Retention Bonus, albeit until recently little was known of the detail about how the bonus would be claimed and awarded. The Government has now issued a Treasury Direction setting out the mechanics of the scheme as follows:

  • Employers will be entitled to £1,000 one-off bonus for each eligible employee who has been furloughed, and who is not serving a notice period as of 31 January 2021.
  • The bonus must be claimed between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021 and does not need to be passed on to the employee.
  • The employer must have paid the minimum income threshold of at least £1,560 gross wages to the employee between 6 November 2020 and 5 February 2021.
  • Employers need to claim the bonus between 15 February and 31 March 2021. Further guidance on the process to submit a claim is expected.

New Research Indicates Over a Third of British Businesses Will Make Redundancies in the Next Three Months

ACAS has published research indicating that 37% of British businesses (based on a sample size of 2,097) are likely to make redundancies over the next three months. Whilst a sobering statistic, this is perhaps not surprising given the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in which many businesses continue to operate during the pandemic.

The research also indicates that one in four participants were unaware of the law around consulting staff before making redundancies. For businesses with fewer than 50 staff, this figure increased to one in three.

If your business is preparing for a workforce planning exercise, it is important to plan for a fair and meaningful consultation procedure (which can be adapted to take place remotely if required). Taking the opportunity to plan a fair process now may help avoid the considerable time and cost of defending expensive Employment Tribunal claims down the line.

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Reimbursement of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

This week's third development is the introduction of the new Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers' Liabilities) (Amendment) Regulations, due to come into force on 15 October 2020. As part of the Government's measures to support employers during the coronavirus pandemic, earlier this year the Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme was introduced, under which eligible employers (with fewer than 250 employees) were entitled to reclaim some SSP payments from the Government.

Under the new Regulations, the employer eligibility requirements change, to ensure the scheme remains aligned with state aid rules for any claim made in respect of the period from 29 June 2020. In order to be eligible to make the claim, employers must not have been 'in difficulty' on 31 December 2019. Effectively this means that the employers subject to collective insolvency proceedings, in receipt of rescue aid, restructuring aid or who are subject to a restructuring plan will not be eligible to claim under the scheme.  

The Government has produced guidance for employers to use to check their eligibility to claim under the scheme.

Access to Work Employer Factsheet Updated

The Government has updated the Access to Work Scheme guidance for employers.  

The Scheme is open to people with disabilities or long-term health conditions that mean they need support to do their jobs. Grants of up to £60,700 are available. The updated guidance confirms individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic may be able to access the grant in order to assist them in working from home or the workplace. Travel costs may also be funded under the Scheme if required. The period for submitting claims has also been extended from six to nine months.  

Whilst the Access to Work Scheme is a Scheme for employees, it is good practice for employers to keep up to date with the Scheme to facilitate conversations with eligible staff about making claims, and to ensure employers can offer appropriate support.

For more information on any of the above changes, please contact Gareth Edwards in our Employment Law team on 07899 915692, or complete the form below.

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