Free domestic abuse advice line for employers

A new advice line for employers who are supporting employees experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse has been launched by domestic abuse charity Hestia. The Everyone’s Business Advice Line, which is being funded by the Home Office, will be a point of contact for employers, advising them on how to approach disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, particularly in light of coronavirus (COVID-19). With more people working remotely from home due to the pandemic, cases of domestic abuse are rising. The advice line will also assist employers in signposting staff to local specialist domestic abuse services.

The Everyone’s Business Advice Line can be contacted on 07770 480437 or email adviceline.EB@hestia.org and the service is open between 10am and 3pm Monday to Friday. Employers can also download an assets pack from the Hestia website, comprising an information brochure, flyer, infographic and social media graphics.

One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime.
 

Coronavirus testing guidance for employers

The government has published detailed new guidance for employers on the regulations and legal obligations relating to running internal workplace coronavirus (COVID-19) testing programmes, i.e. those which are outside of the NHS Test and Trace service. The guidance covers:

  • legislation, regulations and best practice surrounding the testing process, including compliance with the GDPR
  • selecting and procuring test kits
  • the difference between virus and antibody testing
  • what the test results mean
  • next steps after a positive or negative test, including communicating results to staff and what an employer can and cannot do with a result
  • contact tracing.

The guidance emphasises that the NHS Test and Trace service is for those who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus or who have been advised to take a test by a medical practitioner or public service, so employers must not advise any staff without symptoms to get a test from the NHS Test and Trace service. However, they may offer alternative private provision in accordance with this guidance.

Access to Work scheme extended to working from home

The government has announced that disabled workers who are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic can now benefit from financial support following an extension to the Access to Work scheme. 

Workers can now apply to the Access to Work Scheme for grant funding if they are disabled and need support to work from home because of coronavirus. The grant can help pay for special equipment such as a screen reader or support worker services. If they are travelling into the workplace and, due to their health condition, public transport is not currently a safe option, the grant can now cover taxi fares. This funding can be fast-tracked if the worker is in the clinically extremely vulnerable group. Finally, if the worker is anxious about returning to work and needs additional support, they can also get mental health support through Access to Work with a tailored package for up to nine months.

An Access to Work grant can be applied for online or over the phone: 0800 121 7479. The worker must apply for it; their employer cannot do so.

Redundancy factsheets for employers and employees

The government has published two factsheets on redundancy, one for employers and one for employees. 

The fact sheet for employers provides guidance on the support and information available to them from the government’s free “Rapid Response Service”. It advises employers to get in touch as soon as employees are at risk of redundancy, as it can provide a tailored package of free support through the process of redundancy from its network of partners. The fact sheet also links to other governmental and non-governmental sources of useful information on redundancy.

The fact sheet for employees offers guidance on the support and information available to help them find a new job. The document explains where to look for jobs, how individuals can improve their skills, what benefits are available and how claims are made, where advice can be sought on redundancy-related issues and where information can be found on pensions. 

New SSP regulations confirm increased minimum self-isolation period

Public Health England (PHE) has updated its guidance to increase the minimum self-isolation period for those with symptoms of coronavirus from seven to ten days, starting from when symptoms first begin. In addition, those who test positive for coronavirus but who are not experiencing symptoms must stay at home for at least ten days starting from the day the positive test was taken, and if they then develop symptoms during this self-isolation period, the ten days must restart from the date their symptoms first appear. 

To correspond with the extended self-isolation period, the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2020 came into force on 5 August 2020. The regulations have amended the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 to confirm that an employee self-isolating in accordance with the updated PHE guidance will be deemed incapable for work and so entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) for the duration of the extended minimum ten-day period for which they are now required to self-isolate.

Making staff redundanct – form HR1

The government has published an updated version of form HR1. Where an employer is proposing to make 20 or more redundancies at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less, they must give advance notification of those potential redundancies to the Secretary of State using form HR1. In practice, the form is returned by email to the Redundancy Payments Service. It must be returned at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes effect if between 20 and 99 redundancies are proposed, or at least 45 days before the first dismissal takes effect if 100 or more redundancies are proposed, and before any individual notices of dismissal are issued to employees. A separate form HR1 form needs to be used for each establishment where 20 or more redundancies may occur within a 90-day period, as each establishment or site is treated separately for notification purposes.

The amended form HR1 is slightly shorter but it is now accompanied by a new guidance document for employers which extracts much of the guidance which was previously part of the old form HR1. The guidance includes information on the requirement to notify about potential redundancies, the employer’s legal obligations and how to complete the form.

Failure to comply with the statutory notification requirements without good cause may result in prosecution and an uncapped fine.
 

Job Retention Bonus policy paper published

The government has published further guidance on how the forthcoming Job Retention Bonus Scheme will operate. The scheme will enable eligible employers to claim £1,000 for each eligible employee in respect of whom they have previously made a valid claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and who remains in continuous employment until at least 31 January 2021 following the closure of the CJRS on 31 October 2020.

The policy paper indicates that the one-off bonus payment is intended to provide additional support to employers who keep on their furloughed employees in “meaningful employment” after the CJRS ends and it states that further detailed guidance on the operation of the scheme will be published in September 2020.

Employers will be able to claim the bonus via GOV.UK after they have filed PAYE for January 2021 and payments will be made from February 2021. 

Employers will be able to claim for employees who:

  • were furloughed and had a CJRS claim submitted for them that meets all relevant eligibility criteria for the scheme
  • have been continuously employed by the employer from the time of the employer’s most recent claim for that employee until at least 31 January 2021
  • have been paid an average of at least £520 a month between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021, i.e. a total of at least £1,560 across the three months – the employee does not have to be paid £520 in each month, but must have received some earnings in each of the three calendar months that have been paid and reported to HMRC via Real Time Information (RTI), and only earnings recorded through RTI records can count towards the average minimum earnings threshold
  • are not serving a contractual or statutory notice period that started before 1 February 2021
  • have up-to-date RTI records for the period to the end of January 2021.

HMRC will withhold payment of the bonus where it believes there is a risk that CJRS claims may have been fraudulent or inflated, until the enquiry is completed.

The bonus will be taxable, so employers must include the whole amount as income when calculating the taxable profits for Corporation Tax or Self-Assessment.

Employers should now ensure that their employee records are up-to-date, including accurately reporting their employee’s details and wages on the Full Payment Submission (FPS) through the RTI reporting system. They should also ensure all their CJRS claims have been accurately submitted and that any necessary amendments have been notified to HMRC.

Changes to tax treatment of termination payments

The government has published draft clauses for insertion into a new Finance Bill 2020-21, to be introduced into Parliament in the Autumn. These include changes which will affect employers who make termination payments.

The part of a termination payment which is treated as being a payment in respect of the employee’s notice period and subject to income tax and NICs is called the “post-employment notice pay” (PENP). The provisions will provide an alternative PENP calculation where an employee’s pay period is defined in months, but their contractual notice period is defined in weeks or days, or where the post-employment notice period is not a whole number of months. This will ensure that all employees’ PENP is calculated consistently on the termination of their employment.

The provisions will also bring PENP within the charge to UK tax for individuals who are non-resident in the year of termination of their UK employment.

The measures will take effect from 6 April 2021 and will apply to those employees who both have their employment terminated and receive a termination payment on or after 6 April 2021. Since October 2019, HMRC has, in any event, exercised managerial discretion to provide for an alternative calculation for PENP for use where it’s advantageous to the employee and this will continue to apply until 6 April 2021.
 

New SSP regulations extend entitlement

The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 came into force on 6 July 2020. The regulations:

  • extend statutory sick pay (SSP) to employees who are required to self-isolate because they are in the same ‘support bubble’ as someone who has coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, where they are not able to work from home – in England, support bubbles are called linked households and, in Wales and Scotland, they are known as extended households. The SSP entitlement based on symptoms ends if and when the relevant individual tests negative for coronavirus.
  • tweak the SSP rules as they apply to those employees who have been advised to shield due to being clinically extremely vulnerable – entitlement to SSP will now cease either at the end of the period specified in the individual’s shielding notification or when that notification is overridden by a further notice to end shielding. Shielding will be paused in England after 31 July 2020, but the regulations also state that nothing prevents an individual’s entitlement to SSP restarting in the event a further shielding notification is sent, thus allowing for the possibility of shielding having to be revived for some clinically extremely vulnerable people if there is a second wave of coronavirus later in the year.

Redundancy process map

Acas has published a process map for employers who are having to consider making redundancies due to coronavirus. The interactive tool has been designed to help employers better understand redundancy processes, required steps and good practice when engaging with employees. It also provides details of options and alternatives to making redundancies and prompts employers to consider further support they can provide to their staff.

The tool simply provides an overview of the steps and processes involved, but it does link to more detailed Acas guidance and information on managing staff redundancies.

As part of ensuring a redundancy process is both fair and complies with statutory requirements, employers must:

  • be confident there is a genuine redundancy situation, i.e. there is an actual or intended closure of the business, there is an actual or intended closure of the business at a particular workplace, or the requirements of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind have ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish
  • undertake meaningful individual consultation in all cases, which will involve holding a series of individual meetings with affected employees, the purposes of which are for the employer to  explain their proposals and the reasons for them and to give staff a reasonable opportunity to put forward their own suggestions, ask questions and generally have their say before any final decisions on redundancy are taken
  • undertake statutory collective consultation with appropriate representatives, i.e. trade union or elected employee representatives, where the proposal is to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less – and the Secretary of State will also need to be notified, according to prescribed timescales, on form HR1
  • fairly select those employees who are to be made redundant – this will include identifying the relevant selection pool and the proposed objective and non-discriminatory selection criteria and then applying a fair scoring system to those criteria in order to select who is to provisionally be made redundant
  • give due consideration to suitable alternative employment and other alternatives to compulsory redundancy – employers need to carefully focus on the various ways in which redundancy could be avoided
  • not issue any redundancy notices until the consultation process (both individual and, where applicable, collective) is complete
  • preferably give a right of appeal against any redundancy decision.

Employers must also ensure that statutory minimum notice and statutory redundancy payment obligations are met on redundancy, together with any enhanced contractual obligations.