COVID-19: An Employer’s Guide
It is fair to say that COVID-19 has thrown up some serious challenges to us all, whether it be personally at home or in the workplace, as a small employer ourselves we understand how you must be feeling and hope that this short COVID-19 Coronavirus Employer’s guide will help you with some unanswered questions.
It’s business as usual what do I need to be aware of?
As long as your employees are either key workers or cannot work from home and can satisfy the governments guidelines then employers should ensure that they are taking all necessary steps to protect their employees. All employers have health and safety obligations to keep employees informed about health risks that may arise in carrying out their duties and to ensure that working practices do not create undue risks to employees.
As such, employers should carry out and continually update risk assessments and consider any factors that may make employees particularly susceptible to infection (particularly those from vulnerable groups). Employers should also continue circulating up-to-date information on good hygiene practices and provide any necessary equipment to facilitate this for those that are attending the workplace, such as hand sanitisers. For example, we recommend issuing a reminder on action employees can take to help stop viruses like coronavirus spreading.
Do I have any responsibility for my staff whilst they are working from home?
As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
It is also important to ensure you have taken every step to reduce cyber-attacks whilst your team are working from home and ensure home workers health and safety is considered.
I have members of staff off sick due to the Coronavirus can I claim back the sick pay?
This challenging situation has caused uncertainty about Statutory Sick Pay, however the government have introduced entitlement for employee’s self-isolating and diagnosed with COVID-19 to receive SSP from day 1, rather than day 4.
I still need to recruit, what is my best way to go about recruiting?
Firstly, I would look at the staff you have and see if they can do any more hours, and if not follow your normal recruitment process, we are going through a strange time, there will a large number of people available due to companies laying off. It is important to be aware of the right to work checks, you will see the guidelines below.
The government has announced temporary adjustments to right to work checks, making it easier for employers to recruit during the COVID-19 outbreak. As of today, recruiters can:
- carry out checks over video call
- accept scanned documents or photos of documents as evidence
- use the Home Office Employer Checking Service if a prospective/existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents
These temporary changes take into consideration the challenges of recruiting remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
New right to work steps for recruiters:
- Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
- Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
- Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
Recruiters can also use the online right to work checking service- while doing a video call, if the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Applicants must first give permission for their details to be viewed.
It is unknown as to how long these adjustments will be valid until, however government says it will give employers advance warning. After which, the original checking process set out in right to work checks: an employer’s guide, will resume
I need to furlough my staff what does this mean and how do I do it?
The Job Retention Scheme (Furloughing) provides security for employees over the coming months in light of the current crisis. The scheme provides a mechanism that allows businesses to retain employees without the need for them to work and for those employees to still receive a minimum level of their salary.
To claim the 80% available, you submit the details to HMRC through an online portal, which will be available from the end of April 2020.
What happens if I need to finish my temps? Do they have any support?
That is not a problem, temporary staff fall under the Furlough scheme, your recruitment agency should be aware of the process and will be able to help you.
My staff want to carry their holidays over is this ok?
As announced on the 27th March 2020, due to Coronavirus, the government is relaxing the rules on holiday leave. Workers will be able to carry over any unused statutory annual leave into the next two leave years. The government will amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 to reflect this.
As a reminder, almost all workers are entitled to 28 days statutory annual holiday including bank holidays each year. Usually, the majority of the 28 days cannot be carried between leave years – this means a worker would lose their untaken holiday if they don’t take it in the relevant leave year. The change to allow a carry-over for two years will ensure workers don’t lose their leave entitlements and gives flexibility to business.
What financial help is available to support my business?
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.
- a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- deferring VAT and Self-Assessment payments
- a Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
- a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
- small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
- grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
- a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
- the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
We are here to support you; if you have any questions please get in touch on 01782 338787 or book a convenient time for you and a member of our team will get in touch.
Stay safe and stay inside!