Covid-19 Pandemic: Managing Staff Matters - Updated 30 March

Updated: a day ago


Please contact us to discuss your specific situation and needs so as to ensure you act legally in managing your staffing situation:

Call 01722 325833 or email: hr@hjssolutions.co.uk or dan.jenkins@hjssolutions.co.uk


The information provided below is based on NHS 111 and government guidance as at the time of writing (30 March 2020). It is anticipated that further guidance and possible amendments to employment legislation may be forthcoming over the next days and weeks. We will update our advice and guidance on our website daily and whenever new information is announced.


Can my workers' holiday entitlement be carried over to next year?


Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years.


New regulations were introduced on 27 March to allow up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next 2 leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year. The changes will also ensure all employers affected by COVID-19 have the flexibility to allow workers to carry over leave at a time when granting annual leave could leave them short-staffed in some of Britain’s key industries, such as food and healthcare.


The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 amends the Working Time Regulations 1998 to create a further exemption relating specifically to COVID-19. Where it is not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some, or all, of the holiday to which they are entitled due to the coronavirus, they have a right to carry the 4 weeks under regulation 13 into the next 2 leave years. This will not apply to the 1.6 weeks under regulation 13A leave, but this can be carried forward one year by agreement between workers and employers.

What is the latest information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?


The government has released further details concerning the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).


Summary of the Scheme


To access the scheme you will need to:

  • Designate the relevant employees as "furloughed workers" and notify them of this change. This is instead of laying them off or making them redundant

  • The furloughed workers must not undertake any work at all for the employer

  • Submit information about the employees that have been furloughed to HMRC via a new online portal that is being set up - further details to follow

HMRC will reimburse 80% of the furloughed workers' wages cost up to a cap of £2,500 per month per employee. This will be back-dated to 1st March 2020. The system for implementing the reimbursement is being set up urgently and details will follow. We do not yet know when payments will be made but the government has indicated it is likely to be towards the end of April.

Employers who are suffering cash shortages in the meantime as a result of Coronavirus may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan

Summary of further information concerning furloughed employees


  • Employer and employee must both agree to the furlough

  • Employee must have been on the payroll on 28 February 2020

  • All types of employment contracts are covered including zero hours and temporary ones

  • Employees on sick leave or self-isolating may be furloughed at the end of those periods

  • The grant will apply from the day the employee was furloughed which can be backdated to 1 March 2020

  • Employees made redundant after 28 February can be re-employed and placed on furlough instead

  • Employees on maternity /adoption/paternity/shared parental leave - normal rules still apply

  • Pregnant employees due to commence maternity leave will continue to do so as usual


Calculating Monthly Earnings


If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business in the case of agency workers) for a full year, employers can claim for the higher of either:

  • the amount earned in the same month last year

  • an average of monthly earnings from the last year

If employed for less than a year, employers can claim for an average of monthly earnings since the employee started work. The same arrangements apply if the monthly pay varies such as with a zero-hour contract.

If the employee started work in February 2020, the employer must pro-rata earnings from that month.

Bonuses, commissions and fees are not included as part of monthly earnings.


While Employees are Furloughed


Once on furlough employees are not able to work for their employer, but can undertake training or volunteer subject to public health guidance, as long as they're not:

  • making money for their employer

  • providing services to their employer

If employees are required to, for example, complete training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the National Living Wage /National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.


Any activities undertaken while on furlough must be in line with the latest Public Health guidance during the COVID-19 outbreak.


The employee can still be made redundant while on furlough or afterwards.

If an employee is placed on furlough, they will need to remain on furlough for a minimum of 3 weeks. However, the employer can place an employee on furlough more than once, and one period can follow straight after an existing furlough period, while the scheme is open. The scheme will be open for at least 3 months.


CLICK HERE for more details


What help is there for the self-employed?


A new Income Support Scheme was announced by the Chancellor today to provide financial support for the self-employed during the Coronavirus outbreak.


  • Cash grant paid direct to individuals' bank accounts worth 80% of average monthly trading profit over the last three years, up to £2500 per month

  • Eligibility: open to those already in self employment with a trading profit of less than £50,000 during the financial year 2018/19 OR an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19

  • More than half of income in the above periods must come from self-employment

  • The scheme will be for 3 months from March to June with grants paid in a single lump sum starting at the beginning of June. The scheme may be extended if necessary

  • Individuals should not contact HMRC now - eligibility will be checked automatically by HMRC and applications will be invited once the scheme is up and running

CLICK HERE for the Chancellor's statement and details.


What is the extension for filing statutory accounts that has been announced?


From 25 March 2020, businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts.

This joint initiative between the government and Companies House will mean businesses can prioritise managing the impact of Coronavirus. As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete. Details to follow.

The government is also in close consultation with company representative bodies, legal practitioners and others, to look at solutions for the impact COVID-19 may have on companies’ ability to hold Annual General Meetings. Updated guidance on this matter will be published in due course.


We are a Charity, what updates are there we should be aware of that affect us?


Understandably, charities are concerned about what to do during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the government has set out responses to the most commonly asked questions including support for paying charity staff, and use of restricted funds and reserves.


CLICK HERE to visit the government Q&A covering these and other matters.


What do I do about Company Car MOTs that are due?


Vehicle owners are being granted a 6-month exemption from MOT testing, enabling them to continue to travel to work where this absolutely cannot be done from home, or shop for necessities. All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MOT test will be exempted from needing a test from 30 March 2020. Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work. Drivers can still be prosecuted if driving unsafe vehicles and please note that employers' health & safety obligations and duty of care to their employees still need to be observed.


More information

Coronavirus (COVID-19): MOTs for cars, vans and motorcycles due before 30 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19): MOTs for cars, vans and motorcycles due from 30 March 2020


Has Gender Pay Gap Reporting been suspended?


Enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting deadlines has been suspended for this year.


The government announced today that, "due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have today, 24th March, taken the decision to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year (2019/20)."


In a joint statement, Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss, and EHRC Chair, David Isaac, said: “We recognise that employers across the country are facing unprecedented uncertainty and pressure at this time. Because of this we feel it is only right to suspend enforcement of gender pay gap reporting this year.”

Further information:

  • In normal circumstances, the EHRC has the power to investigate employers that fail to report their gender pay gap data and could face an unlimited fine after court action.

  • More than 3000 employers have already reported their data via the gov.uk website this year (26% of expected reporters) and GEO will continue to provide support to employers in reporting their data should they wish to do so.


If you have more than 250 employees, and so are required to report your gender pay gap but have not already done so, you will not have to do so this year.


What are the new measures announced to stop the virus spreading?


The government has tonight announced new restrictions on movement with immediate effect. CLICK HERE to see the PM's full address to the nation on the BBC.


People must stay at home except to leave for a small number of reasons:

  • to purchase essential food, supplies/medicines

  • to undertake one form of exercise per day (e.g. a walk, cycle ride or run)

  • to go to work if absolutely essential and you cannot work at home : Contact us for advice and support on setting up your staff as homeworkers.


All shops other than essential food shops and pharmacies will be closed. Public gathering places such as libraries, restaurants, cafes, churches, leisure centres etc. will be closed. Hospitals and GP surgeries will remain open.


Gatherings of more than 2 people are not allowed, unless family members.


Ceremonies such as weddings are cancelled, the only exception being funerals which may be attended by close family members only


All non-essential travel must not go ahead.


The police will be given powers to enforce the new rules.


What is the current advice about self-isolating and sick pay?


The law has temporarily been amended to allow employees who are required to self-isolate, in accordance with NHS 111 guidelines, to be paid statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of absence (so the 3 waiting days no longer apply in this situation).


This only applies to absence related to Coronavirus and if the employee is, in any event, eligible to receive SSP. Employees can self-certify up to 7 days and thereafter we are advised they will be able to obtain an Isolation Note from the NHS 111 web service rather than going to see their GP for a medical certificate.


The government has said it will reimburse employers with fewer than 250 employees for SSP paid as a result of Coronavirus-related absence.


When should an employee stay at home?


The latest advice from NHS is to stay at home if you have either:


  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)


If an employee is not carrying the COVID-19 virus but needs to look after a family member who does, will they get sick pay?


The Government has announced new measures that mean these employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one. This includes people caring for those in the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.


My employee’s child’s school is closing and they have to stay home to look after them. What are my options?


The government announced on 18 March that all schools will close. Those parents who are in Vital Roles such as NHS, emergency services, etc. will be able to send their children to school. CLICK HERE for a list of vital roles


Some options, if your staff cannot come to work for this reason are:


  • Identify if homeworking is an option and if so temporarily implement (see section below on homeworking)

  • See if the employee has any unused accrued holiday they may wish to take

  • Provide the employee with unpaid Dependant/Parental Leave – there is a legal entitlement for parents of children, up to the age of 18, to take up to 4 weeks of unpaid parental leave per child in any one year. Please contact us for more information.


Can I lay my staff off if I need to reduce costs quickly?


The government has introduced a new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (see above) to help employers try and avoid this. However, if still absolutely necessary due to cash shortages that cannot be temporarily resolved then this is still an option. There is other support available for businesses with cash flow problems due to the business interruption - for full details, eligibility and how to access these please CLICK HERE


If you have a lay-off and/or short-time working clause in your employees’ contracts of employment then these can be invoked with immediate effect. There is no requirement to provide notice.


Lay-off is where you inform staff there is no work available and they should not attend work. The clause should refer to the employees’ entitlement to pay ceasing on workless days. Instead employees may be entitled to a statutory guaranteed payment (currently £29 per day) for the first 5 days of lay off. There is no time limit to the length of lay-off, however after 4 consecutive weeks’ of lay off, or a total of 6 weeks of lay off in a 13 week period, an employee is entitled to treat themselves as redundant and claim a redundancy payment if they have been employed for at least two years.


If you have no lay-off clause staff may still be told not to come into work but the obligation to pay them their contractual pay continues.


Short-time working means you can reduce employees’ hours and pay accordingly.


How do I make staff redundant if I have to?


It is a requirement in law to follow a fair process to terminate employment because of redundancy. What is required will depend on the specific circumstances of your staff including criteria such as length of service, jobs, number of employees affected, and particularly the circumstances you are facing. Please contact us to discuss further if needed.


Can I ask my employees to take a pay-cut or work for no pay?


Any changes to fundamental terms and conditions of employment, such as reducing pay, has to be by mutual agreement. It is acceptable to ask employees if they would be willing to take a reduction in pay to help the business through a difficult period. If this is something you want to consider doing please contact us for guidance.

Should I be making my staff homeworkers if I can?


The government’s advice is that people should work from home if they can, to reduce social interaction. If you decide this is practical in your situation then this can be temporarily introduced – our advice is to carefully think through the implications including:


  • Have a clear homeworking policy in place – contact us for this

  • Homeworkers need to complete a risk assessment – contact us for a template

  • Consider IT arrangements – our sister company HJS Technology can assist with all requirements

  • Make suitable supervisory and contact arrangements to maintain work motivation and productivity

How HJS Human Resources can support you


If you have to deal with reducing staff costs quickly and need urgent support and advice please contact us:

To assist businesses in coping with this urgent situation we have developed a special support package that includes:


  • Up to 2 hours of telephone/email advice on dealing with staffing matters arising out of the Coronavirus crisis

  • Review of employment contracts to establish options available

  • Production of:

  • Employee letters relating to the Coronavirus situation

  • Homeworking policy

  • Homeworker risk assessment



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Salisbury

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