In Brief: Important Updates from March 2020

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 6 April 2020
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Advice, rules and available resources on what to do about Covid-19 seem to change so quickly at the moment that we think it might be an idea to put everything for employers and HR professionals in one place.

So, for this month’s In Brief article we have brought together what we feel are the best current resources to help aid in your understanding of the employment implications of the Coronavirus. 

Job Retention Scheme

On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘JRS’).  Under the Scheme the Government will cover 80% of worker’s wages up to £2,500 per month. Both the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the measures.  This Commons Library briefing paper, published on 2nd April, provides answers to a number of frequently asked questions on the Government's new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. While some details of the Scheme have been published, much remains unknown. The paper considers how the Scheme will fit within the broader framework of employment law:

Updated guidance from HMRC provides some clarity around some key questions about furlough including whether an employee can work for another employer while on furlough.  Daniel Barnett’s updates have been brilliant of late and his insights on the government guidance have been an excellent read. Daniel Barnett has produced a range of podcasts and webinars discussing the changes in the updated guidance which can be accessed here. It’s GB-based but really useful and timely. Daniel’s always good but he’s excelled himself of late. 

Closer to home, A&L Goodbody are teaming up with Invest Northern Ireland to host a webinar to discuss the Job Retention Scheme and Practical measures to manage a crisis on Thursday 9th April from 11am – 12pm.  Register here.

If you want a catch-up before then, you could listen back to our webinar with the LRA and O’Reilly Stewart solicitors on the JRS that we held on Friday 3rd April

In fact, you’ll find all of our key coronavirus updates in our resources section of our employment law hub 

Annual Leave Entitlements During Furlough

Many of you have questions about what happens to annual leave entitlements during furlough leave, e.g. do employees still accrue leave or can an employee take annual leave and furlough leave at the same time?  While the official guidance on the JRS does not currently address these matters, this article from Jones Cassidy Brett makes a good stab at answering some of the burning annual leave questions:

Daniel Barnett outlines why he thinks employees do continue to accrue annual leave during furlough in this recent podcast: 

Statutory Sick Pay Entitlements

The government has enacted legislation to permit the payment of SSP for those suffering from Covid-19 from the first day of absence (removing the requirement to serve three ‘waiting days’) and sick or ‘Fit notes’ are available from the NHS 111 service online here.  More information on SSP and Covid-19 is available here.  You will find all the appropriate legislative updates for NI and GB in our weekly review of developments’ emails on our hub, along with a weekly update on all issues coronavirus and employment-related.

Remote Working

As many employees adapt to working from home and getting to grips with the many communication platforms available to stay in touch its worth remembering some do’s and don’ts of video conferencing.  This article from the BBC provides a cautionary reminder of what not to do while on a video call - The Pitfalls of Conference Video Calls.  

Hugh McPoland, from Clarendon Executive discusses how to maintain effective communication while working remotely and Mairead Regan discusses the importance of being alert to the potential for bullying and harassment during remote working here.   The CIPD also has a wide range of resources to help get the most from remote working – their coronavirus hub is an excellent resource for HR professionals and we understand that, like Legal Island, their coronavirus articles are available to all, not just members.  

Physical and Mental Health

Working from home while dealing with the added pressures of home-schooling children can leave us feeling stressed and drained and it can be hard to ‘leave the office’.  It is important to stay calm amidst all the chaos and take some time out to relax and destress.  These short yoga practices by Lisa Copeland provide the perfect anti-stress remedy and her beautifully calming voice is very soothing.

Data Protection

Ensuring that adherence to Data Protection Legislation is maintained during remote working is essential and our recent webinar with Laura Gillespie, Pinsent Masons provides some good practice guidance on how to continue to protect sensitive personal data.  The Information Commissioner has compiled a helpful number of FAQ’s on data protection implications of the Coronavirus. 

Business Immigration Update

Visa nationals who cannot return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa until 31 May 2020. The extension announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.  Conor McCrory, Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors provides a Business Immigration update to help employers understand the impact Covid-19 will have on their immigration responsibilities.

This article is correct at 06/04/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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