Coronavirus Employment Update 10/7/2020

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 10 July 2020
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Issues covered: Coronavirus

Furlough Payments and Notice
This helpful update from Jones Cassidy Brett provides some clarity as to whether payments claimed by employers under the Job Retention Scheme can be used towards notice payments. 

NI Jobs Outlook 'Heading Back To 1980s'
Northern Ireland in the 1980s could be a grim place.  Sectarian murders were still an everyday horror and a political solution to the Troubles seemed almost impossible.  The jobs market was in terrible shape, too.  Between the end of 1982 and the end of 1989, there were never less than 100,000 people claiming unemployment benefits.  Before the pandemic the unemployment claimant count this year was well below 30,000.  But now Stormont's Department for the Economy is warning that the labour market is rapidly heading back to the 1980s.  This week, the department published a detailed analysis of how the pandemic has damaged the economy.  It noted that the claimant count has more than doubled in two months with more job losses to come.  More from the BBC: 

New Post-Furlough Plan For Jobs
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £2bn "kickstart scheme" later to create more jobs for young people. The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment. The scheme will open for applications in August, with the first jobs expected to start in the autumn, and run until December 2021 - with the option of being extended.  It will cover England, Scotland and Wales, and the government said it would provide additional funding to Northern Ireland for a similar scheme. But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also calling for fiscal rules to be relaxed to allow them to borrow more and spend unused capital funding to address the "monumental challenges" of the economy. More from the BBC: 

Dodds Announces New Skills Initiative
Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced details of a free Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Operations and Supply Chain Management for people whose career has been impacted by Covid-19.   The Minister confirmed 100 fully funded places for the part-time PgCert with Queen’s University Belfast.  The part-time course, starting in August, is open to people whose careers have been impacted by the pandemic and who have a 2:2 honours degree in any subject or appropriate work experience.  More here: 

TLT Update
This helpful article from TLT outlines the Government's latest measures to help promote continued employment following the closure of the CJRS in October.  This includes a 'Job Retention Bonus' to be paid in January 2021 to employers who continue to employ staff that were on furlough.  Full article available here: 

The Government's plan for promoting employment is available here: 

ICO Guidance On Data Protection Compliance During COVID-19 Recovery Period
Aisling Byrne, Director, Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors outlines recent guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office regarding the use of personal data during the Covid-19 recovery period as business re-open. 

Fujitsu Announces Permanent Work-From-Home Plan
Technology firm Fujitsu has said it will halve its office space in Japan as it adapts to the "new normal" of the coronavirus pandemic.  It says the "Work Life Shift" programme will offer unprecedented flexibility to its 80,000 workers in the country.  Staff will be able to work flexible hours, and working from home will be standard wherever possible.  The announcement follows a similar move in May by social media platform Twitter.  In a statement sent to the BBC, Fujitsu said it "will introduce a new way of working that promises a more empowering, productive, and creative experience for employees that will boost innovation and deliver new value to its customers and society". More from the BBC: 

Workers to Pay Tax on Covid-19 Tests by Their Employer
Workers who have coronavirus tests paid for by their employer will have to pay tax on them. Tax authorities have confirmed that tests will be treated as a "benefit in kind", and so will be subject to extra income tax for employees. With some companies requiring regular tests, the tax bills will mount, Treasury Committee chairman Mel Stride has warned. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to look into the issue "very quickly". More from the BBC: 

Quarantine Changes Come into Effect In NI
People arriving in Northern Ireland from more than 50 countries including France, Spain, Germany and Italy are now no longer required to quarantine.  The executive agreed to the changes on Thursday. Previously, anyone entering NI from outside the Common Travel Area had to self-isolate for 14 days.  From today, the wearing of face coverings on public transport becomes compulsory in NI.  As NI's lockdown is eased further, cinemas and gyms can also now reopen. 

Indoor Weddings Allowed from 10th July
Ministers have agreed that places of worship will be enabled to resume baptisms from Friday, July 10.  They have also agreed that indoor marriage ceremonies in places of worship can resume from Friday, July 10. Local government offices and other venues can resume marriage and civil partnership services from the same date.  It will be up to venues to determine their precise opening dates for ceremonies.  Venues will determine if they wish to provide post-ceremony celebrations.  Numbers attending indoor marriage and civil partnership ceremonies and post-ceremony celebrations will be determined by the venue on a risk assessed basis, taking account of the individual circumstances of each and adhering to all relevant public health advice and industry guidance.  More here: 

New SSP Regulations
New regulations have been issued in relation to ensuring that people who are shielding due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) are still entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if they meet up with people outside their household.  In force from 6 July 2020, the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI.No.681/2020) (see NI equivalent legislation in the Legislative Update below) amend the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 so as to ensure that persons who are shielding themselves from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus will continue to be deemed to be incapable of work for the purpose of entitlement to SSP if they meet up with people outside their household, as now permitted by public health guidance. 

In addition, the regulations provide that - 

  • the shielding group will continue to be eligible for SSP until the end of the shielding period, and that a person who is notified to shield at any future time will still be eligible for SSP; and
  • a person who is self-isolating because they or someone they live with, or a member of their extended or linked household, has symptoms of coronavirus, and they or that person receives a negative test and therefore stops self-isolating after less than seven or 14 days, they do not have to serve waiting days for the days in self-isolation.

More here: 

Corporate Insolvency Legislation to be Applied to NI
An Equality Impact assessment has been carried out by the Department for the Economy on the proposals to agree amendments to Northern Ireland’s insolvency and company legislation to assist companies and mutuals in financial difficulties, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, being included in the Westminster Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill. 

The majority of the measures have no differential impact on s.75 groups. Only one aspect of the policy is expected to have any impact on people in terms of equality. Companies and mutual societies will be given more flexibility in deciding how to hold statutory meetings. If those who are elderly, disabled or have dependants are not expected to travel to meetings during the pandemic they may be more likely to engage. The proposal is likely to have a minor impact but it is positive. Given this outcome, the legislation will likely be implemented in NI. 


This article is correct at 10/07/2020

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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