Coronavirus Employment Update 1/5/2020

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 1 May 2020
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Ministers Announce Protection of Family-related Statutory Payments for Furloughed Workers

Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced changes to regulations which mean that people who are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay and Statutory Shared Parental Pay will not be disadvantaged if they are furloughed.  More here:

See 'Legislative Update' below for details of amending legislation. 

HMRC Employer Guidance - Updated, Yet Again

In fairness to HMRC, it's hardly a surprise that their guidance needs updating almost daily, given the breadth of the JRS and the number of situations that might arise when you create a speedy scheme to cover almost everyone's wages in a lockdown situation. They must be inundated with queries, so it's reasonable to expect frequent clarifications. The latest from 30th April's updates include:

  • Each period of furlough can be extended by any amount of time whilst the employee is on furlough. However the scheme end date is the last day you can claim for through this scheme.
  • Company directors with an annual pay period are covered by the scheme.
  • A new employer is eligible to claim under the CJRS in respect of the employees of a previous business transferred after 28 February 2020 if either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership.
  • Whilst on furlough, employees who are union or non-union representatives may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However in doing this, they must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

Employers Call For Furlough Scheme To Be More Flexible And Extended To September 

Employers want to see the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) made more flexible to allow furloughed staff to work reduced hours and for the scheme to be extended to at least the end of September.   This is according to a new survey of more than 1,000 employers commissioned by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The CIPD is warning that without these changes, the current JRS could prove to be a waiting room for unemployment and fail to protect significant numbers of the jobs it set out to save. More on this from the CIPD: 

Get Ready to Return to Work Guides

The government could be issuing detailed guidance on how businesses around the UK can safely return to work as early as this week, it has been reported, as a number of companies are starting to slowly ramp up business.  According to a report by the Financial Times, business secretary Alok Sharma will publish guidance before this weekend that will break down in “granular detail” how businesses can start to reopen once prime minister Boris Johnson orders the easing of the lockdown.

This will reportedly set out how safe working can take place in confined areas like factories and offices while keeping in mind social distancing measures, and include advice to restrict access to communal workplace spaces. The Health and Safety Executive is said to be working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to approve standards for employers. More from the CIPD:

Meanwhile, the CIPD has published their own return to work guide and we think it's really good - full of all kinds of ideas and suggestions that you might not have thought of but will have to have in place to provide a safe working environment:

New Facebook Messenger Video Chat Room

Facebook is introducing new Messenger Rooms which can host groups of people on video - including those who do not have an account.  The social network is rolling out the new service alongside a host of expanded live video-focused features across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, in an apparent attempt to take on the sudden popularity of Zoom.  More from RTE: 

Free Online Courses for Furloughed Workers

The Department for the Economy has partnered with the Open University (OU) to offer a range of free training courses to help people across Northern Ireland improve their skills and wellbeing.  The OU courses cover digital skills, employability and essential skills. The options include digital literacy, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, leadership, communication, maths and English.  More here: 

Majority Of HR Avoids Furlough As People Profession ‘Busier Than Ever’

The majority of HR departments have not had to furlough people in their own teams, a survey has found, as experts say coronavirus has made the people profession busier than ever.  A poll conducted by People Management of its readers found 63 per cent of respondents had seen no change to the current headcount of their HR teams, while an additional 2 per cent reported they were actually planning to grow their HR function. More from the CIPD:

Homeworkers Happier but Less Engaged

A new study has assessed how UK employees are coping with working life during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The global study, conducted by Toluna and Harris Interactive, includes a survey of 607 employees from the UK. The findings show that UK employees are reporting improvements in productivity and mental health over the past few weeks and see light at the end of the tunnel, but commitment, motivation and general satisfaction with their job and employer have declined.  More here:    

Maximising Productivity of Homeworkers

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the majority of businesses to at least offer, if not require, work-from-home options for employees. Employers are now facing many challenges that come with maintaining the same level of productivity when employees are working remotely.  More here: 

Impact of Coronavirus on Home Working

A recent article from the International Law Office suggests that more than 5 billion people worldwide have been asked to work from home due to the pandemic. 

Has Coronavirus Brought A New Normal? 

The outbreak has forced us to radically rethink how we approach home working, ethical business and ‘low status’ roles – but will this all stick?  This article from the CIPD considers what impact temporary changes to working practices will have for the HR profession. More from the CIPD: 

Notice Pay While On Furlough 

In this opinion piece Daniel Barnett sets out what he feels are the arguments and circumstances in which an employer may have to pay 100% of normal pay during a period of notice and when an employer may only have to pay 80%.  Well worth a read - but remember of course this refers to the Employments Right Act in GB.  More from Daniel Barnett: 

100% State-Backed Loans For Small Firms 

Small firms are to get access to 100% taxpayer-backed loans after they raised concerns about slow access to existing coronavirus rescue schemes.  Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons the scheme would start next week, offering firms loans up to £50,000 within days of applying. It aims to unlock a backlog of credit checks by banks amid fears many small firms could fold before getting loans.  The scheme requires filling in a two-page self-certification form online.  The loan terms mean that no capital or interest repayments will be due for one year. Instead, the government will pay the interest for the first 12 months. More from the BBC: 

Warning To Traders Overcharging During Pandemic

Trading Standards has issued a number of enforcement notices to traders engaged in profiteering during the coronavirus outbreak. The body says it has received a high volume of reports of price gouging - when traders increase the price of goods or services unreasonably.  People have reported small bottles of hand sanitiser being sold for £13 and eight kitchen rolls for £15 in NI.  More from the BBC: 

Watchdog Threatens Legal Action On Holiday Refunds

Firms that fail to refund people for holidays and weddings cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak could face legal action by the consumer watchdog. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it will take companies to court if they flout the law.  It says four out of five complaints made to its Covid-19 Taskforce are about cancellations and refunds. More from the BBC:


This article is correct at 01/05/2020

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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