A short guide on how employers can advise their employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Last updated - 12/05/2020]
While people continue to panic purchase and restrict all unessential contact, employers are facing problems themselves.
With uncertainty regarding how to best advise their employees and restrict potential long-term damage to their business, government measures have been put in place to support employers in this difficult time.
► All businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work from home, whenever the situation allows.
► If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with either a continuous cough or a high temperature then they should be sent home immediately.
► Employees should be reminded to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. They should also be told to catch coughs and sneezes in tissues.
► Employers are encouraged to clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly. This can be done by using standard cleaning products.
► If an employee is feeling unwell with coronavirus related symptoms, then they should be told to stay at home.
► Those who follow the advice and stay at home will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day they are absent from work.
► Employers are encouraged to use their discretion around the need for medical evidence when an employee does not attend work with a coronavirus-related absence. This is in accordance with health advice issued by the Government for the general public.
► Employees who are considered vulnerable should be strongly advised to stay at home, and work from there if the situation permits.
It is recommended that employers:
► Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce the risks of exposure in their workplace.
► Advise all their employees who fall within a vulnerable group to follow the social distancing guidelines.
► Ensure that they have up-to-date records of their employees’ contact numbers and emergency contact details.
► Train management teams to spot the symptoms of coronavirus.
► Ensure that managers understand the processes in place regarding reporting and sick pay. They must also make sure that there is a strategy in place should someone in the workplace become potentially infected.
► Keep washing facilities clean and stocked with soap at all times.
► Provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage the use of them on a regular basis.
The most common symptoms associated with coronavirus are a continuous cough or a high temperature.
The majority of people who become infected with coronavirus will suffer no more than a mild infection.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Shortness of breath
Can also be similar to a flu
If any employees become unwell with a continuous cough or high temperature while at work, then they should be immediately sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.
Should they require clinical advice, they should go online to NHS 111 or call 111. If they are seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, then they should call 999. They should not visit their GP, pharmacy, urgent care unit or hospital under any circumstances.
Numbers to call
If someone is feeling unwell
If someone is seriously ill and their life is at risk
In the event that a fellow member of staff has worked alongside someone who has been taken unwell with coronavirus-related symptoms, then they do not need to go home unless they begin developing symptoms themselves. Instead, they should wash their hands very thoroughly, as per the guidelines.
At this current point in time, it is not necessary to close a business or workplace or even send any staff home.
Employees who follow advice to stay at home and who are therefore unable to work, will be eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), even if they are not sick themselves.
Employers are strongly encouraged to use their discretion and respect the advice that has been issued by experts regarding self-isolation when making decisions about sick pay.
For those who are unable to receive SSP, including those who earn less than an average of £118 per week, then they may be eligible to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees on the date of the 28th of February, 2020 will be able to claim 100% rebate on corona-related SSP for up to two weeks.
The law stipulates that medical evidence is not required for the first seven days of sickness. After seven days, the employer has the power to determine what proof, if any, they require from the employee.
For any coronavirus-related absences of more than seven days, employees can obtain an isolation note through a new online service. The notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online.
To obtain a note, all that is required is to answer a few questions. Once completed, an isolation note will be emailed to the user. If they don’t have an email address, they can have the note sent to a family member or friend, or directly to their employer. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.
It has been strongly recommended that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee has been advised to stay at home as they are either unwell themselves, or living with someone who is. The Government has advised those displaying symptoms or those who have had close contact with someone who has symptoms to self-isolate.
Employees are entitled to receive time off work to help someone who depends on them during an unexpected event or emergency. The situation with coronavirus is no different.
In the event that an employee has children they need to look after, needs to arrange childcare because their child’s school has been shut, or help a friend or relative if they become sick or have to go into isolation, then they would be entitled to receive time off work.
There’s no statutory right to pay them throughout this period.
Employers that have any questions regarding coronavirus-related issues, should contact ACAS.
There is also a government helpline that can businesses can call should they need any any advice or financial help from government backed schemes.
Employers can look to help to reduce the spread of coronavirus by reminding their employees of the public health advice.
Signs should be printed out and displayed around the workplace informing employees and customers to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
Employers should also clean and disinfect high-touch points - e.g. door handles, surfaces - much more frequently. Regular cleaning products can be used to do this.
The Government has created the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in order to try and minimise the number of employees losing their job amid the coronavirus crisis.
All UK employers, regardless of their size, will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary.
How can an employee be 'furloughed'?
To furlough a worker, the employer must receive the agreement from the employee unless furloughing is already covered within the employment contract.
The furlough agreement should be in writing and should mention the date the furlough starts, when it will be reviewed, and how the employer and employee intend to maintain contact throughout the period.
A furloughed worker will remain employed during the furloughing period; however, they are not able to work.
To access the scheme, employers will have to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’ and notify them of this change. Employers will then have to submit all the information about the relevant employees, including their earnings, to HMRC through a new online portal.
What information is required to make a furlough claim?
To make a claim, the following information will be required.
A Government Gateway (GG) ID and password – if an employer doesn't already have a GG account, then they can apply for one online, or by visiting GOV.UK and searching for 'HMRC services: sign in or register'.
Employers will also require their employees':
National Insurance (NI) number
Claim period and claim amount
PAYE/employee number (optional)
If an employer is furloughing fewer than 100 staff, then they will need to input information directly for each employee.
If an employer is furloughing more than 100 staff, then they will need to upload a file with information for each employee. The system will be accept .xls, .xlsx, .csv, and .ods files.
The Government will defer Value Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months (20/03/2020 until 30/06/2020) for all UK businesses.
No application is required to access the scheme, and businesses will not need to make a VAT payment throughout this period. The Government will also continue to process any VAT refunds and claims, as is normal, during this time.
The Government announced the creation of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This is a temporary initiative that has been put in place by the British Business Bank.
It launched on the 23rd of March, 2020 and will look to specifically support small and medium-sized businesses to access bank and lending overdrafts.
The Government has confirmed that it will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders confidence when providing finance to SMEs. There will be no charge for businesses or banks on this guarantee and the loans supported can be up to £5 million.
Companies are eligible if they are UK based, have a turnover no greater than £45 million per year and must meet the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’s rules and list of accredited lenders can be accessed on the British Business Bank’s website.
Should businesses wish to get up and running on the loan as soon as possible, then it is recommended that they reach out to their bank or finance provider to discuss the business plan with them.
Our software is built using our own coding language, which means it only ever takes a couple of hours for these regulations to become active on the app.
Consequently, all legislation related to coronavirus-related absences has been updated in the PayFit app.
The app has also been updated to support customers with any employee furloughs they choose to implement within their organisation. Through the app, the cost of furloughing employees is automatically calculated, as is the reclaimable employer contributions for National Insurance (NI) and pensions.
The automated nature of the app means that employers can view a report of the impact of coronavirus on their business without the need to do any manual calculations.
If you’re interested in finding out about how PayFit can help support your payroll and HR processes, then why not book a demo with one of our product specialists?
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