As the nation enters a new phase of its COVID-19 response, you are probably wondering what the coming months have in store for your business. New resources have been made available to employers, but some are complex. Planning ahead is essential, so let’s take a look at a few of the changes coming your way.
In his recent mini-budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his Plan for Jobs, a comprehensive package designed to encourage the return of furloughed workers, whilst also creating new jobs for the unemployed. Employers who reinstate furloughed workers will be eligible for a Job Retention Bonus of £1,000 for each returning worker, as long as they are continuously employed until next January.
A Kickstart scheme has also been introduced with the aim of creating jobs for young people. If you create a new job for a 16-24-year-old, the government will pay their wages for the first six months.
Both schemes are subject to fairly complex conditions, so do ask us for guidance.
We were vocal about the need for more flexibility in the furlough scheme. The government listened and the scheme will now encourage a phased return to work. It will allow people to work part time for some of their hours and be furloughed with government support for their remaining contracted hours.
Do remember that HMRC will take back furlough payments if they discover that furloughed employees have been working when they should have been absent.
Not all workforce planning will centre around government schemes though. A recent study revealed that a large proportion of UK employees believe that a mixture of home and office working is preferable after COVID-19. And many employers will be far more open to the idea now too. While the perfect balance between the two remains to be seen, clear communication between you and your staff will be essential to find the best way forward.
If you favour a home working approach, care must be taken every step of the way. Some staff may relish it but some may privately struggle. While your initial focus may be on productivity and compliance, do bake-in employee well-being to your home working framework.
Get in touch if you require help with any of the above.
Clarification on CJRS
Like many employers, you might be concerned by a recent Telegraph article which suggests that furlough money must be paid back if you make an employee redundant. This is not true, but it does illustrate how confusing the furlough scheme can be.
The article came after a change in the wording of the official guidance for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which now states that furlough money must be “used by the employer to continue the employment of employees.”
HMRC were quick to respond to the article, clarifying that the new wording is only meant to set out the intended purpose of the scheme. Employees remain eligible for the CJRS while on their statutory and contractual notice period. You couldn’t, however, use it to fund pay in lieu of notice or statutory redundancy payments.
With so much technical knowledge needed to grasp the ins and outs of the CJRS, simply going by what the papers say is unadvisable. Talk to us for expert advice.
Safe handling of test and trace data
As UK shops and businesses begin to reopen, the challenging landscape is there for all to see. As well as the implementation of safety measures, you also need to think about how you keep customer and employee data.
Recent government guidelines encourage businesses to record the names and contact details of customers and visitors for use by the NHS Test and Trace team. Although this is voluntary, the government has stressed its importance in the fight against COVID-19.
As you know, data usage is heavily controlled by GDPR. It is paramount that you store personal data of staff and customers in a compliant way, and that you make sure your staff are up to date on GDPR best practice.
In a recent case in New Zealand, a customer was harassed via social media after providing her details to a fast food restaurant. This was unsurprisingly a PR disaster for the company, showing just how important it is to make sure your staff understand the rules.
The Information Commissioner’s Office gives a good general steer on this. You must only collect necessary information and you should be honest with your customers about its intended use. Data must be stored securely and must not be used for any commercial purpose such as signing up a customer for marketing emails. All data must be securely erased after 21 days when it is of no further use for NHS contact tracing purposes.
As well as collecting customer data, also ensure that your employee contact details are up to date. Again, it is your responsibility to store this information in compliance with GDPR. If your business introduces new measures such as employee temperature testing, be mindful of the GDPR impact because it is very likely there will be one. Ask us for advice if you are unsure.
Many businesses hire contractors for flexibility, or bring in an expert on certain jobs that don’t require a full-time hire.
IR35 legislation has been in place for years to ensure that contractors pay appropriate tax. The IR35 provision was due to become more robust in April, with medium and large businesses being made responsible for setting the tax status of outside contractors.
These changes were delayed due to COVID-19, but a recent motion to push them further back has been defeated in the House of Commons. So it’s likely the changes to IR35 will come into effect next April.
This rule is already in place for the public sector and when it was introduced there were some kneejerk reactions, such as, in some cases, blanket bans on contractors.
If you will be affected you do now have more time to plan, so there’s no need for last minute decisions. And if you will not be affected yet it is perhaps a sign of which way the wind is blowing. IR35 concerns employment status which can be complex, for advice on this don’t hesitate to get in touch.
How has coronavirus changed the “lunch break”?
Wolfing down a sandwich in front of the computer was the norm for lunch in many offices before the outbreak, despite strict rules about minimum break times. Now with many working from home, their kitchens tantalisingly close, workers are rediscovering the joys of a proper lunch break.
The benefits are clear. Research shows that taking a rest can increase productivity by giving your brain time to unwind. Your mind will continue to work on problems in the background, giving you fresh ideas for tackling challenges when you return to work.
As we come out of lockdown, will we find our eating habits have changed? The working lunch may be a thing of the past with dining out limited to bubbles. And while some are eating healthier to improve their immunity, others are reaching for the biscuits to help cope with the stress. Which one are you? There’s something to think about on your lunch break.
A prime example of going the extra mile
An Amazon delivery driver has achieved worldwide fame after a hidden camera recorded her going the extra mile for a young customer. A mischievous Delaware child added some additional instructions to his family’s order, asking the Amazon driver to “knock on the door three times and scream abracadabra as loud as you can and run super fast away.” The driver dutifully obeyed, making the boy’s day and cheering up most of the Internet in the process.
Attention to detail and caring about the work are hallmarks of superstar employees. Make sure you acknowledge and encourage them when they go the extra mile. As the face of your business, now’s more important than ever to do so.