Below is our Corona Virus FAQ’s .

Please visit the page regularly as the advice is likely to change frequently. 


Where possible, should we allow our employees to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak? How can we manage remote workers?


The government has stated that all non-essential shops and and venues must close and is encouraging employers to support their employees wherever possible to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.  It has advised all businesses to adopt remote working and allow employees to work from home, where this is possible but, where it is not practical, as long as social distancing measures are stringently applied, employees may still come into work.

If employers are able to offer employees the opportunity to work from home, they should ensure that there are clear homeworking policies and procedures put in place.  These should cover issues such as the use of company equipment at home, taking breaks, handling confidential data and health and safety issues, such as DSE assessments.

Companies can also reduce disruption on colleagues left in the office and keep track of who is off by investing in time recording and absence management software, if they do not already have them. Such software enables managers to have a company-wide view of who is out of the office and for what reason, helping them plan staff rotas and cover.  Absence management software also tracks sickness absence and can flag up any root causes of absenteeism by highlighting trends such as someone regularly off on Mondays. It can prompt return to work interviews, enabling managers to have a conversation with the staff member to find out if there are any underlying issues. Time recording software is also an ideal tool for facilitating flexible working and homeworking. Not only will it help if the Coronavirus situation escalates but organisations will benefit by being able to reduce absenteeism and better manage flexible or home working in the future.


What is the ‘Coronavirus’ or COVID-19? What are the symptoms & risks?

A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China in January 2020.

The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2 to 14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, they have not been infected.

The following symptoms may develop in the 14 days after exposure to someone who has COVID-19 infection:

  • cough
  • difficulty in breathing
  • fever

The coronavirus causes respiratory illness in humans, usually resulting in mild symptoms including runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever. Some individuals experience more severe symptoms and it can lead to pneumonia and breathing difficulties and, in rare cases, death. More susceptible individuals at greater risk of becoming seriously ill include older people, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions.


What responsibilities do employers have under health & safety legislation in relation to the coronavirus outbreak?

As the number of reported cases of coronavirus increases,  the situation in the UK is very quickly evolving. There are a number of risks posed by the virus that employers will need to be aware of and it is important to remember that employers have a duty of care towards their employees. To this end, they must take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workforce.

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees which includes not exposing them to unnecessary risk. In this case, that may include not putting them in a position in which they could become infected by the virus without taking all reasonable precautions.

This duty of care, where Coronavirus is concerned, may differ depending on an employee’s specific circumstances, for example, if they are older or they have underlying conditions. In such instances, employers are strongly advised to consider asking employees to stay at home and, where possible, to work remotely, in light of government guidance. It’s also important to remember that employees will be worried about the virus. In addition to having a duty of care to protect health and safety, employers also need to consider their wellbeing. Employers should consider any wellbeing initiatives the company offers and remind employees of them. For example, counselling services may be available to employees through an Employee Assistance Programme.

In addition, it should be remembered that employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of people they work with. They must cooperate with their employer to enable it to comply with its duties under health and safety legislation. They should be reminded of their responsibilities and made aware that if they refuse to cooperate, or recklessly risk their own health or that of colleagues or customers, they could be disciplined.

What actions should employers take to protect our staff and reduce the risk of infection?

Businesses and workplaces should make every possible effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government. In addition to this, the following actions should be taken

  • members of staff who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, as well as individuals whom they live with, should be supported as they follow the recommendations set out in guidance on social distancing and shielding respectively
  • where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff. Potential mitigating actions are set out in these illustrative industry examples
  • staff who are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace.
  • staff may be feeling anxious about coming to work and also about impacts on livelihood. Workplaces should ensure staff are fully briefed and appropriately supported at this time
  • any member of staff who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature) should be sent home and stay at home for 7 days from onset of symptoms. If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance
  • employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
  • employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
  • frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
  • Keep the situation and government guidance review.

It’s also good practice for employers to:

  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace
  • make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action
  • make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them

In addition to the above, the government has stated that there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from the use of face masks outside of the clinical or care settings, where they play a very important role. To be effective, face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour.

Research shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours reduces over time when wearing face masks for prolonged periods, such as in the community. Therefore, PHE does not advise masks in public places, or for those working in supermarkets, waste collection, schools and similar settings.  PHE will continually review guidance in line with emerging evidence and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, and update their guidance whenever new evidence suggests they should do so.





Our staff cannot work from home. How do we ensure that social distancing rules are followed?

Social distancing involves reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.

If you cannot work from home then you can still travel to work. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer for England’s advice.

The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and should be followed wherever possible. Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible. This advice applies both to inside the workplace, and to where staff may need to interact with customers. Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used. Workers should cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in a bin and immediately wash their hands.

See further information on social distancing and adults who are at increased risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The practical implementation of social distancing guidance will depend on the local circumstances; see examples for various industries.

A few general indicators will be relevant to the majority of business settings:

  • make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice and wash their hands regularly
  • encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format, such as using e-forms, emails and e-banking
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage staff to use them
  • where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form)
  • where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible
  • where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
  • as much as possible, keep teams of workers together (cohorting), and keep teams as small as possible

Additionally, for customer-facing businesses:

  • use signage to direct movement into lanes, if feasible, while maintaining a 2 metre distance
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms
  • if feasible, place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers (where customers might touch or lean against these, ensure they are cleaned and disinfected as often as is feasible in line with standard cleaning procedures)

Where it is not possible for work to be completed at home, businesses should also consider shift working or the staggering of processes which would enable staff to continue to operate both effectively and where possible at a safe distance (more than 2 metres) from one another. Staggering on-premises hours to reduce public transport use during peak periods will provide benefit to employees, businesses and the wider public effort.

Practically, a business could consider:

  • splitting staff into teams with alternate days working from home, or splitting across a day and night shift
  • as far as possible, where staff are split into teams, fixing these splits (cohorting), so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same individuals
  • spreading out standard processes, so that only one team needs to be on the premises to complete a task at a given time
  • where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, using signage such as floor markings to facilitate compliance, particularly in the most crowded areas. This includes entry points to buildings, toilets and communal break areas where queues may form

Businesses working on shift patterns should:

  • ensure that the business’s social distancing measures are effectively communicated to all staff
  • ensure frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products and particularly at the end and beginning of shifts

Should we be cancelling all overseas business travel in light of the coronavirus outbreak?

The FCO advised British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This applies for an indefinite period due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.

To change or cancel your business travel plans, follow these steps:

  1. contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
  2. get in touch with your insurance provider

The FCO was already advising against all but essential travel or all travel to some areas or countries due to risks that do not relate to COVID-19. This advice remains in place. Check FCO travel advice pages for the latest information.

In all circumstances, employers should consider alternatives to physical travel abroad, which may include postponing a business trip until the risk of infection no longer exists, or carrying out meetings via Skype or video conferencing. If, however, business travel is essential, see the guidance on international travel.

International freight transport is an essential activity in the context of travel advice. Read the Department for Transport guidance for the freight transport industry.

Businesses should check the government’s travel advice pages for further information.



Can we keep our staff canteen open?

The government guidance clearly states that, where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and staff canteens and distributors should move to takeaway.

However, where there are no practical alternatives, workplace canteens may remain open to provide food to staff with appropriate adjustments for social distancing. The following principles should be applied:

  • canteen staff who are unwell should not be at work
  • canteen staff should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food
  • staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and before and after eating. If possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available
  • a distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users, wherever possible
  • staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing measures
  • notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas
  • frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
  • consider extending and staggering meal times to avoid crowding

Do we have to allow employees to cancel their booked period of annual leave if they cannot travel abroad as planned?


There is no requirement for employers to do this. If you have specific rules on allowing employees to cancel their leave, you should stick to these but, in the circumstances, you may decide to be more flexible and allow cancellation.

We have an employee who went on holiday abroad and are now stuck there because of travel restrictions imposed due to the cornavirus. How should we handle this?

If, for whatever reason, the employee cannot travel back, there are several ways in which you can deal with this:

  • use their annual leave to cover the absence. The length of their absence and their remaining entitlement to annual leave will dictate the extent to which you can do this. Using annual leave like this will have to be agreed with the employee unless you take the step of enforcing annual leave on the employee, meaning you need to give them notice that you require them to take annual leave that is twice as long as the time you require them to take. For example, a week’s leave will require two weeks’ notice. The uncertainty around the length of their absence may make this tricky;
  • agree for the employee to work from their hotel room if the nature of their job allows for this and they have the equipment they need to fulfil their duties. The employee cannot insist on this if it is clearly not tenable;
  • agree that the employee uses banked time off in lieu. It is not likely that the employee would have enough lieu time to cover an extended absence;
  • agree a period of paid leave that is not annual leave;
  • agree a period of unpaid leave;
  • agree any other type of leave permitted by the contract that may be appropriate.

Can we suspend a non-symptomatic employee who we suspect may have been exposed to the virus as a precautionary measure?

Where an employer has concerns about a non-symptomatic employee (particularly if it suspected that the employee has had close contact with someone known to have the virus), employers must bear in mind the duties that they owe to other employees under UK health and safety law. If they knowingly allow an individual who has been advised to self-isolate to attend their premises or come into contact with other employees, they may be in breach of those duties, particularly where any of those other employees are more vulnerable to infection – for example, pregnant employees, those with long-term health conditions.  Ultimately, the employer may regard the risk of allowing the employee to remain at work as outweighing any employment law risk which could exist in suspending them.

Where an employee does not have any symptoms of the coronavirus and has not been instructed to self-isolate, but the employer chooses to suspend them as a precaution,   it would have to be on full pay unless their contracts give them a right to suspend without pay for this reason (which is unlikely).

Under current legislation, this would not be classed as a medical suspension, which would attract medical suspension pay of up to 26 weeks at the employee’s normal rate of pay, as this has a narrow definition and does not cover this type of situation. It is possible, however, that the government could use a statutory instrument in Parliament to extend the legislation to include people isolating themselves because of coronavirus. So watch this space!

In terms of the current employment law position, the employer should consider whether it has an express right to require the employee to stay at home. The question is then whether there is an express or implied right for the employee to attend work in these circumstances. It would be unusual for the employer to have provided the employee with an express right to attend work regardless of circumstances, and there is no general implied term requiring an employer to provide work so long as it continues to pay the employee’s wages. It is therefore unlikely to be a breach of implied duties to require an employee to stay at home in these circumstances, assuming there are reasonable and non-discriminatory grounds for concern, and the matter is dealt with appropriately, proportionately and sensitively.

Employers should note the importance of dealing with suspension in this context sensitively and proportionately. A failure to do so could amount to a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence. They may also wish to explore alternatives, such as permitting the employee to work from home if possible

What should employers do if an employee has coronavirus symptoms or suspects that someone in their household has been infected with the virus?

If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the business or workplace they should be advised to follow the stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

If these symptoms develop whilst at work they should be sent home, they should return home quickly and directly. If they have to use public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue.

If a member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes. Keep monitoring the government response page for the latest details.

If you, or an employee, need clinical advice, they should go to NHS 111 online, or call 111 if they don’t have internet access. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance.



What are the tax implications of requiring employees to work from home?

There may be tax implications for employers if any of their employees are working from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19), either because:

  • your workplace has closed
  • they are following advice to self-isolate

It is important to note that this does not apply to furloughed workers who are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The following provides an outline of how various home or remote working provisions should be treated for tax purposes:

If you provide a mobile phone and SIM card without a restriction on private use, limited to one per employee, this is non-taxable.

If your employee already pays for broadband, then no additional expenses can be claimed. If a broadband internet connection is needed to work from home and one was not already available, then the broadband fee can be reimbursed by you and is non-taxable. In this case, the broadband is provided for business and any private use must be limited.

If laptops, computers, tablets and office supplies are mainly used for business purposes and not significant private use, these are non-taxable.

If you reimburse expenses for office equipment your employee has purchased, this is taxable and should be reported on your PAYE Settlement Agreements.

Payment or reimbursement to your employees of up to £4 a week (£6 a week from 6 April 2020) is non-taxable for the additional household expenses such as electricity, heating or broadband incurred when your employee is working from home.  If the claim is above this amount, then your employee will need to:

  • check with you beforehand to see if you will make these payments
  • keep receipts

A salary advance or loan to help your employee at a time of hardship counts as an employment-related loan. Loans provided with a value less than £10,000 in a tax year are non-taxable. Further information on loans.

If your employee needs to self-isolate but cannot do so in their own home, you can reimburse hotel expenses and subsistence costs, these are taxable. Further information on accommodation expenses.

For employees you are using their own vehicle for business, you can pay approved mileage allowance payments of 45p per mile up to 10,000 miles (25p per mile thereafter) free of tax and National Insurance contributions. If you do not pay mileage allowance, your employee can claim tax relief through their Personal Tax Account. Further information on approved mileage allowance payments.

For items which are taxable, exemptions for work related benefits must show that there is no significant private use.

HMRC accepts that where:

  • your policy about private use is clearly stated to your employee and sets out the circumstances in which private use may be made (this may include making the conditions clear in employment contracts or asking employees to sign a statement acknowledging company policy on what use is allowed and any disciplinary consequences if the policy is not followed)
  • any decision of the employer not to recover the costs of private use is a commercial decision, rather than rewarding your employee

Significant private use should not be based on the time spent on different uses. It should be based on your employee’s duties and the need for them to have the equipment or services provided so they can do their job.

You do not have to keep detailed records of every instance of private use to prove a claim for exemption. Any expenses or benefits which are related to coronavirus can be reported on your PAYE Settlement Agreement.

This means you can settle tax and National Insurance contributions on any expenses or benefits, even though the responsibility would usually be on your employee, or on both you and your employee.

This applies to coronavirus related items only, for example, a new desk can go onto the PAYE Settlement Agreement, but a new sofa cannot.

If you are currently payrolling benefits in kind, you may continue to report expenses and benefits through your payroll. You may also continue to report expenses and benefits through P11D returns. Do not report to HMRC.

See further guidance on non-taxable expenses or benefits for employees.

Contact HMRC if you’re an employer and need help and support on paying tax due to coronavirus.

Are employees unable to come to work because of the coronavirus entitled to sick pay and do they have to provide medical evidence?

While sick pay obligations will, of course, be applicable in the case of someone catching the virus, the government has also made clear that any employee or worker who is self-isolating, should be entitled to statutory sick pay. If the employer offers contractual sick pay, over and above SSP, whilst not obliged to, ACAS advises that it would be good practice for employers to provide this to employees who are required to self-isolate.

The government has confirmed that employees affected by the coronavirus will be eligible for SSP on their first day away from work, instead of having to wait until the fourth day, as used to be the case. It has also been confirmed that businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to claim back from the government two weeks of SSP paid to staff affected by coronavirus.  

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home. If evidence is required to cover self-isolation or household isolation beyond the first 7 days of absence then employees can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online or from the NHS website.


We are worried that some employees may take advantage of a pandemic situation to take time off when they are not genuinely sick. What can we do?

During the current pandemic, employers face a conflict between the need to keep genuinely sick employees away from the workplace and the need to prevent unauthorised absence. However, in these circumstances, concerns about whether someone is a malingerer should give way to the very real need to prevent the spread of the disease. Workplaces that have a culture of encouraging employees to struggle in when they feel sick will need to change their approach; indeed, not to do so could expose them to claims for breach of contract.

How should we deal with employees who wish to voluntarily self-isolate due to concerns about catching the coronavirus?

The hardest thing to manage is likely to be employee fear, particularly if there is public consensus that staying at home is safest. The current advice is that employees should be required to self-isolate for 7 days, even if they are exhibiting  mild symptoms.  Also, anyone living with someone who has the symptoms of coronavirus is now asked to stay at home for 14 days from the date that first person in the household became ill. Otherwise, currently, as long as social distancing rules can be adhered to and they are not being shielded or required to self-isolate, employees can attend work as normal.

If an employee is worried about catching the virus and so refuses to attend work, Acas suggests listening to the employee’s concerns and offering reassurance. An employer’s response to this will depend on the actual risk of catching the virus and on the specific circumstances including whether anyone in the workforce has already been diagnosed or there is another real risk of exposure. Employers should take their cue from the government and generally implement their common sense.

Employers may decide to offer a period of paid annual leave or unpaid leave, or allow the employee to work from home where this is feasible.  They may also consider the flexibility to commute outside of rush hour, particularly for those employees who are pregnant or who have weakened immune systems.

Refusing to allow employees to stay at home, or disciplining them for not attending work, could potentially lead to legal claims. For example, an employee might try to claim constructive unfair dismissal if there is a genuine health and safety risk from being required to attend work. However, as long as employers do not act unreasonably and employees are not placed at undue risk, such claims would be unlikely to succeed.

Do we have to allow an employee to take time off to look after someone as a result of situations arising from the coronavirus outbreak?

Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example:

  • if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
  • to help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital

There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy. The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.

However, given the exceptional circumstances created by the coronavirus, employers may need to consider reviewing their policies and procedures and allowing their employees more time off to care for dependants than normal. The statutory rights to dependency leave are limited and designed to allow a carer to put in place arrangements for the care of a dependant. If dependants become very seriously ill, or care arrangements are hard to come by as a result of a pandemic or civil emergency, it would generally be felt to be unrealistic for employers to expect people to take only their minimum entitlements. While in normal circumstances this might lead to disciplinary action, the importance of enforcing the rules may dwindle in comparison to the crisis.

What can an employer communicate about an employee with coronavirus?

Under UK data protection law, personal data concerning health is ‘special category data’. This means that employers need to ensure that any communication does not include any data about the individual who is absent. For example, while it would be fine to let employees know that there has been a confirmed coronavirus case within its workforce in London, it would not be appropriate to provide any details from which the individual might be identified.

What should we do to reduce the risk of claims for discrimination, bullying and harassment ?

Coronavirus is not a reason to treat employees differently because of their national origin. Placing extra obligations on individuals (more robust hygiene methods, for example) just because they are from China places employers at risk of a claim of race discrimination. Extra hygiene measures, if implemented, should be required of all employees.

Employers should be alert to ‘banter’, or more serious instances of harassment, between employees about the virus which relates to someone’s nationality or ethnicity and ensure that their zero tolerance stance to harassment is maintained.

How do employers reclaim SSP paid to employees affected by the coronavirus?

The latest government information states:

We will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

There is some work for our employees to do but not enough to keep them all employed on a full time basis. Can we furlough some staff?

If employees have some work but not enough then they cannot be furloughed under the job retention scheme. Employees are not allowed to carry out work for the employer during the furlough period. The scheme is only aimed at supporting employers who otherwise could not maintain their workforce because the business has been affected by coronavirus.

If employers’ priority is to obtain the payments under the scheme, then reducing everyone’s hours equally will not work. Employers can arrange staffing needs differently, for example:

  • Keeping some (perhaps essential) people working full-time on normal pay and others not working on furlough pay.
  • Alternatively, employers can rotate the furlough by having some employees on furlough and others fully working. Then after at least three weeks those fully working can be on furlough and the others start working again.

Employers should consult staff to find a solution that works for everyone. If employers decide a reduction in hours or pay is the only solution, then employees will need to agree and this will fall outside the coronavirus job retention scheme payments.

As a result of COVID-19 related factors we don’t have enough work to keep everyone employed full time. What can we do?

If employees have some work but not enough then they cannot be furloughed under the job retention scheme. Employees are not allowed to carry out work for the employer during the furlough period. The scheme is only aimed at supporting employers who otherwise could not maintain their workforce because the business has been affected by coronavirus.

If employers’ priority is to obtain the payments under the scheme, then reducing everyone’s hours equally will not work. Employers can arrange staffing needs differently, for example:

  • Keeping some (perhaps essential) people working full-time on normal pay and others not working on furlough pay.
  • Alternatively, employers can rotate the furlough by having some employees on furlough and others fully working. Then after at least three weeks those fully working can be on furlough and the others start working again.

Employers should consult staff to find a solution that works for everyone. If employers decide a reduction in hours or pay is the only solution, then employees will need to agree and this will fall outside the coronavirus job retention scheme payments.

How do we claim funds under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and what does it mean when it says we will need to furlough our workers?

The Government has announced its plans for financial assistance to help employers retain employees for an extended period of time and avoid redundancies, whilst they are unable to offer work to their staff because of the coronavirus situation. This is called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which involves employers placing their employees on “furlough”. This is a term which is typically used in the US and essentially means putting employees on temporary leave of absence where they do not work and do not receive pay, but are retained on your books to be brought back in when you need them.

Employers who do this will be able to obtain a grant from the Government to cover 80% of “furloughed employees” wages, to a maximum of £2500 per employee per month.

Under the scheme, employers will need to:

– Designate affected employees as “furloughed workers” and notify employees of this change; and

– Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been “furloughed” and their earnings through a new online portal, which should become live sometime in April.

Who can claim

Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:

  • businesses
  • charities
  • recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE)
  • public authorities

You must have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February 2020 and have a UK bank account.

Where a company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator will be able to access the Job Retention Scheme.

Employees you can claim for

Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

To be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue. While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

This scheme is only for employees on agency contracts who are not working.

If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme and you will have to continue paying the employee through your payroll and pay their salary subject to the terms of the employment contract you agreed.

How to Furlough staff

To be eligible for the subsidy employers should write to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed and keep a record of this communication.

You do not have to furlough everyone and you can keep some employees on to undertake work. If things change and you need to furlough later on you will be able to do so. The minimum length of time you can furlough a member of staff for is 3 weeks.

The employer needs to get agreement from the employee to do this, unless it’s covered by a clause in the employment contract. They also need to select employees in a fair way to avoid any potential discrimination claims.

If an employee disagrees with their employer’s decision, they’ll need to talk to their employer and try to come to an agreement.

Any furlough agreements should be in writing. It’s a good idea to include:

  • the date furlough starts
  • when it will be reviewed
  • how to keep in contact during furlough

A worker will stay employed while they’re furloughed, but they must not work.

Rights of Furloughed staff

Employees that have been furloughed have the same rights as they did previously. That includes Statutory Sick Pay entitlement, maternity rights, other parental rights, rights against unfair dismissal and to redundancy payments.

If your employee is on unpaid leave

Employees on unpaid leave cannot be furloughed, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February.

If your employee is on Statutory Sick Pay

Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this.

Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.

If your employee has more than one job

If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

If your employee does volunteer work or training

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.

However, if workers are required to for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

If your employee is on Maternity Leave, contractual adoption pay, paternity pay or shared parental pay

Individuals who are on or plan to take Maternity Leave must take at least 2 weeks off work (4 weeks if they work in a factory or workshop) immediately following the birth of their baby. This is a health and safety requirement. In practice, most women start their Maternity Leave before they give birth.

If your employee is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, the normal rules apply, and they are entitled to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance.

Employees who qualify for SMP, will still be eligible for 90% of their average weekly earnings in the first 6 weeks, followed by 33 weeks of pay paid at 90% of their average weekly earnings or the statutory flat rate (whichever is lower). The statutory flat rate is currently £148.68 a week, rising to £151.20 a week from April 2020.

If you offer enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay to women on Maternity Leave, this is included as wage costs that you can claim through the scheme.

The same principles apply where your employee qualifies for contractual adoption, paternity or shared parental pay.

What you can claim

Employers can claim a grant from HMRC to cover the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular wage or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

At a minimum, employers must pay their employee the lower of 80% of their regular wage or £2,500 per month. An employer can also choose to top up an employee’s salary beyond this but is not obliged to under this scheme.

The HMRC will issue more guidance on how employers should calculate their claims for Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions, before the scheme becomes live.

Employees whose pay varies

If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full twelve months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

If the employee only started in February 2020, you should use a pro-rata for their earnings so far to claim.

Once you’ve worked out how much of an employee’s salary you can claim for, you must then work out the amount of Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions you are entitled to claim.

Do National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage restrictions apply?

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the hours they are working.

Therefore, furloughed workers, who are not working, must be paid the lower of 80% of their salary, or £2,500 even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below NLW/NMW.

However, if workers are required to for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

Making a claim

HMRC will require the following:

  • your ePAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the claim period (start and end date)
  • amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 weeks)
  • your bank account number and sort code
  • your contact name
  • your phone number

You will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

You can only submit one claim at least every 3 weeks, which is the minimum length an employee can be furloughed for. Claims can be backdated until the 1 March if applicable.

Once HMRC have received your claim and established that you are eligible for the grant, they will pay it via BACS payment to a UK bank account.

You should make your claim in accordance with actual payroll amounts at the point at which you run your payroll or in advance of an imminent payroll.

You must pay the employee all the grant you receive for their gross pay, no fees can be charged from the money that is granted. You can choose to top up the employee’s salary, but you do not have to.

Once the scheme has been closed by the government, HMRC will continue to process remaining claims before terminating the scheme.

Income tax and Employee National Insurance

Wages of furloughed employees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual. Employees will also pay automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings, unless they have chosen to opt-out or to cease saving into a workplace pension scheme.

Employers will be liable to pay Employer National Insurance contributions on wages paid, as well as automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings unless an employee has opted out or has ceased saving into a workplace pension scheme.