As the county gingerly takes its first steps towards a return to work, it's no surprise the govt are looking to ensure there's no 'cliff-edge' for employers who either don't have enough work to open full-time, or want to start with reduced hours to ensure everyone can stay safe and physically distanced in the workplace.
Speaking to some of you this week, I have heard ideas around running 2 half-shifts a day to halve the number in the workshop at the same time, or taking it in turns to work one or two days a week. These are really encouraging.
But as things stand, remember you can ONLY claim furlough for staff who do NO work for the business - the moment they step foot in the shop, the furlough has ended.
CHANGES TO THE FURLOUGH SCHEME
Yes, I know what you're thinking - Rishi Sunak has discovered Canva! Or maybe he's outsourced the comms team to some kids on Fiverr? Either way, his recent announcements seem to have had a welcome injection of colour. It's quite refreshing.
But that's not the only change! Back to the important stuff: In the last six weeks, the furlough scheme has paid out over TEN BILLION POUNDS. That's about the same as what it would normally cost to run the entire NHS over the same period.
These are BIG numbers, and we must not lose sight of the fact that business owners like you and I will be paying for this for several years yet.
I wouldn't like to be the man with the job of deciding how and when to extend (or stop) this scheme, which so far has saved 7,500,000 employees from redundancy, but it's clear this cannot continue indefinitely.
On Tuesday, Sunak announced some updates to the scheme; we've held off writing about these because there really were no substantive details. Today, there's still almost zero information about the changes. 🤦♂️
WE DO KNOW That the furlough scheme will be extended in its current format until the end of JULY.
There will then be a transition period up to the end of OCTOBER designed to help staff come back to work gradually. Remember at present the furlough is "all or nothing".
However, you may have missed the bit where the chancellor has stated that "employers will be asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff".
Employees will continue to get 80% of their salary as before, but it seems employers are going to have to start sharing the cost with the govt, in a phased return to work.
WE DO NOT KNOW how this will work in practice (I suspect the govt are having a big virtual brainstorming as you read this), and we'll let you know when guidance is released.
We expect to see a system where if (say), you brought staff back on 50% hours that the govt would then top-up the difference so the employees still receive 80% overall.
MY STAFF ARE QUITE HAPPY STAYING AT HOME ON 80% SALARY - CAN I FORCE THEM TO RETURN TO WORK?
I'm hearing this question a lot. In short [and I'm not an employment lawyer, but if you have Tax Investigation Insurance, it comes with a free legal helpline; I can send you the details], there is no automatic right for staff to demand to be furloughed, and certainly no requirement for them to be paid for it.
That said, we're all human beings and I'd ask anyone to be considerate to their employee's personal situations, especially if they are home-schooling the kids, or isolating with a vulnerable person.
If want your staff back at work and they can't work from home, you can simply inform them that once their agreed furlough period has ended they will be required back at work, on their normal hours/salary.
Amending their hours to e.g. part-time would need to be agreed with them unless provided for in the contract.
Some staff will be worried about the health risks of returning to work. That's understandable, and an employee has the right (under existing H&S legislation) not to attend work if they have a reasonable belief they could be in real and immediate danger, from CV19 or anything else for that matter.
In this case, an employee can refuse to work, and cannot be dismissed for doing so. HOWEVER it's important to note that they also do not have the right to be paid; this would be treated as unpaid leave.
In all this talk of social distancing at work, the logical first step would be for only one person at a time to be in the shop. But, please don't forget the (non-CV19) issues around lone working and the safety challenges that may bring, especially if you haven't done it before.
I personally had a very unpleasant experience in my younger days when I was the only person working in a shop. I'll bore you with that another time.
SEISS PORTAL IS OPEN!!!
Here's the link to the grant application page
Great news...the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme opened on Monday for some people. HMRC have deliberately staggered the claims across the week, with taxpayers given a 4-hour time slot to make their claim.
This is purely to stop the system from falling over at 9am Monday morning. If you missed your slot, don't worry: you just go online and apply for another. It's not some cynical move to invalidate your claim.
Remember the claim cannot be done by accountants (and see below the tweet from HMRC this week - they aren't kidding!). It's a real pain but it is what it is. I'm sure even the most Luddite among you can dust off the laptop if it'll get you a few thousand pounds by the end of the month 😜
The actual claim process, from what we have seen, is fairly straightforward. You don't need to calculate the amount, this is done automatically for you. You'll only need to verify your identity with a passport or driving license, put in your bank details and a few other bits.
DO NOT click on any links in text messages or emails which appear to be from HMRC, we've already seen two scams in as many days.
If the system says you aren't eligible for the grant, or you disagree with the amount they have calculated, please book a support call and we can chat it through. Although, as above, you will need to make any appeal yourself I'm afraid.