In March and April 2020 as the COVID-19 public health crisis developed, the UK Government introduced new legislation and a number of financial support schemes to support employers and their workforces. As well as new laws allowing small employers to claim relief for statutory sick pay and annual leave to be carried forward for up to two years, on 20 March 2020 the Government launched the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The CJRS enables employers to furlough employees (during which they remain on the payroll but are not allowed to work) and to claim a grant from the Government of 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 per month. Since the Government's Guidance on the CJRS was first published on 26 March, the CJRS has been extensively amended and refined. The duration of the CJRS has also been extended several times and it is now in place until 30 October 2020. From 1 July, employers have the option to allow furloughed workers to return to work part time, with a consequential reduction in the employer's furlough grant. From 1 August 2020, employers will be expected to contribute to the grant under the CJRS on a tapered basis until the scheme closes in October 2020. The Government has confirmed that the CJRS is closed to new entrants from 30 June 2020. Within the first month of the CJRS opening for claims the Government has reported that 8 million jobs have been furloughed, totalling £11.1 billion worth of furlough grant claims by employers.
From lockdown to return to work
As lockdown restrictions ease in the UK, employers are adjusting to the new normal. The key message from the UK Government is that workers who can work from home should continue to do so; however, those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to keep closed should go to work.
Some employers re-opened immediately when they were permitted to do so; the majority, however, are still making the necessary preparations to ensure their premises are COVID-secure. From social distancing, health checks and hygiene measures to major reconfigurations of workplaces and changes to daily working arrangements – the operational responsibilities and challenges are substantial. Rigorous risk assessments are key and must be conducted in accordance with health and safety legislation as well as recent Government guidance. Contracts, policies and procedures are being reviewed in light of the current climate, addressing issues such as homeworking, altered working patterns, IT and data security and disciplinary penalties for COVID-19 related misconduct.
To support employers with their return to work planning, we have prepared a step by step guide on the key measures and employment checklist.
Please see our UK employment checklist for a step by step guide on the key measures to consider >