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Advice For Employers & HR Professionals

A step-by-step guide for employers preparing for a second lockdown

The weekend’s news has meant that employers need to act quickly to prepare for a second lockdown. Here are our top tips and links to key resources:

1. Consider whether your workplace is legally required to close

The list of businesses and venues required to close has not yet been published in full. If you are required to close, decide whether some/all of your staff need to be furloughed, bearing in mind:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘Furlough’ or CJRS) is being extended until December (details as we currently know them here).
  • CJRS will be available during November at the same rate as was available in August, i.e. the government will meet 80% of wage costs up to £2,500 per month with employers being required to meet NI and pension contributions only.
  • If employees are able to carry out some work (e.g. working from home or deliveries/collections), flexible furlough can be used during November.
  • Consider whether you’re eligible for other business grants (further details due to be released soon, but current information here.

Pie charts explaining the coronavirus job retention schemes

2. Decide whether your staff can work effectively from home

  • If so, they must do so.
  • If not and their workplace remains open, they will be permitted to depart from the ‘stay at home’ rule for work purposes (see below).

3. Consider whether CJRS can be utilised to mitigate the effects of any ongoing redundancy process

For example:

  • If an employee is currently on garden leave, consider placing them into the furlough scheme to enable recovery of some costs.
  • If redundancies are going to be required longer term, the consider using the CJRS to recover employment costs during the redundancy consultation and all or part of their notice period.

4. Audit your staff’s work from home arrangements if you haven’t already done so

Things to ask them would include:

  • What their domestic arrangements are – do they have a place
    where they can effectively and safely work?
  • Are they using a work computer or their own, do they have an
    appropriate desk and chair, is their internet connection
    sufficient, are data security measures?
  • Have they completed a display screen equipment (DSE) or other relevant health and safety risk assessment? A helpful DSE workstation checklist is here, but for longer-term home working a fuller risk assessment process is normally advised)
  • How is their mental and physical well being? What will you do to continue to check this and how often?
  • Are there any other factors which would prevent them from working effectively from home?
  • Have they claimed the tax rebate for working from home (details here)?
  • Check which of your staff are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable. Full details for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (covering those who were previously shielding) will be issued this week, but if those staff can’t work from home, then they should not be attending the workplace. Furlough, Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance may be available.

5. Update your Covid workplace risk assessment and associated guidance

HSE information is available here

  • Be clear about the steps you’re taking to protect staff.
  • Set expectations about what you expect from staff, including any expectations of their behaviours outside work.

Employers should also be aware that the Job Support Scheme, which was due to start on 1 November, has been deferred until the CJRS ends.

Our feeling is that CJRS will continue whilst a national lockdown is in place, but we anticipate that JSS Open and JSS Closed are likely to return as national restrictions are eased. Our most recent guidance on the JSS schemes is available here.

Get in touch for further guidance and advice.

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