To help in these troubled times we have compiled a list of short answered FAQ’s for any Coronavirus related issues. You will find everything you need as an employer to ensure you are following the correct rules amid the outbreak.
If you need any more information you can take a look over at our blog.
Employer Coronavirus FAQ’s
Can I change a member of staff’s contractual terms of pay/hours of work/location/role to manage changes we’re making to cope with COVID-19?
All of these changes would constitute a variation of contract. The best way to make a change is to agree it with staff. If you impose a change without agreement this could constitute a breach of contract or wages claim that could be taken to an Employment Tribunal. For more information see changing an employment contract at ACAS.
A staff member’s dependent becomes ill and they need to take time off work to look after them, are they entitled to pay?
If their dependent becomes ill with suspected coronavirus and they live in the same household then they are required to self-isolate and are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during that time. If the dependent is ill for any other reason, then they are not automatically entitled to SSP. However, if your contract allows for additional payment you should follow that. Additionally, there is a right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off for dependents.
It is also worth noting that dependants don’t always live in the same household, so someone with a dependant may need to take unpaid time off but not self-isolate and they would have this right under time off for dependants.
Contracts/policies should be checked to see if an employer offers more than the statutory entitlement for example, some may offer paid time off.
Our business is still open, we have a member of staff who falls into one of the designated vulnerable groups and is reluctant to come to work. What steps should we take?
Employers have a duty of care at all times to take all reasonable steps to protect workers from injury and disease. Those who are classed as vulnerable workers should not be made to attend work if it is unsafe for them to do so. Government advice is that work should be undertaken at home where possible.
If working from home is not possible, then it may be appropriate to furlough them, even while the business otherwise remains open. This would need to be agreed with a worker and an agreement drawn up in writing.
If they are not in a vulnerable group and refuse to attend work where it is necessary, then normal disciplinary procedures apply.
Can you give me more detail about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, including when it will be up and running and how I furlough my staff?
HMRC have now provided more detailed guidance on their website. Please see GOV.UK
If a member of staff self-isolates because of a self-diagnosed condition and refuses to see a GP/medical professional, are they entitled to SSP if they qualify?
People are entitled to self-certify for the first seven days of sickness, whether they think it is related to coronavirus or not. From day eight they need to provide an isolation note or a fit note. For coronavirus related absences SSP is due from day one, but for other absences, SSP is due from day four. For further information please see Coronavirus Employers Advice or ACAS Sick Pay
I have a staff member who is pregnant and is self-isolating. I have instructed our payroll to pay SSP, but the staff member wants to be furloughed. What should I be paying her?
If a vulnerable member of staff, including one who is pregnant, has been instructed to self-isolate by a medical professional or NHS 111 then SSP is appropriate. If this is not the case and you feel that there is a risk that you cannot mitigate with her at work, then it would be appropriate to furlough her. Any appropriate action should be agreed with the worker and that agreement documents.
Can we ask our staff to use some of their accrued holiday entitlement whilst they are working from home to help manage the potential influx of holiday requests once work resumes?
Yes. An employer can ask you to take holiday at points throughout the year to suit business needs. If an employer needs a member of staff to take holiday on certain dates, they should tell the staff member at least twice as many days before as the number of days they need them to take. For example, an employer requires a staff member to take 5 days of holiday, they should tell them this at least 10 days before the holiday starts. For further information see ACAS Holiday Entitlement
New updates from government allow up to four weeks of unused statutory leave to be carried into the next two leave years, easing the requirements on businesses to ensure that workers take the statutory amount of annual leave in any one year. Further information is available at GOV.UK
Do staff continue to accrue holiday while they are furloughed?
Under current legislation, yes.
Am I able to cancel staff’s booked holidays due to not having enough staff available to meet essential business needs?
Yes, however, they must let staff know beforehand by at least the same amount of time as the amount they intend to cancel. For further information see ACAS Holiday Entitlement
What is the difference between lay-offs and putting staff on to furlough?
‘Lay-off’ usually refers to an indefinite break in the employment relationship, which often becomes permanent (through redundancy) where it persists for 4 or more weeks in a row or a total of 6 weeks in any 13-week period. ‘Furlough’ is the term for staff who are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). This scheme allows employers to offer a temporary break in attending work where 80% of wages will be reimbursed by the government. A furloughed member of staff will continue to be employed during this period and 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.
In light of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where do companies stand for staff they’ve already been confirmed as redundant? Can the redundancy be retracted?
Employers can rehire staff who were made redundant since 28 February 2020 and designate them as furloughed workers.
Can zero hours staff be furloughed?
Furloughed staff must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:
- full-time staff;
- part-time staff;
- staff on agency contracts;
- staff on flexible or zero-hour contracts.
For further details, refer to the Job Retention Scheme or contact HMRC.
Self Employed Coronavirus FAQ’s
I am self-employed. Do I qualify for the 80% government grant?
You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
- have submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
- traded in the tax year 2019-20
- are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
- intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
- have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment. This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:
- having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income
- having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period
If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.
If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.
HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.
For more information, please read Claim a Grant
I started trading after 5th April 2019. What help is available for me?
If you didn’t trade in the 2018-19 then the government scheme isn’t available to you. The options you have are;
- Apply for universal credits until you can start work again.
- Speak to your bank about an overdraft or loan.
Do I need to contact HMRC to apply for the 80% grant?
No, HMRC will contact you if you are eligible.
I am a director or a limited company. Can I claim the self-employed grant?
No, as you receive a salary you would need to claim through the job retention scheme. For more information please read Claim for Wage Costs
Can I claim the 80% grant even if I continue to work?
No, the rules state that you must have lost trading profits due to COVID 19 to qualify for the grant.
I am self-employed but I also receive rental income. Can I still claim the 80% grant?
Yes, as long as your self-employed income exceeds 50% of your total taxable income you can still claim the grant.
My taxable profit exceeded £50,000 in 2018-19. Can I still claim?
As long as your average profits for the last three years are below £50,000 you can still claim the grant. If all three years exceed £50,000 the grant will not be available to you.
I haven’t filed my 2018-19 tax return. Does this mean I won’t be able to access the 80% grant?
HMRC are allowing sole traders until the 23rd April 2020 to file their returns and still be entitled to the grant. If you file after this date you will not be eligible.
What other help is available for me?
HMRC are offering a range of help for small businesses. Some are as follows;
- Help to pay your employees
- Grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates
- Deferral of VAT due between 20 March to 30 June 2020
- Deferral of self-assessment payments on account due 31st July 2020 to 31st January 2021
- Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates
- Support for nursery business that pay business rates
- Support for businesses through the Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme
- Giving time to pay for businesses that owe tax
- Universal credits