Coronavirus – Employment update September 2021

14-09-2021


As we approach the end of the current set of guidance in relation to Coronavirus (COVID), we thought it would be helpful to provide a short summary of upcoming changes regarding the Corona Virus Job retention scheme (CVJRS) and the Winter Plan announced today (14 September 2021):

Winter plan

The Government’s Winter Plan for controlling COVID-19 has been released today and you can read the details here: COVID-19 RESPONSE: AUTUMN AND WINTER PLAN (publishing.service.gov.uk)

In summary, there is a plan A and a back-up plan B that will be implemented if it seems likely that the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.

Plan A includes the following elements:

  1. Pharmaceutical interventions including vaccines, antivirals and medicines – this includes booster vaccines for those over 50 years and the clinically vulnerable and children aged 12-15 as well as extending eligibility for the flu vaccine to all over 50 year olds and secondary school children (in addition to those who are pregnant, over 65 years old and primary school children).
  2. The tracking of cases to ensure isolation to limit transmission;
  3. Supporting the NHS and social care with additional investment;
  4. Advising people on how to protect themselves and others: this includes all the existing guidance for getting vaccinated, letting fresh air in, face coverings, tests, self-isolation, hand washing and using the NHS COVID-19 App.
  5. Pursuing an international approach to assist global vaccination and limit transmission across borders.

For businesses, the specifics include:

Where the indications are that Plan A is not keeping COVID-19 under sufficient control, then Plan B measures will be introduced. These include:

  1. Risk awareness: Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously.
  2. Mandatory COVID-status certification in certain places.
  3. Mandating face coverings.
  4. Re-introducing working from home.

Therefore, for now, the situation is continuing cautiously as it is, but with the warning that changes will be introduced if necessary.

CVJRS

The latest position in relation to furlough and pay is as follows:

Since 1 August 2021, employers were required to make a 20% contribution to furlough pay (which remains to be the employer’s contribution until 30 September 2021).

This means the government currently pays 60% of wages up to a maximum cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough and employers must top up the wages of employees on furlough to ensure they receive 80% of their wages (up to a maximum of £2,500) in total for the hours the employee is on furlough.

The scheme is due to end on 30 September 2021 and no further guidance has been provided at this time.

The hope is that we will continue to return to the new, stable working practices, however, if businesses remain negatively affected, then employers may need to consider their options including commencing consultations with employees. This could be to negotiate changes in current working terms in order to manage the effects of COVID in the workplace, implement new practices or even suggest redundancies or new short-time/reduced hours working patterns.

Statutory Sick Pay

From 30 September 2021, we will also see a change for employers reclaiming entitlements of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) when employees have been unable to attend work due to COVID.

Currently, an employer can reclaim up to 2 weeks of SSP if an employee is unable to work as they are self-isolating or suffering from COVID themselves. However, the guidance currently suggests employers may only claim SSP for employees who were off work on or before 30 September 2021. Therefore, at this time, such entitlements cannot be claimed for periods of sickness as off 1 October 2021.

Employers were also previously allowed to reclaim SSP for employees who were shielding before 1 April 2021 (in England and Wales), however, they had to ensure the PAYE payroll scheme for the affected employee started on or before 28 February 2020 and that they had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020.

All outstanding claims for these periods need to be submitted on or before 31 December 2021 and further guidance can be found on the Government website here: https://www.gov.uk/employers-sick-pay

Compulsory vaccinations

As we approach 11 November 2021, regulations will be in force to ensure all care home workers (along with anyone entering a care home and any volunteers) are fully vaccinated.

The current guidance suggests 16 September 2021 will be the last date for care home workers to get their first dose so they can ensure they are fully vaccinated by the time the regulations come into force.

Additional consultations:

The government is seeking views on plans for staff in health and care settings in England to be required to have COVID-19 and flu vaccines to protect vulnerable people. A consultation was launched on 9 September 2021 in order to look at mandating vaccination for wider, frontline health and social care staff in England (unless the individual is medically exempt). The consultation is due to run for 6 weeks. The consultation will also seek views on whether flu vaccines should be a requirement for health and care workers.

if you need any help understanding the obligations or the implications of these changes for your business, please contact our employment team who will be pleased to assist you: [email protected]


Julie Taylor

Partner
Employment Law

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