A round-up of our FAQ's including shielding and furlough, posting daily to keep our clients and network up to date. If you have a question on furlough or need any other HR advice, please get in touch on 0844 879 7286.
How long does a member of staff have to shield for?
There are potentially two different scenarios that may have been presented to you as an employer relating to shielding, one is where the employee has received a letter from the GP or Specialist advising they are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and so should shield and the other is that you have an employee living in the same household as someone told to shield.
Where the employee is directly affected, they will have provided you with written proof that they are required to shield, and this was initially advised for 12 weeks. When lockdown continued beyond this initial 12 weeks they were advised to continue shielding until such a time as the Government advised otherwise, this is indicated to be until the end of July based on the current situation. During this period, you were able to place an employee on furlough so that they were not just receiving SSP.
Where you had employees that were living in the same household as someone shielding then this was a little more complex. The guidance stated that they did not have to shield themselves but must consider the risk / safety of the member of their household that was required to shield. If for example, they could not follow social distancing at work then the risk to their household member may have been significantly higher than an employee that could observe this guidance. They could therefore advise that they were having to shield to protect a household member until such a time as that risk may be reduced. Again, the date proposed where individuals no longer need to shield is the end of July currently.
As the shielding guidance is based on seeing the R rate stay at a low level or reduce, this may be subject to change if continued progress is not made or a second wave of the virus is seen – either nationally or at a local level and so please ensure you check the up to date Government Guidance on shielding https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
From 1st August the key changes for those who have advised they had to shield, as set out in the above Government guidance, are:
‘From 1 August, you’ll be advised you could go out to more places and see more people, for example, the advice is:
- you can go to work, as long as the workplace is COVID-secure – but carry on working from home if you can
- children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can go back to school (when the rest of their class goes back)
- you can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise – keeping 2 metres away wherever possible
This guidance will be updated with these changes on 1 August.
From 1 August, individuals will no longer be eligible for SSP on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable. Your employer should help you to transition back to work safely and support you to keep to social distancing in your workplace (if you can’t work from home).
If you are unable to work from home, some employers may be able to offer different types of leave. Beyond your statutory leave entitlements, this will be at your employer’s discretion:
if you have previously been furloughed for a full 3-week period prior to 30 June, your employer may be able to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, under which you can be furloughed and receive 80% of your regular wages, up to a cap of £2,500. This scheme will run until the end of October
Statutory Sick Pay is available as a safety net in cases where you are unable to work or to be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. If you are shielding you will be eligible for SSP until 31 July’
What happens if we want to furlough someone but they haven't been on the scheme before?
As the furlough scheme changed on 1st July to become the Flexible Furlough Scheme, additional options became available to employers to have their staff working part time and furloughed part time. This is a positive move towards returning employees back to their contracted hours.
With the new scheme came some new guidance, which in part prevents the system from being abused. To utilise the scheme from 1st July:
1. You must have furloughed an employee prior to the 30th June. As the original scheme required employees to be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks this mean in effect an employee had to have had their first period of furlough prior to 10th June.
2. You cannot claim for any more employees in any given claim period than the highest number of employees included in any claim period prior to 1st July. This therefore means you have to consider a maximum limits and need to plan your furloughed workers carefully to be able to continue to claim.
Do we need to send an FFS Variance to anyone who has previously been furloughed?
When the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was first introduced, it was a requirement that you had the right to change the employment status of a worker to ‘furloughed’ and have their agreement to do so. This mean for most, the reality was that employees had to be provided with a variance / agreement to change their employment status if needed to benefit from the scheme. This was needed as one of the core terms of any employment is the hours your are guaranteed and the rates of pay you agreed – furlough was in effect changing this as you were not working and receiving just 80% or £2500 maximum.
With the changes to the scheme from 1st July allowing employers to allow their workers to work part time and be furloughed for the remaining contracted hours then this again brings a change to their core terms of employment that differs from the original agreement and consent given to participating in the furlough scheme, a new agreement should therefore be in place for all employees that may be required to participate in the amended scheme.
Of course, this may not need to be issued to your full workforce as if you have not furloughed an employee for a minimum of 3 weeks prior to 30 June, they are not eligible for the new amended scheme.
If you are unsure what to put in an agreement then we have a downloadable free template on our Covid-19 resource page on our website www.questconsultingservices.co.uk
Check out our other FAQ's this week:
A staff member wants to travel to see family abroad. What are the quarantine options?
I don't feel like I am getting the same productivity from staff working at home, how can I address this?
For clarity on any of the above you can reach us on 0844 879 7286.
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