When England’s lockdown is lifted on 2 December, a new, more stringent regional “tier” system will be introduced that will bring in different levels of restrictions that are designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 based on the infection rate in different parts of the country.
While tighter than the previous tiered system, it should allow many businesses to re-open ahead of the festive season and, hopefully, recoup some of the revenue lost in what has traditionally been the most lucrative part of the year for many.
Here are a couple of FAQ’s in relation to the changes, which may help you:
Can employees travel between tiers for work purposes?
Yes, if an employee lives in an area under tighter restrictions than the area they work in, they may still travel for work or education purposes.
Should employees continue to work from home?
Government guidance around working from home if possible remains in place. If workers can work effectively from home then they should be doing so and employers should not be encouraging or asking workers to come into the workplace in these circumstances.
However, employees who cannot work from home (perhaps due to their working environment at home, not having the equipment, wellbeing purposes etc) can still go into the workplace if employers have completed risk assessments and made the workplace Covid-secure in line with government guidance.
Can staff travel overseas?
Employees may travel abroad for work or leisure purposes, but must follow any quarantine restrictions in place upon their return.
Is there a limit on the number of staff who can work?
Where work is being carried out, including charitable or volunteer work, the “rule of six” gathering limit does not apply. However, workplaces must follow social distancing guidelines in order to remain COVID-secure.
Can staff still be furloughed?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme remains in place until 31 March 2021 and any employer that wishes to put some or all of its staff on furlough can do so and continue to claim 80% of their wages back from the government. A furlough agreement is needed for all staff who are furloughed.
In other news….
Notice pay cannot be claimed through the furlough scheme with effect from 1 December
HMRC has confirmed that statutory and contractual notice periods will not be covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1 December and that employers making a CJRS claim accept that HMRC will publish information about their claims online, including the employer’s name and an indication of the amount of money claimed.
New guidance for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable in lockdown with effect from 2 December
New guidance on gov.co.uk for the clinically extremely vulnerable has now been issued which confirms that people falling within this category may be furloughed (assuming they meet the eligibility criteria) or may be entitled to SSP (again if eligible). The updated guidance also sets out advice for clinically extremely vulnerable patients in each of the three tiers of local restrictions which come into effect on 2 December
Brexit & EU worker status
With COVID-19 continuing to dominate everything, it is easy to forget that the UK’s Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December! The UK’s freedom of movement within the EU, which gives people from EU countries the right to live and work abroad will end on December 31.
Set to come into force from 1 January, the new system requires companies hiring workers who meet the points-based system. The points based system will allow employers in the UK to sponsor skilled workers from abroad. This is a big change for employers recruiting from outside the UK labour market, who will need to adapt and make ensure that they continue to have access to the skills their businesses need, so it is best for businesses to be proactive in assessing work structures and the impact Brexit will have on their current staff and future recruitment.
As we know the government guidance is always changing, so please note the above is a summary of recent guidance and please get in touch if you need any advice specific to your situation.