In these frequently asked questions, find guidance across a range of topics and issues including:
- Government and financial support
- Emergency legislation and regulation
- Meetings, travel and events
- Cleaning and health in the workplace
- Supply chain
This best practice advice is up to date as of 28 April 2020.
What are the most useful things that all businesses in the UK can do to prepare for coronavirus?
- Ensure governance and HR teams are familiar with government advice for employers
- Consider establishing a team to manage the response, with representatives from finance, HR, legal, governance, commercial and any international offices
- Communicate with employees in a calm fashion, providing government advice as relevant for your business
- Reach out to the CBI to communicate any specific concerns or impacts of coronavirus on your company, for communication to the government’s response teams
- Check your firm has considered all the questions on the below Frequently Asked Questions and takes proportionate actions to manage coronavirus.
When communicating with employees, what is the best approach?
- Focusing on practical, new information is important – with so much information out there, focus on the changes that are most relevant to your employees and ensure it is up to date
- Tailor information to the circumstances of individual employees where possible, for example ensuring information is appropriate for individuals’ geographies or isolation statuses
- Prioritise employees’ wellbeing in communication, ensuring they are reassured and that they have a mechanism with which to communicate any discomfort they may have, so that concerns are well understood and listened to
- Further advice on communicating with employees is available from CIPR here
- If you have temporarily closed down your business, do consider how you can support the maintenance of communication routes between employees to help them manage their mental health
- The CBI has produced a webinar which covers how businesses can support the mental health of their staff during the pandemic
- The government have also created general guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing during coronavirus.
What can businesses do to help?
- Business’ first priority should be to their employees. The rest of this guidance covers how best to support them
- However, businesses have a role to play in helping government and society manage this crisis if they can. Every company should be asking ‘how can we help?’
- Visit the 'how you can help' tab on this site for ideas on what your business can do
- The full range of ways that companies can help can be found on the CBI’s dedicated webpage here.
Government and financial support
Where can I find details about the financial support available for my business?
- You can find information about the different financial support schemes, and see which ones your business is eligible for, here
- The government have created a coronavirus business support finder tool. By completing a simple questionnaire, the tool will signpost you to relevant government financial support available.
What support can I receive as a small business?
- For all businesses, Q1 VAT payments have been deferred with immediate effect there will be no payments between now and the end of June. Businesses will have until April 2021 to pay this back, easing cash flow immediately. Self-assessment payments are also deferred until January 2021
- All businesses that have outstanding tax liabilities as a result of cashflow issues can request extra help through HMRC’s Time to Pay system. A dedicated helpline has been launched on 0800 024 1222
- For small retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, the Business Rates retail discount in England has been raised to 100% for the 12 months of 2020-21 for all retail properties, and retail properties that have a rateable value of below £51,000 will also be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 distributed by local authorities. Guidance can be found here. This has been updated to include other settings such as estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls
- From the week of 23 March, small firms (up to £45m in turnover) will be able to apply for a loan facility of up to £5m with no interest payable for the first 12 months. This is called the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and it will offers firms both interest and fee-free loans via one of the following financial products: an overdraft, a term loan, invoice finance or asset finance. To access these loans, businesses should contact their banks or finance providers directly. You can find the CBI summary of the scheme here, or full details are available from the British Business Bank here
- From the 4th May, small businesses will be able to access a new Bounce Back Loan. The scheme will enable businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan. You can find out more information You can also find out more in the CBI factsheet here
- The CBI have also produced a webinar which shows you how to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme here
- The CBI also produces webinars which shows you how to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. You can sign up here
- From early April, all businesses in receipt of Small Business Rates relief and Rural Rates Relief will also be eligible to receive a £10,000 cash grant. These will be distributed through Local Authorities and details can be found here. Businesses should anticipate Local Authorities getting in touch with them regarding this in early April. You can also find out more information about the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) in the following guidance. In order to apply to for a Local Authority Grant you need to have your Business Rates Reference Number. If that paperwork has been filed away at a premises that can't be accessed, you can locate your number remotely here
- Small businesses will also be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for sickness absence due to coronavirus, for up to two weeks of an employee’s salary. The rebate mechanism for this is being developed at present, and more information on eligibility can be found here
- Extra advice can be found on the governments dedicated Business Support website. The website also has a very useful FAQs section. There is also a helpline if you are unable to find the advice you need on 0300 456 3565, and UK Finance has a dedicated coronavirus webhub here.
What support can I receive as a large business?
- For all businesses, Q1 VAT payments have been deferred with immediate effect there will be no payments between now and the end of June. Businesses will have until April 2021 to pay this back, easing cash flow immediately. Self-assessment payments are also deferred until January 2021.
- All businesses that have outstanding tax liabilities as a result of cashflow issues can request extra help through HMRC’s Time to Pay system. A dedicated helpline has been launched on 0800 015 9559
- For retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, the Business Rates retail discount in England has been raised to 100% for the 12 months of 2020-21 for all retail properties. Guidance can be found here. This also now includes estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls
- The Bank of England has a new lending facility for large businesses experiencing severe short-term disruption to cashflows – the Covid Corporate Financing Facility. Companies that need £5m or more will be able to contact their existing bank to request commercial paper under the Bank of England scheme. Initially available for 12 months, the CCFF will provide funding to business by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by companies that make a material contribution to economic activity in the UK. This will cover UK incorporated companies, including those with foreign-incorporated parents and with a genuine business in the UK. This scheme is open now and applications can begin being made by contacting banks on the details listed here. More information on this scheme can be found here
- The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme are available from 20 April. It will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable accredited lenders to provide finance for companies with a turnover of over £45m. More information can be found on the CBI Hub
- The CBI, banks, UK Finance and the Bank of England are working hard to ensure this scheme provides for mid-tier firms that may not have used commercial paper before.
How is the Job Retention Scheme going to work?
- The Job Retention Scheme announced by the Chancellor will be accessible for businesses regardless of size, employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020. Employees can be on any type of employment contract, but you can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 28 February 2020. Employers do not need to demonstrate that they were otherwise planning redundancies in order to furlough employees
- The scheme is operational as of 20 April and can be accessed, here. You can find the government’s guidance for employers here. Guidance for employees can be found here. Where the guidance does not clarify outstanding questions, the CBI is following up with the government to issue further clarification in subsequent guidance
- On 12 May the Chancellor announced that the JRS will be extended by four months (until the end of October 2020). There will be no changes to the JRS until the end of July, but changes will be introduced as of the beginning of August
- As of the beginning of August part-time furloughing of employees will be possible and there will be sharing of costs between employers and the government for the scheme, while employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary (or max £2,500). Further details of the changes will be announced by the end of May
- Employers can claim for the grant for a minimum three-week period and for up to three months, although the government may decide to extend this. During this time, employees placed on furlough cannot undertake work – i.e. provide services or generate revenue for or on behalf of their employer. Employees on Statutory Sick Pay cannot be furloughed. Employers can bring employees off furlough and re-furlough them at a later date, providing that the furlough period is not less than three weeks
- The government will pay up to 80% of furloughed workers’ salary - up to £2,500 per month
- Salary is calculated either, for full time employees, based on the actual salary before tax as of 19 March 2020. For employees whose pay varies, the employer can claim for the higher of either: the same month’s earning from the previous year or average monthly earnings for the year. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included. Employers are not breaching the law if an employees wage falls below National Living Wage (NLW) or National Minimum Wage (NMW)
- Employers are not required to top up the 20% of the employees wage not covered by the grant, but can chose to do so
- Employers can choose to furlough some but not other employees within a business or department, and must go through the relevant selection processes as in line with employment and equalities laws. An agreement must be reached with employees.
- Apprentices can be furloughed and continue to train during this period. This includes the 20% of-the-job requirement for the Apprenticeship Levy. Employers need to pay the appropriate minimum wage for the time they spend training in full
- As well as employees, the grant can be claimed for any of the following groups, if they are paid via PAYE: office holders (including company directors), salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), agency workers (including those employed by umbrella companies) and limb (b) workers
- The CBI has produced an in depth factsheet on the scheme here. You can also listen to the recent CBI webinar on the Job Retention Scheme.
What guidance is available on the closure and reopening of retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises?
- The government have produced updated guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises
- This also provides details on exceptions to closures, which includes specific guidance on cafes and canteens in workplace settings
- The guidance also provides details on compliance, business and financial support
- Non-essential businesses, including gyms, can re-open from 25 July. Further guidance is available, here.
What support is available for the self-employed?
- In the emergency Coronavirus Legislation that is being passed at the moment, the government has stated it intends to introduce a scheme of Statutory Self-Employment Pay for the self-employed and freelancers. Details on the Self-employment Income Support Scheme have been published
- The legislation currently states that payments will be made so that the net monthly earnings of the self-employed do not fall below 80% of their monthly net earnings averaged over the last three years or £2,917, whichever is lower. No payment will exceed £2,917 per month
- Self-assessment payments are also deferred until January 2021
- Organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses are working closely with the government to ensure that this system is brought in as quickly and as effectively as possible
- The self-employment income support scheme has been extended. A second grant will be available from August 2020. Any applications for the first grant should be applied for before 13 July 2020. More information can be found here.
What guidance is available for businesses looking to reopen?
- The government have published guidelines on how to make workplaces as safe as possible
- Workspaces should be designed to allow two metre distancing, the staggering of start times, one-way walking systems, or other measures including opening more entrance and exit points, and changing the layout of break rooms. From 4 July, social distancing guidelines will be altered, whereby if you are unable to maintain a 2 metre distance, then a 1 metre distance can be applied
- Workplaces are being advised to clean more frequently, with hand washing facilities or hand santizer at entry and exit points.
- Further details on working safely during COVID-19 can be found, here.
How can businesses get extra time to make tax payments?
- HMRC’s Time to Pay system can help businesses facing short-term cash flow issues
- Companies having to access this system can find government advice here
- A dedicated helpline has been launched so businesses in financial distress with outstanding tax liabilities can get help fast on 0800 024 1222. Some firms have had challenges accessing support through the helpline, which HMRC are aware of. They are urgently assessing options to ensure the helpline is sufficiently staffed whilst many handlers are unable to take calls due to self-isolation
- Please note that businesses do not need to miss a deadline, only to have an outstanding liability with HMRC to access a TTP arrangement
- It’s important HMRC have the appropriate documentation to enter firms into a TTP arrangement and they are not intended to be automatic tax deferrals. But if businesses are struggling to access paperwork, HMRC will not charge any late payment penalties if they are told that the business will be unable to pay on time and enters the TTP scheme
- If you run a business or are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice: 0800 024 1222.
What support is there for businesses regarding commercial tenancies?
- The government has introduced emergency legislation through the Covid Bill to ban evictions for commercial tenants for at least three months. This will extend a previously-announced measure in the Covid-19 emergency legislation to ban evictions for social and private renters for three months. This is not a rental holiday and landlords are still owed rent.
- Should this not be paid once this clause of legislation has lapsed, landlords will be able to claim for forfeiture. This approach encourages businesses that are in a position to make their rent payment to do so, whilst providing three months’ grace to those that are struggling.
How are the government helping businesses that trade internationally?
- The government has announced a temporary guarantee for business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance. Further information can be found, here
- The Department for International Trade (DIT) have put together advice for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus here
- This includes, DIT support for UK business trading internationally (customs, IP, business continuity) There is also a dedicated business support team which you can contact by emailing COVID19@trade.gov.uk
- Financial support for exporters: UK Export Finance (UKEF) works with banks and insurance brokers to help companies of all sizes fulfil and get paid for export contracts. It provides guarantees, loans and insurance on behalf of the government that can protect UK exporters facing delayed payments or transit restrictions. You can find out more here and to find out if UKEF covers your region, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- UK Export Finance has announced it is expanding the scope of its Export Insurance Policy (EXIP) to cover transactions with the EU, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the USA with immediate effect. UKEF will offer insurance that can cover up to 95% of the value of an export contract
- The Department for International Trade has revised arrangements for processing licence applications for exporters to help businesses maintain operations across the supply chain.
What guidance is available for businesses on insurance?
- Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their policy documentation, including the schedule of insurance and contact their providers – either their broker or the insurance firm
- Standard commercial insurance policies – which is what most businesses purchase - are unlikely to cover pandemics or specified notifiable diseases such as COVID-19 and SARS. However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable diseases may be able to make a claim, subject to the terms and conditions of their policy and schedule
- The Association of British Insurers is now running a coronavirus information hub which is updated daily for advice, guidance and commons questions relating to travel, business, trade credit insurance and much more. Click here for the ABI’s Principles for Handling Business Interruption Claims related to COVID-19
- The British Insurance Brokers’ Association are publishing daily updates on coronavirus and the insurance industry on its website to help businesses with common questions and updates here
- Businesses can also check the government website for guidance on business insurance here.
Emergency legislation and regulation
Will my company need to close as a result of the lockdown announced by the Prime Minister on 23 March?
- The full list of businesses that must close can be found here. If a business is not in this list, it can remain open but if your employees can work from home, they should be instructed do so
- The government has specifically advised that factories and construction sites can remain open, and that take away and delivery facilities should remain open with social distancing measures in place
- Retail and public premises that are expected to remain open must ensure a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants, must let people enter the shop only in small groups to ensure that spaces are not crowded, and are required to implement queue control outside shops.
What steps has the government made to allow for more flexible approach from regulators to allow for coronavirus to be better handled by companies?
- On 26 March the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) provided a joint statement of actions to ease the governance and reporting burden on firms. This includes a set of companies guidance. Find out more here. On the 14 April, the FRC reiterates the responsibilities of both management and auditors which assessing going concern
- Companies House has encouraged firms to file necessary documents with them online and encouraged firms that may face delays in filing accounts as a result of coronavirus to apply for more time. Companies House will also temporarily pause the strike off process to prevent companies being dissolved
- Companies House has encouraged firms to file necessary documents with them online here, and encouraged firms that may face delays in filing accounts as a result of coronavirus to apply for more time here. Businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts with Companies House to avoid penalties
- The Intellectual Property Office has said it will support rights applicants and their attorneys affected by coronavirus where possible
- Procurement regulations have been relaxed, with more information here
- The government are relaxing competition regulations to allow retailers to work together more closely to keep shops open, share distribution depots and delivery vans and data on stock levels. Find out more here
- Other steps to support critical industries will emerge over time, with the government now in active discussions with industry as to how to support particularly impacted sectors. If businesses have ideas for how regulation can be used to ease pressures during the coronavirus outbreak, please contact the CBI policy team at email@example.com
- Further advice on financial requirements and auditing during coronavirus is available from the Financial Reporting Council here
- The Chartered Governance Institute has published a new guidance note on AGMs and the impact of Covid-19 which is available here.
- Further advice on financial requirements and auditing during coronavirus is available from the Financial Reporting Council here.
How are the government changing rules to help food and essentials keep being delivered?
- The government has announced it will work with local authorities to extend the hours that deliveries can be made to supermarkets, in order to allow food to be delivered more frequently to stores as needed
- Pubs and restaurants have been given permission to operate as takeaways, with more information here
- You can find the most up to date guidance for food businesses here
- Driving tests are suspended for up to three months except for critical workers, and MOTs for lorries, buses and trailers are also suspended for up to three months, with further details here
- The government announcement the temporary relaxation of the EU and GB drivers’ hours rules for drivers carrying goods by road. These relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys. GB driver relaxation rules were in place until Sunday 14 June 2020 and have now ended; EU driver relaxation rules ended on 31 May 2020. You can find out more here
- Temporary change to drivers whose licences are due to expire or have expired since 1 January 2020. This includes the temporary removal of the routine D4 medical will make it easier for bus and lorry drivers to renew their driving licence. As long as they are fit to drive, applicants will be able to apply for a one-year licence without the need to provide further medical evidence
- More information on driver CPC card validity can be found here.
What new policies has the government delayed introducing?
- So far, the government has delayed the introduction of new off-payroll working rules reforms and the implementation of IR35
- The government has postponed a revaluation of business rates that was intended to take place in 2021
- Further steps are anticipated to protect the competitiveness of British businesses in the future.
How should firms support staff at risk of redundancy?
- Many businesses are facing a significant drop in demand as a result of Covid-19, putting pressure on company finances at a time of great uncertainty. For many firms this means that making worker’s redundant is a very real prospect as they seek to keep their business running
- The government has announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which will enable all UK employers whose operations have been severely affected by CV19 to access a grant to pay 80% of employees’ usual monthly wage, up to £2,500 a month, for those that would otherwise have been made redundant because of the crisis. The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June 2020
- The government’s guidance on the Scheme can be found here, with more information on FAQs found here.
How should businesses support flexible working for employees who can work from home?
- The government has asked all employees to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so. Businesses should therefore support flexible working as much as reasonably possible when working remotely
- Employers should encourage managers and employees with caring responsibilities to speak about any additional flexibility they may need during the day. This could be allowing employees to work reduced hours or flex their hours to work around their caring arrangements
- Employers should be sympathetic to any distractions that may arise at home, such as children or pets moving around or making noise
- Employees’ performance and productivity should be reasonably appraised while working at home, and businesses should consider relaxing performance management where appropriate
- The CIPD have published top tips for managing remote teams, which can be found here.
How should businesses support flexible working for employees who cannot work from home?
- Where it is not possible for individuals to work from home, employers should adapt their practices to observe a distance of at least two metres between individuals wherever possible. This will be relaxed to one metre from 4 July, where a two metre distance is not possible.
- Employers should consider staggering shifts and processes to enable staff to continue operating both effectively and at a safe distance wherever possible. More information can be found here
- As well as ensuring the health and safety of staff, these practices can increase opportunities for more flexible working. Depending on the nature of the business, employers are considering the following practices:
- Time-banking to allow workers to ‘accrue hours’ to take as time off at a later date, outside of their usual shift pattern
- Introducing condensed shift patterns whereby employees are able to work their total contracted hours over fewer working days
- Leveraging annualised hours contracts, by allowing workers to reduce the number of hours they’re working during the pandemic but still work the same number of total hours over the year
- Splitting teams so that operations run below full capacity at any given time
- Enabling individuals to take annual leave during this period.
How should firms be managing their pension schemes in light of cashflow problems?
- The Pensions Regulator has issued COVID-19 guidance on different issues that trustees, employers and their advisers are facing as a result of the virus. The guidance is being updated regularly and can be found here
- For defined benefit (DB) schemes, the regulator has announced that DB scheme trustees should be open to employer requests to reduce or suspend deficit recovery contributions (DRCs) if there is a good reason to do so. Such requests could be honoured for up to three months as employers deal with the consequences of the virus
- Schemes will also be able to delay the submission of their recovery plans by up to three months in certain circumstances, and TPR will not act on failure to submit these documents
- For defined contribution (DC) schemes, the government has announced that employers can apply for a grant to cover minimum automatic enrolment contributions under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This is 3% of income above the lower limit of qualifying earnings. Employers are still responsible for any voluntary automatic enrolment contributions above the minimum
- New guidance from The Pensions Regulator has clarified that, for certain employees, employers will be able to reduce DC pension contributions to the statutory minimum without the normal process of consultation. More information can be found here.
How can businesses help employees manage their holiday entitlement?
- The government has announced amendments to the Working Time Regulations that will allow all workers to carry over up to four weeks’ paid holiday over a two-year period
- This will be possible in cases where it has not been reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of this leave as a result of the effects of coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or on the wider economy or society)
- These amendments do not impact on the 1.6 weeks of Additional Leave that the WTR provides or on any other leave that a worker may be contractually entitled to. Both can be carried over, subject to agreement between the employer and the individual
- Employers retain the ability under the WTR to require their employees to take or not take leave at specific times, although the government is yet to clarify whether this will be the case for workers furloughed via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Employers should always consider the employee relations of changes to holiday entitlements, and discuss any planned changes as a result of the coronavirus with staff as soon as possible
- To enable these changes, the government will relax employers’ obligation to ensure that their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year
- It remains good practice for employers to still encourage workers and employees to take their paid holiday as time off from work is important to people’s wellbeing, especially in these challenging times
- Further GOV.UK information can be found here.
How can employers help employees stay mentally healthy while working from home or self-isolating?
- Supporting employees’ mental wellbeing has never been more important at a time where many people are working from home or are self-isolating. The government has provided advice for how to look after yourself during the pandemic, available here
- Employers should clearly communicate to their employees about where they can receive support if they are experiencing mental ill health by:
- Sign-posting to all available resources, employee assistance programmes or in-house mental health first aiders
- Making all information available in one place and accessible to all employees
- Asking managers to regularly check-in on the wellbeing of individuals in their teams
- Encouraging peer support through existing employee resource groups.
- Leaders and managers can demonstrate compassionate leadership by:
- Having positive conversations with their teams about what they can do to support their mental health
- Developing a better understanding of individual’s stress triggers when working from home or self-isolating and how they can be mitigated
- Establishing new practices such as regular team catch-ups via video calls, including opportunities to connect about non-work issues, e.g. virtual ‘tea-breaks’.
- The CBI has a webinar recording with more ways businesses can support the mental health of their staff during the pandemic available here.
What changes have been made to statutory sick pay (SSP)?
- The government has updated Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules to help ensure staff stay at home and do not go to work if they or someone in their household is sick, as required by the latest Public Health guidance
- Employees who are sick or cannot work from home whilst self-isolating are eligible for SSP, even if they themselves are not ill
- The government has suspended ‘waiting days’ so employees are entitled to SSP from day one, rather than after the fourth day of sickness absence
- Employees can self-certify for the first seven days they are absent from work. Thereafter, online isolation notes have replaced the need for employees to contact their doctor or GP
- Employers that offer contractual sick pay should continue paying this to individuals that are sick or have to self-isolate and cannot work from home
- Guidance on claiming back SSP can be viewed here
- Guidance on claiming back SSP can be viewed here
- Further guidance is available at GOV.UK – Statutory Sick Pay; ACAS - Self-isolation and sick pay.
What financial support has the government pledged for businesses paying SSP?
- The large numbers of people self-isolating places an additional financial burden on employers. The government has announced measures to support some businesses
- Employers with fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 will be eligible for a rebate covering up to two weeks’ SSP costs per employee if they have been off work because of COVID-19
- Employers can claim SSP relief for employees with all types of employment contracts, including employees on flexible, agency or zero-hours contracts
- An online portal for SMEs to claim SSP relief is expected to be operational in late April
- Smaller employers are not able to reclaim SSP costs where employees are required to self-isolate for more than 14 days, either in one or a subsequent period(s)
- Larger employers, with more than 250 employees, are not eligible for any relief on SSP costs
- See further guidance at GOV.UK – Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees.
Is there any flexibility on conducting right to work checks as new starters now commence work at home?
What will happen to migrant workers whose visas are about to expire, but can’t return home due to coronavirus travel restrictions?
- The Home Office has been clear that no individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to, or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future
- For migrants whose leave expired since 24 January 2020 or leave is soon to expire, visas will be extended to 31 May 2020
- This is not automatic. Individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update their records if their visa is expiring. They must provide basic details including name, date of birth, nationality, previous visa reference number and an explanation of why can’t return to their home country
- Further guidance: GOV.UK – Coronavrius: advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.
Are non-EEA workers on visas eligible to be furloughed? What about minimum salary threshold requirements?
- The Home Office has confirmed that non-EEA migrant workers are eligible for furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on the same basis as UK or EEA workers
- For businesses who cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees and are looking to furlough their staff, employers can temporarily reduce the pay of their sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower
- Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies in which all workers are treated the same
- These reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended
- Further guidance: GOV.UK – Coronavrius: advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors
Meetings, travel and events
What is the current advice on employees attending external meetings?
- The government’s current advice is that people who can work from home, should continue to work from home
- Firms are using emails, phone calls and video-conferencing wherever possible to hold meetings – for example using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Cisco WebEx. Zoom has removed time limits for its meetings in areas of outbreak, there are free version of Teams and WebEx, and Google Hangouts has always been free
- Face coverings are mandatory for those using public transport, and from 24 July, in shops too.
What is the current advice on travel, both nationally and internationally, for employees in the UK?
- See further government advice here
- From 8 June 2020 new rules will be in place for travelers returning to the UK. A 14 day period of sel-isolation is required for those entering the UK, with exceptions for road haulage or passenger transport workers, registered health care professionals and those with specific technical skills. A full list of those excluded from the rules can be viewed here
- Further guidance on the exemption rules around quarantine for England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland can be found, here. Similar rules are expected to apply in Wales.
- Information for transport providers about passengers travelling to England can be found, here
- Guidance on travel corridors can be found here. Rules regarding travel corridors and inward travel applies to England only.
How are other companies managing employees who are stuck abroad or quarantined abroad?
- It is important that firms encourage employees quarantined abroad to follow health advice from local authorities
- Some firms with employees stuck abroad have been reaching out proactively to those members of staff to ensure they understand policies with regard to annual leave and sick leave, and are supporting them to work from abroad if at all possible
- Some firms with employees quarantined abroad are highlighting access to mental health and wellbeing support.
Cleaning and health in the workplace
What guidance is available for businesses and workplaces where employees are unable to work from home?
- The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and should be followed wherever possible. Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible. This advice applies both to inside the workplace, and to where staff may need to interact with customers
- Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used. Workers should cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue in a bin and immediately wash their hands
- The government have produced this tailored advice for different scenarios as an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade.
What should a company do if an employee or visitor becomes unwell while at work?
- If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the business or workplace they should be advised to follow the stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. If these symptoms develop whilst at work they should be sent home, they should return home quickly and directly. If they have to use public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. In addition, from 15 June, face coverings will be mandatory for those using public transport in England
- If you, or an employee, need clinical advice, they should go to NHS 111 online, or call 111 if they don’t have internet access
- If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance.
If an employee within the workplace tests positive for the virus, should anything specific be used for cleaning purposes?
- The government has issued this advice for cleaning in non-healthcare settings after someone with suspected coronavirus has left
- To clean the workspace where someone with confirmed coronavirus has visited – all surfaces and objects visibly contaminated and all potentially contaminated high-contact areas should be cleaned. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as bathrooms, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells and door handles. The virus is easily broken down with proper application of standard cleaning products: disposable cloths and household detergents should be used to clean these areas, and disposed of in doubled-up plastic bags under the guidance of the PHE Health Protection Team
- If an area has been heavily contaminated, such as with visible bodily fluids, from a person with coronavirus (COVID-19), consider using protection for the eyes, mouth and nose, as well as wearing gloves and an apron
- Current PHE guidance is that public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors) but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids can be cleaned thoroughly as normal
- If an area can be kept closed and secure for 72 hours, wait until this time has passed for cleaning as the amount of virus living on surfaces will have reduced significantly by 72 hours.
How are other companies managing disruption to their supply chains as a result of coronavirus?
- A number of manufacturing and logistics firms in specific sectors are facing difficulties with delays in deliveries from Asia, as a result of the effect of quarantines in China
- Some firms are utilising their no deal Brexit stockpiles, having utilised their stockpiles for Chinese New Year
- Some firms are reviewing the smaller businesses in their supply chains to understand their exposure to China and other disrupted markets
- Some firms have been able to source replacement components from elsewhere, but have had to consider cashflow, timing and margins of projects
- Where impacts on supply chains are being experienced, companies are encouraged to communicate the details to the CBI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Decisions about actions to take will be different for every company, and this guidance cannot substitute legal advice or that of the government.