Watch the webinar
This webinar focused on the latest guidance and intelligence around the employment and tax implications of coronavirus, including the Job Retention Scheme, as well as advice on how to deal with any potential mental health issues.
- Deborah Fraser, Director for Regions, CBI (Chair)
- Eugenia Migliori, Principal Policy Adviser, Employment Law and Employee Relations, CBI
- Fiona Geskes, Principal Policy Adviser, Tax and Fiscal Policy, CBI
- Russell Dann, Associate, Employment and Discrimination Law, ClarksLegal LLP
- Dr. Laura Madeley, Lead Clinical Psychologist, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Update on JRS:
The JRS has been extended until the end of June which resolves the pressure for many firms. Lockdown has been extended to 7 May so the extension of JRS was to be expected. The government deserves credit for showing agility in this crisis.
The extension means firms will not be forced to issue redundancies to comply with 45 day consultation requirements in next few days and weeks. No firms want it to last longer than it needs to, but this demonstrates need for schemes until we can return to restart and revive our economy. The cut-off date for the scheme is now 19 March (previously 28 February). This means recently hired staff can be re-hired and furloughed to protect their jobs. Employers need to have started PAYE payroll scheme and notified to HMRC on a RTI submission on or before 20 March 2020.
The government has published a step-by-step guide on eligibility and required information (including how to calculate your claim). It takes six working days for HMRC to process and release the funds. 67,000 firms applied in the first 30 minutes of its launch.
Finally, the updated guidance confirmed that written consent is not needed. Firms don’t need written consent from the employee once they’ve been notified that they’ve been furloughed.
Access to finance:
The first data on the uptake of CBILS shows some improvements on uptake, but it’s clear there still needs to be improvements to the scheme/process. We’re working with HMT to suggest amendments to encourage more uptake, and we’re keen to hear members views on this.
The announcement of CLBILS for large businesses tackles the firms that were in the ‘stranded middle’ and will be open to all viable biz with turnover over 45m (backed by an 80% government guarantee). All viable businesses with a turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government backed support of up to £25m, and firms with a turnover of more than £250m can borrow up to £50m from lenders.
Businesses will be treated as individual companies – those with private equity in their structure can still access it. This is a win for us as we called for this. That said, there’s more work to be done on improving the numbers of applicants and getting money out faster.
Mental health and supporting employees:
Psychological impacts come from uncertainty on business continuity, absence, lost hours, anxiety about becoming ill, welfare of family, bereavement, caring responsibilities, timescale of lockdown, as well as a whole host of work and employment matters.
We’re seeing more awareness of each other, and issues around increased disclosure around underlying conditions. This could have employment law implications if this information used for rapid response during the pandemic could impact their regular job down the line. It’s important to emphasise this isn’t just diagnosed conditions and also encompasses general stress and anxiety.
- Everyone needs different levels of support (wellbeing initiatives, ongoing therapy or just regular communication)
- Communication with relevant partners is essential in understanding the level each employee will need
- Help people before things become problematic
- Understanding people’s personal circumstances is vital in them feeling comfortable in sharing things
- Be visible! Be accessible and a real role model.
Key questions we answered:
- When an employee is on furlough what are the rules around contact?
The sole requirement is they don’t do any work. Good practice says you don’t require people to login (if furloughed they should be discouraged) but able to contact. Outline how you’ll keep in touch, but don’t put expectations on them. It’s vital to separate the link between furlough as a precursor for redundancy as this could also be another underlying cause for anxiety.
- Are we looking at a dynamic shift going forward in driving trust and productivity in the workplace? What’s the wider impact for productivity/mental health?
Lots of people are saying it’s given them flexiblity and is improving other aspects of their mental health. Many feel more productive, and feel they’ve been given more responsibility/trust by their employer. There are others who won’t feel this, so communication (and understanding of individual needs) is key. New ways of working have had to be adopted and adapted to, and these might not go away.
- Can furloughed employees update work software when it needs updating?
This is fine and won’t class as work (for furloughed employees).
- Should I apply for the JRS?
Employers are only able to access the JRS if there’s no other way to pay the wages of staff. If it would otherwise be a redundancy, you are eligible to apply for JRS. The aim of the Scheme is to protect livelihoods and jobs.
- How can I support furloughed employees who have mental health issues?
The best approach is to negotiate with them, ask for what level of contact they want, work with them and communicate with them. Work around the stigma by being honest, and confidential where it’s desired.