02 Jul Latest questions and answers re COVID 19
Q. Some staff are being encouraged to return to work but my furloughed employee is refusing to do so. With the lockdown restrictions being eased, the government’s furlough scheme is being wound down. My employee is citing travel on public transport as being unsafe. She is not shielding. What do you recommend?
A. The government has said that public transport is safe providing users wear a face mask. However you need to tread carefully here and discuss with the employee their concerns and how you may be able to alleviate them. Is the employee vulnerable or do they have a medical condition? The question is does the employee have a legitimate reason to refuse to return to work. If not then your normal disciplinary procedures can be used but you need to check first and that you have carried out a risk assessment and put in place the measures at work to ensure it is Covid compliant.
Q My employee is shielding & is refusing to return to work as the lockdown eases. What advice can you provide please?
A. What is the reason for Shielding – is it because they have a medical condition or are caring for someone shielding and what are grounds for refusing to come off furlough. See the answer to question 1. However if there is work to be done then they can be brought off furlough and the question then is what work do they do ?
Q I want my furloughed employee to return to work; she`s pregnant & resisting a return on the grounds that she could be putting her unborn child at risk. What do you advise?
Your obligation as the employer is to make the place of work safe i.e. social distancing. See the answer to question 1. If there is a risk of serious or imminent danger then you may need to alter their conditions of work or find an alternative activity for her. If you can comply with these conditions the employee has to return to work.
The exception could be that if the employee is four weeks or less from their due date then they could start their maternity leave early.
The employee has no right to be paid if they do not return to work, unless they have a reasonable belief that returning to work would put them in serious and imminent danger.
Q I`ve heard that with effect from 1st July the rules governing furlough are changing, can you explain?
A. From 1st July, Flexible Furlough starts. Employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked. From this date, only employees for whom you have successfully claimed a previous grant will be eligible for more grants under the scheme. This means they must have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020. For the minimum 3 consecutive week period to be completed by 30 June, the last day an employee could have started furlough for the first time was 10 June. This may differ if the employee is returning from statutory parental leave.
Q. What are the changes to the furlough scheme in August?
A. From 1st August employers will have to pay employer NICs and pension contributions from that date. For the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed. The Government will still pay up to 80% of wages.
Q. What are the changes to the furlough scheme in September?
A. From September, the Government contribution will be 70% of wages and employers will have to pay the NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up the 80% total up to a cap of £2,500 pm.
Q. Are there additional furlough changes in October?
A. From October, the Government contribution will be cut to 60% of wages and the employer element will increase to 20% in addition to NICs and pension contributions.
Q. When is the furlough scheme due to end?
A. The scheme ends on 31st October 2020.