October 27

Newsflash! The Job Support Scheme has been tweaked to be more inviting….!

The Job Support Scheme – which comes into effect on 1 November 2020 – when first announced, saw employers paying a third of their employees’ wages for hours not worked and required employees to be working at least a third of their normal hours.

All change!!!

A new scheme was announced yesterday which reduced the employer contribution to those unworked hours to just 5% and reduces the minimum hours requirement on employees to 20%, so those working just one day a week will be eligible.

The ENHANCED Part-time Job Support Scheme key facts

• Begins 1 November 2020 and runs for six months and replaces the furlough scheme
• Employees must work 20% of their hours (down from an originally stated one-third) to qualify
• Staff must have been on an employer’s payroll on 23 September 2020 to qualify for the scheme (redundancies since this date may be able to be reinstated)
• Staff will receive a 27% pay cut
• Government will pay 62% of unworked hours, capped at £1,541.75 per month
• Employer will pay just 5% of unworked hours – down from 33%
• All SMEs are eligible for the scheme
• Larger businesses must demonstrate a slump in turnover
• Firms on scheme cannot make staff redundant
• Cash grants of up to £2,100 a month are available for businesses in Tier 2 areas – mostly targeting hospitality and leisure firms
• These are available retrospectively for firms in areas already subject to tighter Tier 2 restrictions

Businesses that have not used the furlough scheme can also access the new scheme, but not all companies will be able to apply because larger companies can still only access the scheme if their turnover has fallen significantly as a result of the pandemic.

Companies must pay the full wage for hours worked. It will then have to contribute a small top up for hours not worked alongside the Government in order to receive the subsidy.

Any queries please email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 7917878384

October 19

When did you last check in on the wellbeing of your staff….?

There is plenty of research that shows a happy workforce increases performance and productivity in a business. Employees who feel physically and emotionally healthy are more likely to be engaged, productive and committed to their jobs.

They will also be more able to cope with the disruption and stress a new routine may bring.

COVID has resulted in a huge rise in home working and a related increasing reliance on technology – both of which can have a potential impact on the health and wellbeing of our workforce.

Adapting to homeworking

It can be difficult for employees to adapt to a new work style if they are used to a high level of interaction with their team every day. If a typical working day involves a bustling office atmosphere, calling clients or attending meetings, the new working from home policy can take its toll on employee’s mental health and wellbeing as this drastic change can cause a feeling of isolation.

Safeguarding your employee’s mental health and emotional wellbeing does not have to be on overwhelming task, even a quick phone call can go a long way.

Keep in contact

• Daily, every other day or weekly phone calls or even video calls are key.
• They will enable you to continually assess workflow, set new tasks and check on your employee’s wellbeing.
• They open up the opportunity to discuss topics that aren’t work-related – catching up on plans for the weekend, asking after their family…..you would usually have these types of conversations in passing, over lunch or in brief meetings so it’s important to maintain this level of socialising where you can.

Promote a healthy work-life balance

Overwork is more of a threat to an organisation than underwork when staff are working from home.

There are fewer colleagues to take you for a coffee or pull you over for an opportune chat. Video calls take up so much of the day that subsequent actions and written work are being done in the evenings. The inbox buzzes from dawn till dusk – with early starters and late finishers emailing around the clock.

As an employer you need to balance keeping productivity up alongside encouraging people to keep taking breaks. When working from home it can be very easy to feel tempted to stay at your laptop throughout your lunch or extend the end of the day by a few hours.

Some ideas:

• Encourage staff to work only their contracted hours and not stretch their working day into home life
• Ban online meetings between 12 and 1, to encourage a proper lunch break.
• Make 1:1s a walking phone call outside, to encourage exercise and a screen break.
• Encourage staff to put their work equipment out of sight when its home time which will make a big difference in marking the end of the working day.
• Share links to free apps such as Nike Training Club or Daily Workouts Fitness Trainer

Schedule regular team meetings

Ensure team meetings and catch-ups scheduled in your diary are not bumped out, they are an important way to connect with your staff.

They will:
• Ensure the consistency of the normal working week
• Replicate the ‘buzz’ of the normal work environment, helping people connect and socialise.
• Enable virtual lunches to be established where employees can eat with each other over a video call

Collaborative tools and platforms

There are plenty of tools that allow employees to interact with one another. Employees can often feel like they are on an island so by having the ability to surround themselves with colleagues through these inherently social collaboration forums, can boost productivity and morale.

Note though the phenomenon of ‘zoom fatigue’! Video calls are found to be a more draining way to meet with colleagues as our brains need to work harder to process information and work out visual cues that we rely on in analogue exchanges.

• Appreciating that conference calling can be difficult for those who are the less forthright in a team will help managers to facilitate online meetings.
• Cap the number of attendees when appropriate.
• Employees who feel they are spending an excessive amount of time in virtual meetings need to be encouraged to have the confidence to ask to step out when required.
• All virtual meeting attendees should turn off all other digital distractions such as phone and inbox to help them be truly present and get the most out of the time on the call.

Provide mental health training and resources

It is important that your employees know that you support them so by communicating this to them can really benefit their wellbeing. Employee Assistance Programmes are a resource that employers can sign up to giving employees unlimited access to phone support from qualified counsellors so they can discuss anything they need to.

Running a ‘wellbeing’ day or week or month is always well received. You may consider the following to get staff motivated and engaged:

• Virtual lunch with a Deliveroo allowance
• Virtual yoga or meditation sessions
• Virtual mindfulness
• Virtual session on health and nutrition
• Virtual bingo or quiz
• Random act of kindness – posted each month

Call to action!

• GoodHR can provide you with a staff wellbeing checklist for your managers and heads of department.
• GoodHR can provide you with a mental health and wellbeing audit – and even conduct it on your behalf, gathering the information and feeding it back to you.

Do get in touch by email to nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call 07917 878384

October 8

The new Job Support Scheme….some of your questions answered….!

The Job Support Scheme (JSS) will provide ongoing wage support for people in work, provided that the employer meets certain access conditions, the employee is working at least 33% of their usual hours, and the employer also provides additional wage support. It will start on 1 November and continue until the end of April 2021. The furlough scheme will come to an end on 31 October 2020 as planned.

Is the scheme open to all employers?

The JSS is open to all employers with eligible employees, a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme.

Do we need to prove that our trading conditions have been impacted?

Not if you are an SME. If you are a large employer, however, you will need to demonstrate that your turnover is lower as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What if some parts of our business have been impacted but not others?

If you are an SME, you won’t need to pass any financial impact test and you can access the JSS even if the pandemic has only had an impact on a small part of your business.

What’s the definition of an SME for these purposes?

This has not been announced yet. If it is based on the definition in the Companies Act 2006, it will mean (broadly) that a company would be defined as an SME if it meets at least two of the following requirements:
• annual turnover of £36 million or below
• balance sheet total of £18 million or below
• 250 or fewer employees

Which employees can we put on the scheme?

To be eligible for the JSS, employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020. This means a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment to that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 23 September 2020.
The employee must work at least 33% of their usual hours.

What if there’s just no work at all for some employees?

The minimum hours requirement is a key component of the JSS. If you don’t have enough work to provide even a third of an employee’s usual hours, you will not be able to put them into the scheme.

We don’t think we can guarantee 33% of usual hours every week – can we still use the JSS?

Employees will be able to cycle on and off the scheme and do not need to be working the same pattern each month – although each short-time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days.
This suggests that you may be able to move employees out of the JSS for periods in which they are not working 33% of their usual hours (although you would need to agree with your employees what will happen in those periods).

If we put employees into the scheme, do we need to promise that we won’t make them redundant for six months?

No, there is no ban on making redundancies for the whole six months of the scheme – but employees cannot be made redundant or put on notice of redundancy during the period within which their employer is claiming the grant for that employee. The employee would have to be moved out of the JSS and any claim for grant stopped if you needed to make them redundant before the scheme closed.

Can we claim the £1,000 job retention bonus while also claiming under the JSS?

Yes. You can claim your £1,000 bonus for bringing a furloughed employee back to work in addition to claiming ongoing support for that employee under the JSS. To qualify for the bonus, the employee would need to remain continuously employed through to the end of January 2021 and earn an average of £520 per month over that period.

Who pays what under the scheme?

The idea is that employees working at least 33% of their usual hours can have their pay topped up.

The unworked time is essentially split into three. The employer pays for a third of the unworked time, the government also pays for a third of the unworked time (up to a cap of £697.92) and the final third is unpaid.

What about National Insurance Contributions and employer pension contributions?

The grant will not cover Class 1 Employer NICS or pension contributions, although these contributions will remain payable by the employer.

It seems most likely that employers will need to pay these contributions in respect of both the government top-up and the employer top-up, as well as in respect of pay for hours actually worked.

Can we agree a different working pattern each week?

Yes, employees do not have to be working the same pattern each month, but each short-time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days. This suggests that you can claim for a different amount of unworked hours each week, subject to the employee working at least 33% of their usual hours.

What if the employee takes holiday?

It is unclear at the moment as to whether holidays will “count” towards the 33% minimum working hours or if they will be treated as unworked hours. Employers may need to top up holiday pay in some cases to ensure that employees are receiving the correct statutory entitlement.

What if the employee is sick or under official instruction to self-isolate?

The employee would be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) in these circumstances, but it is not clear how time off sick will be treated under the JSS.

What agreements do we need in place?

Employers must agree the new short-time working arrangements with their staff, make any changes to the employment contract by agreement, and notify the employee in writing. This agreement must be made available to HMRC on request.

Get in touch with GOODHR if you want a template letter to reflect the new short-time working arrangements under the Job Support Scheme.

Either call on: +44(0)7917 878384 or email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk