Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

July 2021

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

As we move towards the end of the COVID restrictions with the much hyped freedom day on 19th July, the debate continues. What debate is that I hear you cry? The one about how much freedom we’re going to have to go on the holiday of our choice of course!

Green for go, red for no, amber for well, you shouldn’t, but you can if you want to chance it. And several other variations depending on whether you can afford the PCR test or can quarantine when you get back. And that’s only talking about leaving or returning to the UK. What about restrictions in the country you want to go to?

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

Yet, despite all that,  attention will turn to getting away on holiday. It’s inevitable. And let’s not forget that employees must book the time off from work in the first instance.

So, to state the obvious, there are issues that both employers and employees must consider as we move away from lockdown restrictions and furlough leave etc.

A two-fold issue 

As discussed last year, we may still have a two-fold issue:

  1. Employees still focused on having a holiday this year if they can get away.
  2. Employers having enough resources available to service customers while employees take their holiday entitlement.

The solution may not be straightforward

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that employees will want to save their holiday allowance for when they can travel again. Likewise, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that employers will prefer their employees to take holidays when business is slow. Rather than as it gathers pace again.

Scientists are predicting yet another wave if we’re not careful. Yet there appears to be enough evidence that the vaccination programme and the break between infection and serious illness/deaths points to life getting back to normal in a way not possible this time last year.

Thus, as the job retention scheme comes to an end in September there may still be employers who haven’t managed their staff holiday entitlements through the measures available and will have employees with holiday entitlements they need to use up.

So – what IS the situation with holiday entitlements?

It’s been the case throughout the pandemic, that anyone on furlough leave would continue to accrue holiday and have any holidays already booked credited to them. Though it’s likley there’s been fewer bookings this year than in 2020.

It’s also been the case that employees on furlough leave could still take holiday, but have an entitlement to 100% of their salary in such circumstances. Though it’s not clear how widespread a practice this has been (by employers or employees) in avoiding a build-up of otherwise unused holiday entitlement.

It’s not all about the furlough though

It’s not all about those on furlough leave though. Because employees in work will have been less inclined to book holiday during the pandemic.

Amended government regulations

The Government amended the regulations last year to help address this – Working Time -Coronavirus Amended – Regulations 2020 and this still applies.
 
The government guidance on this situation already provides for holiday entitlement that employees can’t take in the current leave year. It allows them to carry it over for up to two years.
 
The idea here was to address employers’ concerns about:

1. A lack of resources or …
2. … from a statutory perspective, a potential failure to ensure employees take the minimum of their holiday allowance under the working time regulations.

Please note, the aim here is to help employers and is not a licence for employees to carry holiday forward. Government guidance places emphasis on taking every opportunity to take leave within the current leave year.

NB: it doesn’t apply to extra contractual holiday over and above the statutory minimum.

Arrangements already in place

Many of you will already have contractual or discretionary arrangements. Arrangements that allow your employees to carry over XX days holiday. And these may continue to be adequate.
 
If you find that you need to use quieter times of the year – or even what’s left of furlough leave – you have the legal right to ask employees to take holiday.
 
I say ‘ask’, because that would be the best practice way to achieve this. But it’s your entitlement to place your employees on holiday for a defined period. So long, of course, as you give the employee(s) involved the minimum notice period. This is: double the amount of time you want to place them on holiday for.
 
So, if you want them to take a full week on holiday you must give two weeks’ notice of the start of that holiday. Likewise, if it only involves part of a week, it’s still twice as much as the number of days involved.
 
This may not be straightforward if you still have employees on furlough leave. The commercial effect of having to find the extra 30% of salary in July – (40% in August & September) – may not be possible. But the option is there to manage any excess leave that has built up.
 
There are other issues to consider if you want your employees to take their holiday during furlough leave or beyond.
 
Go-Legal HR will advise you on all the ins and outs of this situation so get in touch now to find out more.
 

Government advice on Covid-19 and holiday entitlements as restrictions end

 
The Gov.UK website guidance provides an outline on the operation of holiday entitlement and pay during the coronavirus, but we’re happy to interpret that for you and advise you as appropriate.
 
Call: Office: 01793 877787 Mobile: 07801 709945
 
Or drop an email to: [email protected]

 

 

 

Government Job Support Scheme: JSS

Government Job Support Scheme

28 October 2020

Government Job Support Scheme

British Summer time is now behind us. November beckons and with it we’re looking at cold fronts.  Meanwhile on the employment front we’re looking at the end of The Job Retention Scheme and furlough agreements etc.  And this last week of October should witness the transition from one type of agreement with employees for whom there’s not enough work, to another agreement under the government Job Support Scheme (JSS).

Government Job Support Scheme- JSS

It’s hoped that the new scheme will mitigate the anticipated rush to restructure and reduce headcount because demand and workload hasn’t returned to pre-Coronavirus levels.

When it was first announced on 24th September, the aim of the Job Support Scheme was to support viable jobs. The view was that it was much less generous than the job retention scheme. But last week’s announcement by the Chancellor has created a new financial mix. It’s one that has the potential to cost employers more. With its minimum working hours requirement, the support offers employees at least 73% of their full salary. But regarding take-home pay, it becomes comparable to its predecessor.

Will it be enough?

Whether it will be enough to offset the anticipated wave of redundancies is an open question.  Employers must weigh the extra cost of topping up staff wages staff on reduced hours against that of making redundancies only to have to rehire and retrain in the future. There may also be reputational damage to consider. Though this may be less of a concern in a Covid-19 driven economic climate.

There is one factor that there’s no overlooking within the cocktail of issues facing employers, in particular in small-medium size businesses. And that’s agreeing the use of the JSS scheme with the affected employees. This was easier to recognise with the job retention scheme as furlough agreements became the norm. But use of the new scheme will have to be agreed in similar fashion.

Two types of JSS in the government job support scheme

There are actually two types of JSS:

  1. JSS Open and
  2. JSS Closed.

The latter is for businesses that have closed or will have to close under lockdown restrictions.

JSS Open will be the more prevalent and this involves the following parameters:

  1. Employees will work a minimum of 20% of their normal contracted hours and they’ll receive their normal pay for doing so.
  2. Employees will receive 66.67% of any “unworked” hours from their normal contracted hours. 
    • The split will be as follows: 5% paid by the employer and 61.67% paid by the government (NB. The employer will pay the full 66.67% to the employee and can claim the 61.67% from the government.
    • The unworked hours contribution will have a cap of £1541.75 per month
  1. Employees will agree to forego the balance of their normal salary
  2. The Employer will pay National Insurance & Pension Contributions on the unworked hours.

Giving flexibility

There’s an argument that the scheme provides businesses with valuable flexibility, allowing them to change working patterns week by week to meet demand. Whilst there is a cost to employers regarding the minimum hours plus 5% of the “unworked” hours, they were already paying 20% of salary by the end of the Job Retention Scheme. And that with the chance of there being no hours worked.  On this basis the scheme may prove attractive to many employers.

There is of course nothing to stop businesses from putting workers on reduced hours without using the scheme. Indeed many employment contracts already have this facility. The key difference with the JSS is that it protects some of the employee’s wages that they would have otherwise lost.

While employees stand to benefit from the government topping up their wages, the need for businesses to also contribute, which they wouldn’t have to if they chose not to use the scheme, may make it less attractive. Yet, retaining reduced hours arrangements or short-term layoffs isn’t sustainable for long periods. Further, as the scheme is in place until April 2021, most employers will use it as an alternative to redundancy.

More cynical observers have pointed to the incentive of the Job Retention Bonus (£1,000 for each furloughed employee still in employment on 1st February 2021) causing employers to defer any redundancy decision until they qualify for the bonus. But the need for retained employees to earn at least £520 per month gross in November, December & January makes this less attractive.

From a more positive perspective, employers may use the scheme to keep experienced and skilled staff. Staff who’ll then be ready to carry on working when business picks up once economic activity gets moving once more.

At the end of the day

In the end, employers may have no alternative than to downsize and reduce headcount. Yet, with the support of the government job support scheme over the next six months, many businesses may explore various combinations through the flexibility offered by the scheme rather than make people redundant and face the cost of rehiring and retraining when the need arises.   

It’s not an easy decision with many factors to consider. And whether you’re assessing the right combination for you to use the scheme or simply want to ensure you use the correct agreement Go Legal HR can help.

There are three ways to get in touch with Go-Legal:

  1. Send a message via our web form here. 
  2. Drop a note to: [email protected]
  3. Call on 07801 709945 

 

Embossed hands shaking

 

 

 

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements

Suitcase with labels on it - Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements

June 2020

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements

As many industries progress towards a return to work the furlough scheme arrangements begin to change. So here we examine Covid-19 and holiday entitlements.

Flexible furlough and increased contributions from employers kick in as we move towards the October end of the job retention scheme. Thus attention is likely to turn to holidays & holiday entitlements.

Suitcase with labels on it - Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements

 

A two-fold issue

What we have now is a two-fold issue:

  1. Employees are still focused on having a holiday this year. Yet with plans in a pandemic-induced tailspin with cancellations and postponements abounding, it’s not yet clear how holiday makers will fare.
  2. And the other side of that coin is that you must ensure you’ve got enough resources available to service your customers while letting employees to take their holiday entitlement.

It’s quite the conundrum.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that employees will want to save their holiday allowance for when they can travel again. Likewise, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that employers will prefer their employees to take holidays when business is slow – rather than as it gathers pace again. 

A Second Wave

Much of the above may become a mite academic. For a start, scientists continue to predict a second wave of the virus. Add to that the consequences of the anticipated surge in redundancies, that experts of a different kind are predicting, as the job retention scheme ends.

Also to contend with is the ever-changing landscape. The risk of local lockdowns and the potential for having to quarantine after your holiday is ever-present.

Confused? Well you might be!!

So – what IS the situation with holiday entitlements?

  • It’s been the case throughout, that anyone on furlough leave would continue to accrue holiday and have any holidays already booked credited to them. This, on the somewhat realistic assumption that they’d no longer need them.
  • It’s also, strictly speaking, been the case that employees could still take holiday, but have an entitlement to 100% of their salary in such circumstances.

The latter has been unlikely in the early stages of furlough leave. So now employers find themselves faced with managing holiday entitlements into a shorter leave year, while operating on a viable commercial level.

Amended Government Regulations

Many of you will already be aware of the amended regulations – Working Time -Coronavirus Amended – Regulations 2020.

The government guidance on this situation already provides for holiday entitlement that employees can’t take in the current leave year. It allows them to carry it over for up to two years.

The idea here was to address employers’ concerns about:

  1. A lack of resources or …
  2. … from a statutory perspective – a potential failure to ensure employees take the minimum of their holiday allowance under the working time regulations.

Though designed to help you, the employer, it’s possible for your employees to interpret this as an opportunity to carry leave forward if they don’t want to take any holiday. 

NB: it doesn’t apply to extra contractual holiday over and above the statutory minimum.

Government guidance places emphasis on taking every opportunity to take leave within the current leave year. 

The guidance also covers potential circumstances where the employer or employee may not be able to accommodate holiday in the current leave year. Ergo they’d be able to rely on the carry over provision. For further information on the specific circumstances please get in touch.

Arrangements already in place

Many of you will already have contractual or discretionary arrangements that allows your employees to carry over XX days holiday. And these may continue to be adequate.

If you find that you need to use quieter times of the year – or even what’s left of furlough leave – you have the legal right to ask employees to take holiday.

I say ‘ask’, because that would be the best practice way to achieve this. But you are entitled to place your employees on holiday for a defined period so long as you give the employee(s) involved the minimum notice period. This is: double the amount of time you want to place them on holiday for.

So, if you want them to take a full week on holiday you must give two weeks’ notice of the start of that holiday. Likewise, if only part of a week is involved, it’s still twice as much as the number of days involved.

This may not be straightforward if you still have employees on furlough leave. The commercial effect of having to find the extra 20% of salary – and more from September – may not be possible. But the option is there to manage any excess leave that has built up.   

There are other issues to consider if you want your employees to take their holiday during furlough leave or beyond. 

Go-Legal HR will advise you on all the ins and outs of this situation so get in touch now to find out more.

Government Advice

The Gov.UK website guidance provides an outline on the operation of holiday entitlement and pay during the coronavirus, but we’re happy to interpret that for you and advise accordingly.

Call: 
Office: 01793 877787
Mobile: 07801 709945

Or drop an email to: [email protected]

See also our blog about Covid-19 and HR responsibilities

 

Coronavirus or COVID 19: HR responsibilities

CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19

March 2020

Coronavirus or COVID 19: HR and Employee Responsibilities

The outbreak of Coronavirus or COVID 19 that the world is experiencing has produced a torrent of information in this past week.

This level of concern is, of course, understandable. What with the threat of a worldwide pandemic on everyone’s lips as the situation worsens. While the government’s response changes as the UK’s situation gathers pace, it’s clear the situation will worsen before it gets better.

CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19

Aiming to bring clarity to the CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19 situation for employers

Go-Legal HR have aimed what follows at clarifying the situation as it stands from an employer/employee perspective.

The underlying principle is to follow government guidelines. But at the same time recognise that the circumstances are fluid and may change daily. 

The government publishes daily updates with the latest stats and advice.

Company & Statutory Sick Pay

One big concern surrounds payment of sick pay to employees off sick due to COVID-19. If the absence relates to having symptoms of the virus, normal sick absence rules under company policies will apply.

This week, the government announced provision for payment of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1 of sick absence. This removes the so-called 3-waiting days before SSP applies. It’s unclear when this will start. But any emergency legislation passed by government to deal with this virus, will include it. Moreover, it only relates to absences due to COVID-19 and will lapse when there’s a resolution to this particular situation.

Employees who choose to self-isolate or do not want to come into work

Let’s say you have an asymptomatic employee advised to self-isolate. Either because:

  1. They’ve travelled to an affected area or
  2. been in contact with someone known to have the virus. In this instance, it’s reasonable to treat that as a sick absence.

What is your course of action in this situation?

If an employee is not sick but is in quarantine or self-isolation, there have no legal right to sick pay in these circumstances. Yet it would be good practice. And preferable to them coming into work with the risk of spreading the virus to the rest of the workforce. 

It’s clear that small to medium sized businesses have a difficult judgement call to make, given the costs involved.

NB: Do keep checking updated government guidelines for updates. 

But these are exceptional circumstances requiring creative solutions. It’s expected that the Budget will offer some guidance here.

Employees of course also have a duty to look after their own health and safety and that of their colleagues. This includes following self-isolation advice and cooperating with their employer to ensure a safe workplace. 

A virus cell -CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19

The Grey Area

This is those who choose to self-isolate from concern about contracting COVID-19. And in so doing, refuse to come into work. If this is the case, listen with care to the concerns of your employees. If you can, offer flexible working arrangements such as home-working.

Home-working is a practical solution to this current exceptional situation, even if it’s not otherwise suitable for your business. Choosing to explore this option is unlikely to set a precedent. It may soon become the norm wherever practical, if the outbreak worsens.

Employees can also request time off as holiday or unpaid leave. But there is no obligation to agree to this. And anyway, it may not be practical if the circumstances become protracted.

Hygiene

As an employer, it’s your duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety and welfare of all your employees. This includes any employees who may be particularly vulnerable. For instance, pregnant employees, or anyone with pre-existing medical conditions. 

It’s essential to keep abreast of official recommendations. Implementing the advice to avoid infection is a must. For example, providing good access to hand washing facilities and hand sanitisers.  

Do encourage employees to be extra vigilant with washing their hands and using/disposing of tissues etc. Where practicable, provide the resources to help that.

This situation is of course a fluid one. It’s crucial to keep things under review, while treating each case on its own merits. There are bound to be unusual cases even within these exceptional circumstances.

Be consistent in your approach and don’t single out any employees to avoid the risk of allegations of discrimination. 

Other sources of information:

The current situation in the UK is one of containment. But, if the outbreak gathers pace as it has elsewhere, we may see a rapid escalation in the measures needed.

The current situation in the UK is one of containment. But, if the outbreak gathers pace as it has elsewhere, we may see a rapid escalation in the measures needed.

Keep abreast of government updates, but if you are unsure contact Go Legal HR at www.go-legal-hr.com