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3 November 2020 0 Comments
Posted in Health & Social Care, Opinion

Furlough Scheme extended as care sector prepares for national lockdown

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The Government has announced a new national lockdown for England from 5 November to 2 December which has led to significant changes to the employment support schemes available to employers.

care-home

Key changes

  • The Job Retention Scheme (or ‘furlough scheme’) will be extended for a month until December 2020 and will no longer close on 31 October as planned.
  • Implementation of the Job Support Scheme has been delayed until the furlough scheme ends.

What we know so far

  • The extended furlough scheme is available from 1 November and will be open until December. The exact date has not yet been specified but it is likely to align with the end of the lockdown on 2 December.
  • The level of support under the furlough scheme increases to its original level of 80% of wages (up to a cap of £2,500 per month). You may top up pay if you wish.
  • Employers are responsible for National Insurance contributions and pension contributions.
  • Flexible and full-time furlough is permitted so staff can either work part time or not at all, depending on business requirements.
  • Neither you nor your employee need to have previously used the furlough scheme to be eligible now.
  • Employees will be eligible if they were on your payroll by 23:59 on 30 October 2020. This means a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment for that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 30 October 2020.

Public funding restriction?

The Treasury has re-iterated that it expects publicly funded organisations not to use the scheme, but says that partially publicly funded organisations may be eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.

This appears more helpful to care providers than the original furlough guidance (which simply said that employers in receipt of public funds are not expected to furlough) and seems to at least allow furloughing by care providers with a mix of public and private funding. You should keep records of the additional staffing costs from furloughing staff so that you can show that there has been no double recovery of funding.

We hope that the Government will expressly permit furloughing by providers solely in receipt of public funding so that they can also be funded to furlough staff at high risk due to Covid.

High risk employees

The Government’s new lockdown guidance states that:

If aged over 60 or clinically vulnerable, staff can attend a Covid-secure workplace but should

  • be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise contacts with others
  • continue to wash their hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in their workspace

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:

  • aged 70 or over (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant.

For the clinically extremely vulnerable, the Government advises that they work from home. If they cannot work from home, they are advised not to go to work and may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance. You may also be able to furlough them.

The Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place.

Key steps to take now

  • Communicate with staff who have already agreed to move onto the Job Support Scheme and get their written agreement to remain on the furlough scheme.
  • Assess whether staff who have not previously been furloughed are eligible for furlough under the extended scheme.
  • Consider whether you wish to retain staff already working under notice of redundancy during the extended furlough period and whether you are eligible to do so.
  • Communicate with high risk staff, re-do risk assessments and agree arrangements for work, furlough or other leave.

We will update you on further detailed guidance from Government as it is published.

Please do get in touch to discuss HR and employment law issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic contact James Sage, Partner, Employment law and Health & Social Care:

01225 730 231     Email usjames.sage@roydswithyking.com

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