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  • Last week’s government COVID-19 announcements and what they mean for you

Last week’s government COVID-19 announcements and what they mean for you

Last week the government announced new COVID-19 rules. Let’s take a look at the three big changes that will impact employers.

Sunday, Sep 20, 2020
3 min read

Last week was a big week of announcements from the UK government.

On Tuesday 22nd September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation with a hard-hitting update about the coronavirus pandemic. He announced a number of new rules for the people of England to follow in order to slow down the spread of the virus, including advice on working from home and restrictions for the hospitality industry.

This was followed on Thursday 24th September by an announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, which outlined details of a new Job Support Scheme to help protect vital jobs across the country.

While new rules and restrictions are put in place to protect the public, it’s tough news for lots of small businesses, and many employers will now feel like they’ve had the rug pulled out from under their feet when they’re only just getting their business back on its feet.

Let’s take a look at what’s changing and when…

1. The brand-new Job Support Scheme

The government announced the new Job Support Scheme, which will open on 1st November 2020 and run for six months. This will replace the existing the existing Job Retention Scheme, or “furlough scheme”.

What this means for employers

In this new scheme, employers will continue to pay an employee for time worked (a minimum of 33% of their normal working hours), but the cost of hours not worked will be split between the employer, the government (through wage support) and the employee (through wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job until at least 31 January 2021.

This new scheme ensures you can keep staff on without paying them a full-time salary, and means employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages. Employers using the Job Support Scheme will also be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus (if they meet the eligibility criteria) and receive a payment of £1000 per employee job they keep on.

2. New working from home guidance

To help contain the virus, the government is now asking all office workers in England who can work effectively from home to do so over winter. (Public sector employees working in essential services, such as education settings, should continue to go into work as necessary.)

But as cases increase and the colder seasons are upon us, the government has said office employees returning to working from home will “substantially reduce the transmission” of coronavirus.

What this means for employers

If you’ve only just got your staff back to your new COVID-secure office, then it might feel like a step back to UK lockdown days to have your people working from home again. But it’s important your business plays its part in preventing the spread of coronavirus, and you have a duty to protect your people—as well as your business.

Because making employees come into the office during the pandemic when they could do their jobs from home could contradict their right to work in a ‘safe’ environment.

Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 protects workers who leave work, or refuse to return, when they have a reasonable belief there is a ‘serious or imminent danger’ to their safety, which could extend to coronavirus. So you must be careful—if your people can carry out their jobs effectively from home, then they should be working from home.

3. Hospitality curfew and restrictions

Any businesses selling food or drink must now be closed between the hours of 10pm and 5am. This includes takeaways—but delivery services can continue after 10pm.

The main businesses this will affect are cafés, bars, pubs and restaurants, but the rules apply to anywhere that sells food or drink.

Customers in hospitality venues must also now wear face coverings—except when seated at a table to eat or drink. And staff in hospitality and retail are now required to start wearing face coverings.

What this means for employers

It wasn’t long ago that the government scheme “Eat Out to Help Out” incentivised the public to support hospitality with discounted prices, so it’s a big blow for hospitality businesses who’ve just been getting back on their feet—and are now returning to tougher measures.

If you run a hospitality business, the best thing you can do is to take charge of staff contracts, hours and rotas as soon as possible, to ensure you’re fitting in with these new opening hours.

Call BrightAdvice

With so many new changes to get your head around within a few days, it’s understandable if you’re confused…

BrightAdvice is here to help. Our friendly advisers will give you instant answers to your COVID-19 questions, and they’re available to take your call 24/7. Phone now on 0800 783 2806.

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