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Government Support for Workers

Critical Workers

The Government has confirmed that convenience store colleagues are included within the definition of critical worker as ‘those involved in food sale and delivery’. The full list of critical workers is available here.

DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CRITICAL WORKERS

DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CRITICAL WORKERS TRAVELLING TO WORK

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 

  • The Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021.
  • Furloughed colleagues will continue to receive 80% of their current earnings under the scheme for hours not worked.
  • This means retailers will until July be able to claim a grant from HMRC worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, capped at £2,500 a month. Retailers will only need to fund the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. The grant must be passed on to furloughed employees.
  • Employers will contribute 10% of the cost of unworked hours from July and 20% in August and September, in addition to existing pensions and national insurance contributions.
  • Employees will be able to return on part of their contracted hours, with employers then asked to pay a percentage of the wages of furloughed colleagues.
  • Businesses have flexibility to use the scheme for employees for any amount of time and shift pattern.

Administration

  • Calculating earnings – For workers with varying earnings, retailers can claim for the higher of either: the same month’s earning from the previous year or average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year
  • Employee comms – retailers will have to write to their employees confirming they are being furloughed and keep this on record. Employees have a right to refuse to be furloughed, in which case normal redundancy procedures apply. 
  • Submitting claims - retailers can submit one claim per three weeks – meaning submissions should be made collectively rather than per individual worker. 
  • PAYE – furloughed employees will be subject to the usual income tax and other tax deductions.
  • First payments - are expected to be made by Bacs into your bank account within six working days.
  • Records - retailers will need to keep a copy of all records, including claim reference numbers and claim calculations. 

Useful Links

The following Government links will also help you before submitting a claim under the Scheme: 

FAQs

  • Topping up wages – beyond the 80%, is not mandatory and has no effect on the scheme. 
  • Employment rights – remain in place as normal for furloughed workers. One exception is NMW/NLW – furloughed workers are not working so not entitled to minimum wage rates of furloughed payments.
  • Holiday entitlements – furloughed workers will continue to accrue holiday pay and leave entitlements as normal. Employers will need to fund the difference between furloughed pay and holiday pay for periods taken as holiday. Further guidance is available here.
  • Self-isolating employees - Employees on covid-related sick leave should get statutory sick pay, if eligible. Retailers can claim back two weeks’ covid-related sick pay. Employees on sick leave can be furloughed but the short-term period of sickness should not be the reason for furloughing. 
  • Multiple jobs - If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.
  • Training - furloughed employees can engage in training, if that training does not provide services to or generate revenue for the employer. Statutory minimum wage rates still apply for working hours dedicated to training. 
  • Eligible employees – employees under PAYE on 30 October are eligible to be furloughed. There is no requirement to have been previously furloughed.
  • Re-hiring employees - employees who stopped working for a retailer on or after 19 March 2020 can be re-employed and placed on furlough. 

Colleague Absence

Employers should treat self-isolation as sick leave and follow usual sick pay policy.

Statutory Sick Pay

Employees are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks of work absence if earning an average of £118 per week or more. SSP is paid at £95.85 per week on a pro-rata basis.

The following changes are in place on SSP:

  • Self-Isolation – SSP is payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected. Retailers can use their discretion about what evidence, if any, to ask for.
  • Commencement – Employees claiming SSP due to coronavirus are eligible from day one of absence.
  • Evidence – Employers are advised to use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home due to suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice being issued by the government.
  • Funding - The Government has introduced a rebate scheme to allow retailers with up to 250 employees to reclaim up to 14 days of statutory sick pay paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

Colleagues not Eligible for SSP

Employees not entitled to SSP (earning under £118 per week) may be eligible for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit. You can advise the following changes to employees due to coronavirus:

  • Evidence - People claiming for either ESA or Universal Credit are no longer required to produce a fit note.
  • Universal Credit - People affected by coronavirus can now apply for Universal Credit and receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.
  • ESA - ESA will now be payable from day one for new claimants who are either suffering from coronavirus or required to stay at home.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Colleagues

  • In England, clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) colleagues are advised to work from home where possible. If working from home effectively is not possible, the advice is to not work.
  • In this situation, colleagues may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance. CEV colleagues can be furloughed.
  • The Government has written to CEV colleagues to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place. Shielding is not resuming but further guidance is now available here.
  • English councils have been provided with £32m to support CEV people who need it, including helping people to access food.

Additional Support

  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – the third grant covering November – January will provide self-employed retailers with a grant worth 80% of average profits in November and 40% of average profits in December and January. The maximum grant will be £5,160 per month. A further grant will be paid to cover February – April with the level of this grant to be confirmed. The grants are taxable income and subject to National Insurance contributions. Claims can be made from 30 November, further information here.
  • Strengthening the Safety Net – the Universal Credit allowance has been increased by £1000. Working tax credit has also been increased by £1000.
  • Rental support - £1bn is being provided to support renters. The Local Housing Allowance now covers 30% of social rent.

For more information, ACS members can contact steve.dowling@acs.org.uk.