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Government Support for Workers

Critical Workers

The Government has confirmed that convenience store colleagues will be included in the definition of critical worker. It states that "those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery" will be able to continue taking their children to school. 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 

  • Retailers can claim a grant from HMRC worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus 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.
  • The scheme will cover costs backdated to 1st March and is open until the end of October.
  • New flexibilities from August will allow employees to return on part of their contracted hours, with employers then asked to pay a percentage of the wages of furloughed colleagues.

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.
  • Timescales – furloughed workers must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks
  • 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. 
  • Workers on reduced hours or pay – furloughed employees cannot do any work. Therefore, anyone on reduced hours or reduced pay is ineligible.
  • 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.
  • Unpaid leave - Employees on unpaid leave cannot be furloughed, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 19 March.
  • Shielding employees - employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance or living with someone who is shielding can be furloughed.
  • Self-isolating employees - Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this.
  • 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, as long as 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. 
  • Re-hiring employees - employees who stopped working for a retailer on or after 19 March 2020 can be re-employed and placed on furlough. 

For more information, please email steve.dowling@acs.org.uk 

How the Government is Helping Workers

  • Job Retention Scheme – all retailers will be able to apply for a grant to cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to an 80% salary cap of £2,500 per month. These workers must be designated as ‘furloughed’ and cannot do work for the business. It has been confirmed the that scheme will be open until the end of October, with no limit to the amount of funding available. Retailers can now re-hire and furlough employees who no longer have a new job to begin and furlough employees who are shielding under government advice. The online portal is now open and can be accessed here.
  • Strengthening the Safety Net – the Universal Credit allowance will be increased by £1000 for the next 12 months. Working tax credit will also be increased by £1000 over the same period.
  • Rental support - £1bn is being provided to support renters. The Local Housing Allowance will now cover 30% of social rent.
  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - will provide self-employed retailers with a taxable grant worth 80% of average profits from financial years 2016 – 2019 inclusive. The grant is capped at £2,500 per month for three months.

Devolved Administrations – Wales

  • Business Rates Holiday – 100% business rates relief for 2020/21 business rates bills, for stores up to £500,000 rateable value.
  • Welsh COVID-19 Business Grant - £10,000 one-off cash grant for stores eligible for Small Business Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. £25,000 one-off cash grant for stores between £12,000 - £51,000 rateable value.
  • Welsh Small Business Grant – Retailers employing up to nine people can apply for a grant up to £10,000. Retailers with between 10 and 249 employees can apply for a grant up to £100,000.

Devolved Administrations - Scotland

  • Scottish COVID-19 Business Grant - £10,000 one-off cash grant for stores eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Rate Relief. £25,000 one-off cash grant for stores between £18,001 - £51,000 rateable value. Retailers with multiple properties can apply for one grant per property, with either £10,000 or £25,000 dependent on the first store’s rateable value. Following properties can access either £7,500 under the Small Business Support Grant or £18,500 under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Support Grant.  

    Sick Pay and Employment

    Employees are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks of work absence, if they earn an average of £118 per week or more. SSP is paid at £94.25 per week on a pro-rata basis.

    The following changes are in place on SSP:

    • Self-Isolation – SSP will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020. Regulations were laid on 12 March 2020 to bring this into effect. Retailers can use their discretion about what evidence, if any, to ask for.
    • Commencement – Employees claiming SSP due to coronavirus will now be eligible from day one of absence, rather than the fourth day of their illness. The Government intends to legislate so this applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020. 
    • 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.

    ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published guidance for employers and employees which states that it is good practice for employers to treat self-isolation as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday.

    If you have specific questions about employment regulations, contact Steve Dowling at steve.dowling@acs.org.uk