Update on the Furlough Scheme and help for the

The Chancellor announced major changes to both the support for business via the Furlough Scheme and for the Self Employed says Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions. In general, he continues, it is great news for most, with the only downside being that Directors of small Limited Companies, the backbone of the UK economy remain virtually ignored.

A month earlier than previously announced from 1 July 2020, businesses furloughed employees will be able to work part time and be furloughed for the balance of their working week. The Company can decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.

The scheme updates mean that the following will apply for the period people are furloughed:

  • In June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions;
  • In August the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions;
  • In September the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500;
  • In October the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500;
  • Around 40% of employers have not made a claim for employer NICs costs or employer pension contributions and so will be unaffected by the change in August if their employee’s employment patterns do not change;
  • Many smaller employers have some or all of their employer NIC bills covered by the Employment Allowance so will not be significantly impacted;
  • Around 25% of CJRS monthly claims are below the thresholds where employer NICs and automatic enrolment pension contributions are due, and so no employer contribution would be expected for these payments to furloughed employees in August;
  • The scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, with the last three-week furloughs before that point commencing on 10 June;
  • From 1 July, employers will be able to agree any working arrangements with previously furloughed employees;
  • When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours; employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week, for grants to be calculated accurately across working patterns.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

  • Individuals can continue to apply for the first SEISS grant until 13 July. Under the first grant, eligible individuals can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total;
  • Applications for the second grant will open in August. Individuals will be able to claim a second taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total;
  • The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant. Further guidance on the second grant will be published on Friday 12 June.

The Budget and Business

There was an awful lot in Rishi Sunak’s first Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer for businesses to absorb says Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions Limited. So, to help he continues please read our simplified guide to what was pledged.

Employers will have access to business interruption loans of up to £1.2m and to refund businesses their statutory sick pay (SSP) payments as part of a £30bn package of measures to protect organisations from the effects of the growing coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The Chancellor said the government would guarantee 80% of the value of bank loans made to SMEs struggling to pay salaries, bills or for new stock during the outbreak, up to the value of £1.2m. The loans would be provided by the British Business Bank. Firms with fewer than 250 employees will also be able to claim a refund for the first two weeks of SSP paid to employees as a result of coronavirus. This followed the previous announcement that SSP will be paid to all those who are advised to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms. This was later clarified to say they have to have been advised by the Government, NHS 111 or their GP to self-isolate, so please do panic that staff can just take the time off. There will also be a new form so that those self-isolating do not have to go to their GP surgery to get a fit note for the second week.

Elsewhere in the budget the Chancellor made several other promises employers should take note of, including:

  • An extra 12 weeks paid leave for parents of premature babies;
  • An increase in the employment allowance for national insurance contributions from £3,000 to £4,000, which will come into effect in April 2020;
  • The introduction of a £3bn National Skills Fund with the aim of improving adults’ technical skills.

If you would like advice on how you can manage any of the above or any other employment issue give us a call on 01202 611033 and we promise to speak to you in plain English and provide pragmatic advice that helps you stay the right side of the law.

Managing Tribunals

Chris Wilkinson of Expert HR Solutions Ltd has noticed a rise in threatened and actual Tribunal cases following defeat in the Supreme Court at the hands of Unison in 2017 of Tribunal Fees.  He continues that he has also noticed that Employers are increasingly turning to Settlement Agreements or ACAS COT 3 Agreements almost as a first line of defence on the basis that it is cheaper and less time consuming than defending the case.  Whilst both of these routes have their merits there are alternatives he says.

Back in 2001 Lord Bingham defined ‘vexatious litigation’ as follows: “The hallmark of a vexatious proceeding is in my judgment that it has little or no basis in law (or at least no discernible basis); that whatever the intention of the proceedings may be, its effect is to subject the defendant to inconvenience, harassment and expense out of all proportion to any gain likely to accrue to the claimant; and that it involves an abuse of the process of the court…”

While an employment tribunal’s ability to restrain and deter vexatious litigants has its limits, there are some practical steps employers can take, including:

  • If a claim has been received and you suspect the claimant may be a serial litigant, check whether they have made similar claims before all recent tribunal judgments are now online.
  • Check whether they have been subject to the attorney general’s ‘vexatious litigants’ list or a civil restraint order, preventing them from issuing claims.
  • If the claim appears weak and without any reasonable prospect of success, highlight this on the ET3 ‘grounds of response’ and apply for a strike out or a deposit order, whereby the tribunal can order the payment of a deposit of up to £1,000 as a condition for allowing the claim to proceed.
  • Consider issuing a costs warning letter, putting the claimant on notice that you will apply for costs if they proceed with the claim and are unsuccessful.

The Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure provide for an initial ‘judicial sift’ stage, which allows a judge to review a case based on the ET1 and ET3, and to strike out the claim (or response) where it has ‘no reasonable prospect of success’, which would apply to vexatious claims. The rationale is to weed out weak and meritless claims at the earliest possible stage.

In practice, few claims are dismissed at this initial stage and the hurdle to have a claim struck out is high. Employment judges have tended to take a cautious approach to striking out claims.  In addition to the power to strike out claims at the initial stage, the employment tribunal can also strike out claims at any stage of the proceedings on the grounds that the claim (or part of it) is “scandalous or vexatious or has no reasonable prospect of success”; however, as with the initial judicial sift stage, this remains a high hurdle to overcome.

When it comes to costs, the employment tribunal has tended to show more willingness to award costs against litigants where their conduct is “vexatious, abusive, disruptive or otherwise unreasonable”.

If you would like advice on this or any other Employment issue why not give us a call on 01202 611033, the initial call is free.

What’s Changing in 2020

As 2019 draws to a close, here at Expert HR Solutions Ltd we thought we’d give you some advanced warning of some of the key developments that are likely to come into play in 2020.

CEO Pay Ratio Reporting

1 January 2020 all UK listed companies who have in a year, on average more than 250 employees are expected to compare their CEOs most recent remuneration against that of their full-time employees.

Statement of Main Terms and Conditions

Many of you will know these as contracts of employment.  Currently, you as the employer have eight weeks from the start of any individual’s employment to provide them with this document.  From sixth of April 2020 it will become a right on day one of employment.  They will also need to contain additional details for the first time, including entitlement to family friendly leave, clarification of any probationary periods and confirmation of which specific days and times individuals are required to work.

Extension of Holiday Pay Reference Period

For those of you who employ people working irregular hours this change will which will be introduced in April 2020 is significant.  The holiday reference period is that which is used to calculate holiday pay, and it is being extended from 12 to 52 weeks.  It will be important for organisations to keep track of employees’ working time throughout the year, including overtime, to ensure that they are correctly remunerated whilst on annual leave.

End of Swedish Derogation Contracts

Unless you employ Agency Staff, this change will not affect you, but it comes into effect on 6 April 2020.  The Swedish Derogation allows employers to avoid paying agency workers the same as they do any of their own staff.  The end of this derogation means that you will have to pay agency workers exactly the same as you do an equivalent normal employee, including any benefits.  If you do employ agency staff this will be a significant increase in costs, the good news is that Expert HR Solutions Ltd may have a solution for you.  Our contact details are at the bottom of this blog.

Agency Workers Key Facts Page

From 6 April 2020, agency workers will have a right to receive a key information document to help them make informed choices about the work they accept.  This document is required to clarify specific matters including the type of contract the worker is employed under a minimum rate of pay.  If you do employ agency workers we strongly advise you seek professional advice on this change early in 2020.

Increased Minimum Wage

On average the National Minimum Wage Rates are increasing well above inflation by 5.72% and will be as follows from April 2020:

Over 25 years old                £8.72

21 – 24 years old                  £8.20

18 – 20 years old                 £6.45

Under 18 years old              £4.55

Apprentice Rate                   £4.15

Parental Bereavement Leave

The right to parental bereavement leave will also become effective in April 2020.  Although no exact date has been confirmed, we know that qualifying parents will be entitled to 2 weeks of paid bereavement leave following the death of a child under the age of 18.

Other Pledges

Although there have been no fixed implementation dates, the government have pledged to improve redundancy protection for working mothers and alter existing legislation around the use of nondisclosure agreements.  We are also expecting the results of separate consultations on preventing sexual harassment as well as restructuring the availability of family friendly entitlements and statutory sick pay.

If you want help on these or any other matters concerning your employees, why not give us a call on 01202 611033, your first 30 minutes is free.

Attract and Retain the Best Staff

A recent survey by our Professional body found that only half of permanent employees (51%) think they are paid fairly and even fewer (34%) think that everyone in their organisation is paid fairly says Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions.  But we prefer to present solutions not problems he continues so read on.

The report finds the perception of unfair pay is being driven by employers’ lack of communication around pay.  When people don’t think they’re paid fairly, organisations reduce their chances of attracting and retaining the best talent. Employers also miss the opportunity to improve employee performance and well-being.  Chris says it is important to remember that what matters here is not what you think but what is the perception of your staff, because their perception is their reality.

Part of the solution says Chris is to communicate what your pay policy is clearly to all staff.  We suggest employers think about their pay policy differently and think more in terms of benefits package which allows employers to be much more creative in how they reward staff.  We all place different values on different things, so think of the benefits package like the shopping basket, pay is just one of the things that can be put in the basket.  It also happens to be a legal requirement to pay your staff at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).  It is also true that at this moment in time the recruitment marketplace is highly competitive with far more jobs available than candidates.  It is therefore a fact of life that if you want to attract and retain the best you need to know what your competitors are doing.

There are any number of surveys that show that the offer of flexible working is consistently in the top five benefits that employee’s value.  The law was changed a few years ago to permit any employee to make a flexible working request so why not include flexible working as one of the benefits you offer as a benefit.  It has the advantage that it may not cost much to implement but will definitely be valued.

There is a huge amount of political and press interest in Senior Reward Packages currently, but have you ever done any of the following asks Chris:

  • explained to your staff why they get paid what they do, only about 60% of employees say this has happened to them;
  • have a formal process to assess and manage pay risk, less than 20% of companies do;
  • carried out an equal pay audit in the past three years to ensure they are complying with the law, less than 40% of companies required to do this have done so;
  • benchmarked your benefits package against other employers.

Well says Chris we think we have a solution.  If you are one of our Gold or Platinum retained clients, why not take advantage of the fact that included in the monthly fee is the opportunity to benchmark your package against other employers.  If you are not a retained client you can get the same comprehensive report which shows not only salary comparison, but other benefits such as insurance, car, bonus and so on both nationally and locally, call us on 01202 611033.