Welcome all to the September edition of the AdviserPlus newsletter.
In this month’s newsletter, we will look into some of the key things to consider as the furlough scheme, which has supported a total of 11.6 million jobs since it began, draws to an end on 30 September. We’ll also share the news that following the positive feedback the government has received about the ability to conduct right to work checks remotely, the temporary adjusted checks have been extended. We’ll explore some of the main reasons why employers have failed to pay their workforce the National Minimum Wage and take a look at some upcoming national people dates.
Ending of the Furlough Scheme – Key things to consider
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is shortly coming to an end on 30 September 2021.
When a furlough agreement ends, the employer and employee will go back to the earlier contractual arrangements, unless a change is agreed. If you have a number of employees returning to work you should encourage them to raise any concerns or problems about returning to work.
Take into account the fact that risks to people’s health from this pandemic are psychological as well as physical therefore, it may be quite common that employees are feeling anxious about the future, the risk to them and their families from infection and further self-isolation. Some may have suffered and experienced challenging domestic situations and financial worries, there may be employees who have suffered with illness or still suffering from the effects of long covid, for example, and in some cases, they have had to deal with bereavement. You may also have employees generally struggling to adapt to the many changes society has seen and are not used to having familiar workplace routines feel so different.
You may need to factor in that, employees might have a lot of annual leave left due to being on Furlough so be sure to plan this in and look at what else you might need to do such as carrying over some holidays, so it benefits you and your employees.
Within the Coronavirus 2020 legislation it states;
Where in any leave year it was not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of the leave to which the worker was entitled under this regulation as a result of the effects of coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society), the worker shall be entitled to carry forward such untaken leave as provided for in paragraph (11).
In paragraph (11): Leave to which paragraph (10) applies may be carried forward and taken in the two leave years immediately following the leave year in respect of which it was due.
Does your business have enough work for all the workforce?
You will also need to start thinking about does your business have work for all of your workforce at the level there was before the restriction. If not, you may need to consider asking staff to reduce their working hours on a temporary basis. Remember this needs to be done by agreement.
Once the furlough scheme ends you could also take into consideration that under normal employment law, employers can agree a temporary or permanent contractual change to part-time working. This will, however, always need to be confirmed in writing and whilst it is legally possible to enforce the change through a variation of contract process this is a complex and time-consuming approach so should only be considered as a last resort and following proper legal advice.
In this scenario you would need to be clear about the reasons for the reduced hours and be prepared to respond to challenge and questions.
Unfortunately, if you are unable to continue trading or only have enough business to require significantly fewer staff you may need to consider redundancy planning.
If you are having to consider this, please reach out for the necessary support as you will need to follow the correct legal process and take any steps you can to support the employees through this sensitive process. Be careful how you communicate the message and treat their health and welfare as a priority.
Breach of National Minimum Wage Legislation
On 5 August 2021, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a list naming those employers who had breached National Minimum Wage Legislation. The total amount the employers failed to pay was £2.1 million to over 34,000 workers between the period of 2011 to 2018. Not only did these 191 employers have to pay back what they owed, they were collectively fined £3.2 million. The naming and shaming list, which is the second time the UK Government has published such a list, will serve as a reminder to employers of the importance of getting their NMW calculations correct.
The UK government recently gave millions a pay rise, by increasing National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates in April 2021. The rise means someone working full time on the National Living Wage will be taking home £5,400 more annually than they were in 2010. Every single UK worker is entitled to the National Minimum Wage, no matter their age or profession.
Whilst not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, it has always been the responsibility of all employers to abide by the law.
Minimum wage breaches can occur when workers are being paid on or just above the minimum wage rate, and then have deductions from their pay for uniform or accommodation.
The employers who have been named and shamed previously underpaid workers in the following ways:
- 47% wrongly deducted pay from workers’ wages, including for uniform and expenses
- 30% failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime
- 19% paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate
Right to Work Checks – End Date Extended to 5 April 2022
The temporary adjusted right to work checks changes made on 30 March 2020 included checks being carried out over videos calls, the use of photographs or scans of documents for checks rather than original documents and the use of the Home Office Employer Checking Service in the event that an employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents. These temporary measures were due to end on 31 August 2021 however, the UK Government has announced they have now been extended to 5 April 2022. This extension will be welcomed by employers who will maintain a statutory defence against a civil penalty if the checks are carried out in the prescribed way or in accordance with the adjusted checks guidance.
Key People Dates
Black History Month – 01-31 October
Organisations have a wonderful opportunity to be part of the national celebrations and events to honour the accomplishments of Black Britons in every area of endeavour throughout history.
World Mental Health Day – 10 October
The theme for World Mental Health Day 2021 which is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.
This theme was chosen because the world is increasingly polarized, with the very wealthy becoming wealthier, and the number of people living in poverty still far too high. 2020 highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. Such inequalities have an impact on people’s mental health.
World Menopause Day – 18 October
The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing.
The theme for World Menopause Day 2021 is Bone Health.
Note: The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 10/09/21 however, you need to be fluid in your approach to coronavirus as the policy and government guidance is changing rapidly. We therefore recommend you regularly check the government official guidance on the gov.uk website and news for updates or contact us if you have any specific questions.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this newsletter or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch.