Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Statutory Sick Pay – Updated Guidance for Employers (26th May 2020)

posted by KeithDaniel

Our recent newsletters have provided guidance for employers with regards to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the “Scheme”). As you will no doubt be aware, the Government are continually releasing new guidance as the pandemic continues here in the UK and the need for the Scheme continues.

We have addressed some frequently asked questions concerning the updated guidance below as well as some questions concerning furlough leave in general.

When will the Scheme come to an end?

On 12th May 2020, the Chancellor announced that the Scheme will be extended and will remain open until the end of October 2020. However, it may be that in the coming weeks or months the Scheme is extended further.

The Government have also announced that from the start of August, furloughed employees may be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards their salaries. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the Government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to the cap of £2,500 a month. Hopefully we will receive further information on this shortly.

Can an employer alternate who is furloughed?

Yes, employers can rotate employees on furlough leave provided that each employee is furloughed for a minimum period of 3 weeks (21 calendar days). Indeed, this may be a practical solution to ensure that no employees feel as though they have been unfairly denied the chance to take furlough, whilst equally ensuring that employees are not furloughed for significant periods of time whereby they may become isolated from the workplace or deskilled.

What pay are employees entitled to post furlough?

Where an employee’s furlough leave comes to an end and they return to work, their pay should return to normal. Where an employer has been paying an employee 100% of their pay whilst they were furloughed (i.e. topping up the employee’s salary up by 20% in addition to the 80% provided by the Scheme) they should continue to pay 100% of the employee’s salary post-furlough. However, obviously the employer will not receive the 80% subsidy from the Government. Where an employee received 80% of their normal salary whilst furloughed their pay will need to be topped up to 100% upon their return to work.

If an employer wishes to pay less than 100% of an employee’s normal salary upon their return to work, for financial reasons, then the employer will need to consult with the employee concerned and enter into a written agreement if the employee consents to the change. An employer cannot simply reduce an employee’s pay without their consent as this would amount to a breach of contract and the employee could therefore resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal and / or an unlawful deduction of wages.

How can I reclaim Statutory Sick Pay?

Small and medium-sized employers (with fewer than 250 employees) are able to recover coronavirus-related SSP payments made to employees. This applies to SSP paid on or after 13th March 2020. The repayment covers up to two weeks' SSP if an employee had COVID-19, was self-isolating and unable to work from home or was shielding. The online service you’ll use to claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is now available.

If  you would like more information about any of the issues raised in this article or any other aspect of employment law, please do not hesitate to contact at 029 2034 5511 or employment@berrysmith.com.