1st August changes to furlough scheme and the end of Shielding (probably)
July was the last month for the furlough scheme in its current guise – from 1st August employers will be required to meet the employment costs (minimum pension contributions and Employer National Insurance contributions) of a furloughed workers wages (to a maximum of £2,500), in September the furlough scheme will pick up 70% of an employee’s wages to a maximum of £2187.50 and in October 60% to a maximum of £1,875. In September and October employers will be required to meet the cost of the reducing government contribution ensuring furloughed workers continue to receive 80% of their salaries to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
In total the furlough scheme has benefitted 9.2m employees, 1.2m employers and 2.7m self employed people at a total cost of £29 billion.
While myHRdept has seen an increase in redundancy assistance requests as the end of the furlough scheme approaches clients have also reported a return of business activity with some reporting sales returning already to 90% of pre-Covid levels.
We are expecting the requirement to shield to come to an end 1st August, although there is still some possibility that it may extend beyond 1st August in the event of an increase in Covid cases.
Especially vulnerable people (about 2.2 million of them) have been written to by the NHS and asked to remain at home and have minimal contact with others. For those on their own food parcels have been delivered to them. As the number of UK cases has fallen the risks to shielding employees are judged to have lessened and from 1st August employees can return to work provided the workplace is Covid-safe.
Employers must carry out a Covid risk assessment and enforce safe working practices dealing with any non compliance.
However, just because government guidance is changing does not mean that employers should be strong arming reluctant vulnerable employees back to the workplace. If the employee has a ‘disability’ as defined in the Equality Act, there is a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. A ‘reasonable adjustment’ would certainly involve working from home if homeworking is possible. There would be little prospect of winning an argument that homeworking is not reasonably possible in a situation where a shielding employee has been homeworking during lockdown.
No more SSP for Shielding
From 1st August, unless shielding is extended or reintroduced, shielding employees will no longer be entitled to receive SSP.
Vulnerable employees unable or unwilling to return to workplace
If a vulnerable employee cannot work from home or return to a sufficiently Covid safe workplace employers may wish to consider:
- re-furloughing a worker who has been previously furloughed;
- granting unpaid leave (with the worker’s agreement)
- paid holiday
- unpaid sabbatical