This week, the Government confirmed the timeline for re-opening non-essential retail in June and launched a new ‘test and trace’ system. In conjunction with this, Statutory Sick Pay has been extended to staff who are unable to work after being advised to self-isolate under the test and trace system and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme launched for claims. We’ve rounded up these and other key developments for your business below.
1. The Government set out a timeline for retail to re-open in June
Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to open from 1 June, with other non-essential retail stores (eg clothes shops, book shops, furniture stores and indoor markets) re-opening from 15 June. This timeline is subject to the Government’s five tests being met (eg that there is a ‘sustained and consistent fall’ in the daily death rate), the shops carrying out a risk assessment and then taking all necessary steps to ensure that they are operating in accordance with ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines. You can use our COVID-19 risk assessment to help minimise risks at your workplace.
2. The Government published workplace guidance for its NHS test and trace system
The guidance asks employers to encourage their staff to abide by any advice to self-isolate, to support them in doing so and reminds them of their health and safety duties. If workplace outbreaks are identified, employers are advised to contact their local authority, following which they may be contacted by Public Health England. Note that if staff are unable to work from home while they are self-isolating, they may be entitled to SSP (see below).
3. Updated legislation on the furlough leave scheme
The Chancellor issued a new Treasury Direction modifying the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Alongside various technical tweaks, this sets out what kind of training furloughed workers are permitted to undertake and what kinds of non-discretionary payments can be taken into account when calculating a furloughed worker’s salary. See our Q&A on Putting staff on furlough leave. Note that we are expecting updated guidance about the future of the Scheme imminently.
4. Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme opened for claims
The Scheme is being administered by HMRC and claims can be made via its Government Gateway. UK based businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible to claim reimbursements of up to two weeks’ worth of coronavirus related SSP payments. The scheme has been backdated to cover relevant periods of sickness absence starting on or after 13 May 2020. For more information about the scheme, including full eligibility requirements and how to apply, see our Q&A on payment during sickness absence.
5. Statutory Sick Pay extended to staff advised to self-isolate under the Test and Trace system
Staff who are unable to work after having been advised under the Government’s new Test and Trace system will be eligible for SSP from 28 May 2020. SSP must be paid to eligible staff from the first day of absence, and employers may be eligible for reimbursements under the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. For more information, see our Q&A on payment during sickness absence.
6. Guidance published about the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund
The Government has published guidance about the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund, which provides financial support to small businesses with fixed property costs. Businesses based in England with fewer than 50 employees and fixed building costs may be eligible if they were trading on 11 March 2020, have been adversely impacted by the pandemic and are not already claiming under another Government financial assistance scheme.
7. Tax exemption proposed for home office expenses
HMRC has published a policy paper setting out its proposal to create a temporary Income Tax and Class 1 NICs exemption for expenses reimbursed by employers for home-office equipment during the pandemic. It is anticipated that the exemption will apply from 11 June 2020 until the end of the 2020-21 tax year, but HMRC has indicated that it will not collect tax and NICs on any reimbursed payments made from 16 March 2020 provided certain conditions are met.
8. Guidance for employers of drivers on furlough and recording mobile working time
The Government has published guidance for employers of drivers who are regulated by EU or AETR drivers’ hours and tachograph rules. This includes how being furloughed interacts with the working time rules that apply to mobile workers.
9. Four new regional lenders approved under the CBILS
The British Business Bank has accredited four new regional lenders under the CBILS. They join over 70 existing accredited lenders for the scheme.
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