This page is dedicated to our regular updates regarding the current Coronavirus crisis. Stallard Kane news and advice about other subjects will appear on our News and Updates page as usual. Please bookmark this page and check back daily – updates will be added to the top of the page, below the intro paragraph.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every one of us. We would like to reassure all of our clients that we have put measures in place to provide our usual services as much as we possibly can. Our foremost responsibility is keeping our employees and clients safe, so the way we work may be different, with people working from home or unable to do site visits, but we are equipping all of our staff to be able to communicate with each other and our clients using digital solutions and a variety of channels.

This current crisis will pass and we understand the importance of keeping your business safe and ready to face the future. We will be posting regular updates on this website and social media channels.

We will also be sending out news bulletins via email, not just about the current crisis, but about all of our services, and in particular, upcoming HR and employment law legislation updates. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

Useful documents

We have produced, below, a Coronavirus Policy and Risk Assessment (please note that this is a generic risk assessment and must be made specific to your business), as well as other documents you may find useful. We will review these documents on a daily basis and update them on here.

As the spread of Coronavirus is changing by the day, it is most important that you keep up to date with the latest information and advice provided by the Government.

Keep safe everyone, and remember, we are #oneoftheteam – always on hand, as ever, whenever you need help or advice.


30th March 2020

Government supports construction businesses to stay open

Nadhim Zahawi, under-secretary of state for business, has reaffirmed that house-building and other construction work must keep going to help the economy survive the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and London mayor Sadiq Khan have acted to close down construction sites, the position of the UK government remains firmly that all work that cannot be done from home should continue, on the condition that all workers remain two metres apart and observe all other Public Health coronavirus guidelines.

Nadhim Zahawi writes in The Daily Telegraph today: “The last few weeks have been tough, as infections and deaths due to Covid-19 rise, and as we adjust to the new social rules we must live by. Horrendously, we know the coming weeks will be harder still, before the measures brought in start to take effect and as we travel towards the peak of the virus

“That framework of rules was enacted with a heavy heart; no British prime minister wants to restrict the daily lives of citizens, close businesses or ban gatherings. Every one of us is being forced the learn to live differently, but there is no other option.

“However, we have seen some, intentionally or otherwise, wrongly interpreting the current rules and unfairly criticising businesses that are implementing the rules correctly.”

He continues: “It has therefore been disappointing that those who feel the need to criticise any and all private sector work have started attacking companies for staying open when their work cannot be done remotely. It does not matter whether they appear on that key worker list, what matters is that they follow the rules our government has set out.

“These businesses need to be defended because we need to minimise the damage to our economy where possible, and be ready to spring back into action as soon as this lockdown is over. There will always be some work that cannot be done from home, whether it is construction or packing boxes in an Amazon warehouse – but we still need houses built and for deliveries to be made. If the scientific view changes, and all of this work becomes too high risk, the government will update its advice. But until then businesses should not be criticised for following the rules.”

He concludes: “These are difficult times for business. We cannot allow those who hate the private sector to use this crisis as an excuse to pile unfair criticism on them. We should stand up for those that are correctly following the rules. They are the same companies we will need to help fund our recovery when we finally get through this.”

Source: The Construction Index

We have produced a free Coronavirus Policy and a site-specific Risk Assessment (downloadable as Word documents in the useful documents section above). We encourage all of our construction clients to utilise these, bearing in mind that they are generic templates and will need adapting for each business and site. As ever, please contact your usual advisor if you have any queries.


It could be six months before life in the UK returns to “normal”

Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: “It could be six months before life in the UK returns to ‘normal’. This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months.” But, she continued, the UK had to be “responsible” in its actions and reduce social distancing measures “gradually”.

Dr Harries said the government would review the lockdown measures for the first time in three weeks. But she warned the public: “We must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living. That would be quite dangerous.” She continued: “If we stop then all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak. So over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review. We will see where we are going. We need to keep that lid on – and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distancing measures and gradually get us all back to normal. Three weeks for review, two or three months to see whether we have really squashed it but about three to six months ideally, and lots of uncertainty in that, but then to see at which point we can actually get back to normal.”

So, businesses may not return to normal functionality for a while, but we are doing our best to help and advise our clients as well as possible in the meantime. Please keep checking this page and the Government’s website for updates, but if you have a more specific enquiry, please do not hesitate to contact your designated advisor directly.

#oneoftheteam


Cutting of red tape to allow companies to produce PPE and hand sanitiser

To help get personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser to NHS staff as quickly as possible, Business Secretary Alok Sharma is easing administrative requirements and barriers to imports of these essential tools, without compromising on their safety.

By reducing the amount of red tape, new suppliers and businesses that produce ingredients for safe hand sanitiser and PPE will be able to bring their products to market in a matter of days. HMRC confirmed manufacturers of hand sanitisers and gels will have their applications for denatured alcohol fast-tracked.

Efforts to boost availability of essential supplies involve temporary measures including:

  • asking the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities to fast-track PPE through the product safety assessment process and prioritise this activity over other market surveillance activity
  • allowing PPE equipment providing protection against COVID-19 which lack the CE mark onto the market provided products meet essential safety requirements
  • providing new guidance for local authorities and ports and borders enforcement officers on the import and safety testing of hand sanitiser

Some of our local gin distillers, such as Lincoln Gin and Bottomley Distillers have already switched production to produce hand sanitiser, for local health services, businesses and charities.

The Business Secretary said: “Today’s measures will reduce the burden on business, giving bosses much-needed breathing space to keep their workers employed and their companies going.”


Suspension of wrongful trading

Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced on Saturday that he will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency.

This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors, so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

The Business Secretary said: “The government is doing everything in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods during these unprecedented times.”

Speaking about the reforms to insolvency law, Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, Confederation of British Industry, said: “The CBI welcomes these interventions at a critical time for business. The temporary suspension of wrongful trading provisions, along with other measures, will give much needed headroom for company directors to enable otherwise viable businesses to use the government’s support package and weather this crisis.”


AGMs and filing of accounts

The Business Secretary also announced on Saturday that the government will introduce legislation to ensure those companies required by law to hold Annual General Meetings (AGMs) will be able to do so safely, consistent with the restrictions on movement and gatherings introduced to address the spread of coronavirus.

Companies will temporarily be extended greater flexibilities, including holding AGMs online or postponing the meetings.

This measure follows an announcement earlier last week that companies would automatically and immediately be granted a three-month extension to the filing of their accounts following a fast-track online process.

Over 10,000 businesses have already successfully applied for the extension.


An employer’s guide to Statutory Sick Pay

Your employees may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks.

You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme (you cannot offer less). Company schemes are also called ‘contractual’ or ‘occupational’ sick pay and must be included in an employment contract.

You can pay SSP to an employee who is self-isolating for more than 4 days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) from the first day.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) expects the law to change to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to reclaim 2 weeks’ SSP they have paid to employees who are self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19). The government’s page will be updated if the law changes.

Holiday (or ‘annual leave’)

Statutory annual leave is accrued while the employee is off work sick (no matter how long they’re off) and can be taken during sick leave.


Take your kids to ‘virtual’ Disney!

The coronavirus pandemic may have caused Disney to close its gates indefinitely, but a YouTube channel (unaffiliated with the Walt Disney Co.), means you can still experience some of the joy.

Since 2016, the YouTube channel “Virtual Disney World” has been offering virtual reality rides through 360-degree videos, posted by fans. They are compatible with a virtual reality headset or a smart phone with a headset. 

Have fun!


27th March 2020

HR UPDATE

Updated Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance and Furloughed Workers 

Following many requests, we have produced some furloughed workers letter templates, which are free to download above.

The government have released further guidance on the Job retention scheme initially announced last week by the Chancellor, explaining who can claim, what employees can claim for, how to work out the claim and how to claim.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has initially been set up for a 3 month period, with employers able to back date claims to the 1st March for employees who have been furloughed. The scheme has been set up to support businesses and employees who have adversely been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Government are setting up an online HMRC portal, which will allow for employers to reclaim up to 80% of their usual wage, with claims being capped at £2,500 per employee per month, plus the associated costs of Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum auto enrolment employer pension contributions. 

The scheme is open to all employers who have created and started a PAYE scheme on or before 28th February 2020. The scheme is open to all businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities. Employers can claim for:

  • Full time employees
  • Part-time employees
  • Employees on an agency contract
  • Employees on zero hour contracts

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant after 28th February 2020 on the condition that they are re-hired by the employer and placed as a furloughed worker. The scheme is only open to those employees employed before 28th February 2020. 

Whilst furloughed, employees should remain at home and not be required to undertake any work for the employer. If an employee is still working, albeit on reduced hours or reduced pay, they will not be able to claim the subsidiary. Employees either need to be furloughed or at work. If employees are furloughed they need to be furloughed for at least a 3 week period. Employees can take part in volunteer work or training as long as this does not involve providing services which generate revenue for the employer. If employees are required to undertake training whilst furloughed, they must be paid at least National Minimum Wage for the time spent training.

By making an employee a ‘furloughed worker’ employers are making changes to the individual’s contract of employment. If the company already has a temporary lay-off/ short-time working clause in place, they will not be required to seek the agreement of employees to furlough them. Instead the company should speak to the individuals, advise them on the decision that has been made, the reason why and what this will mean. This should then be confirmed in writing and a copy of the letter should be kept on file by the employer as this may be needed when claiming for the subsidiary. A template letter to impose furloughed working can be found in Useful Documents above.

If the employer does not have the contractual right to temporarily lay off staff, then in order to furlough workers they should seek the express agreement of its workforce to do this. In this scenario it is advised that the company consult with all staff, again explaining the situation  and what they are looking to do and the reason why and then write to employees seeking their permission to amend the contracts and to furlough the workforce, in order to protect the business and individuals’ long term employment. If employees respond and give express agreement to the change, the company can then furlough staff. A template letter seeking the agreement of employees to furlough them can be found in Useful Documents above..

It may be the case that employers require to furlough some staff but not all. In such circumstances the employer can ask for volunteers in the first instance, or use an objective scoring criteria to decide which employees are to be furloughed and which employees will be required to continue to work. 

Employees on unpaid leave or sick
Only employees who were placed on unpaid leave after the 28th February can be furloughed

  • Employees on sick leave or who are self-isolating should receive SSP but can be furloughed after this.
  • Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidelines can be placed on furlough.

What can you claim?
Employers can claim up to 80% of an employee’s usual wage or salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum auto enrolment employer contributions. Employers can top up this amount to 100% of the employees normal wage, but do not have to. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included as part of this scheme.

For employees who wages vary from week to week employers can claim for the higher of the following:

  • The same month’s earning from the previous year
  • Average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If employees have been employed for less than a year, claims can be for the average monthly earnings since they started employment.

What you need to make a claim
Once you have been through the appropriate process to furlough workers you will need to provide the following:

  • Your PAYE reference number 
  • The number of employees being furloughed
  • The claim period (start and end date)
  • Amount claimed 
  • Your bank account number and sort code
  • Contact name 
  • Contact phone number 

As an employer you will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC reserve the right to retrospectively audit all claims.

Claims can only be submitted once at least every 3 weeks and can be back dated until 1st March. Once you have submitted an eligible claim, the grant will be paid by BACS payment to your UK Bank account.

Full guidance can be found on the government’s website.

Business closures

The government guidance around business closures is changing daily, so it is recommended that you check the gov.uk website for updates.

Currently, construction sites are still allowed to be open (see below), but it is important that businesses follow the government’s guidelines regarding social distancing and hygiene.

To assist you in this, we have produced a free construction site specific risk assessment (in useful documents above). Please bear in mind that this is a generic template and will need to be adapted for individual businesses.

Can builders still go to work?
Shortly after Boris Johnson made this latest announcement, Robert Jenrick, the communities and housing secretary, tweeted that the latest advice for the construction industry was, “If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. I think it’s important that, when we have construction work that is going in a way that can be done safely, in the open air and on new sites, that does continue. It’s important that we make sure that construction and manufacturing can continue and that seems to me to be the safest way of ensuring that we can maintain appropriate social distancing rules in a way which ensures that people who cannot work from home continue to do so.”

Senior minister, Michael Gove, explained, “It is the case, as Robert Jenrick pointed out, that construction on sites should continue. People should obviously exercise sensitivity and common sense and follow social distancing measures. But construction in the open air on those types of sites can continue.” 

However, although it was confirmed that construction sites in the UK can currently remain open, the Scottish Government has advised that construction sites should instead close and is currently developing guidance for businesses on how to respond to this, and how they can confirm whether their activities are essential or non-essential. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said on 25thMarch: “This morning I was specifically asked on the radio about building sites and hair salons, and my advice would be to close. I want to reiterate that if you run a business, and if the nature of your business makes it difficult for you or your workers to work from home or to practice safe social distancing, then you should close for the period of the efforts to combat this virus. If you are an employee, and your workplace is not abiding by this, I would urge you to speak to your employer and ask that they take action.”

Can builders go into people’s homes?
In regards to entering people’s homes, Mr Gove told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (25th March), “If it is the case you are reconstructing or building a home in which there is no one present, that is appropriate and it can go on. But if we’re talking about the sort of construction work that involves a builder coming into home in order to deliver an extension or something like that, that would seem not appropriate and not in line with the clear guidance.”

When then questioned about home extensions, Mr Gove added, “The construction work of the kind you have mentioned, which involves intimate contact in someone’s home, that is inappropriate.”

Government support for the self-employed

In the latest step to protect individuals and businesses, Rishi Sunak has set out plans that will see the self-employed receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least 3 months.

Millions of people across the UK could benefit from the new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, with those eligible receiving a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. This covers 95% of people who receive the majority of their income from self-employment. The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Note:

  • further information and details of the scheme will be shared shortly by HMRC
  • HMRC will use the average trading profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to determine the size of the grant
  • this scheme also applies to members of partnerships
  • before grant payments are made, the self-employed will still be able to access other available government support for those affected by coronavirus including more generous universal credit and business continuity loans where they have a business bank account

You can read more about this scheme here.

CITB to suspend levy payments

CITB’s board met yesterday (March 25) and gave final approval to suspend the issue of its levy bills, due for payment in 2020, for an initial period of three months.

The bills will subsequently be issued for the full year. The delay will provide immediate financial relief to construction employers during the coronavirus crisis. In normal times CITB assesses and sends out levy bills each April in accordance with legal requirements. CITB levy bills are usually due for payment in May, but CITB will not seek collection on the suspended bills until August, or later if possible.

You can read more about what the CITB are doing to support the construction industry throughout the COVID-19 crisis here.

Call for businesses to help make NHS ventilators

The government is looking for businesses who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the UK as part of their response to COVID-19.

As well as manufacturers, they are looking for businesses with the following skills:

  • design/specification
  • rapid prototyping
  • contract/product assembly
  • certification/regulation/testing
  • logistics
  • medical training

If you think your business can help, please register your details here.

Filing accounts

Companies House have announced that businesses will be given an additional three months to file accounts to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19. Full guidance on applying for an extension can be found here.

Gender-pay reporting

Enforcement of the gender pay gap-reporting deadlines are suspended for this reporting year (2019/20) due to the coronavirus outbreak. The decision means there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.

And finally, why not visit the zoo today…

Virtually, of course! Chester Zoo will be live streaming a whole day of animal antics:

10:00 Red pandas 🐼
11:00 Rothschild’s giraffes 🦒
12:00 Asian elephants 🐘
13:00 Butterflies 🦋
14:00 Sun bears 🐻
14:30 Sumatran tigers 🐅
14:45 Humboldt penguins 🐧
16:00 Aquarium* 🐠

(*Running order may be subject to ever so slight changes… and there may be more surprises throughout the day!)

You can join in the fun here.

26th March 2020

Today’s update includes important HR and Employment Law information around furloughed workers, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also available as a downloadable Word document, above), and Statutory Sick Pay, as well as news regarding the changes for MOT testing, and finally, free resources for a ‘virtual school day’ for those of you with children at home.

HR UPDATE

What is Furlough Leave?
From Friday the 20th of March 2020, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a raft of measures to protect businesses, including unprecedented government support in the shape of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing employer to ‘Furlough’ Staff, rather than lay them off or make them redundant. 

This includes limited companies, sole traders, LLPs, Partnerships, charities etc., allowing them to access financial support to continue to pay part of their employees’ salaries. This would enable employers to retain their employees for at least the short term, without having to worry about possible redundancies, also giving employees comfort around their ongoing status and pay, for the short term. 

Affected employees would be classed as furloughed workers. These employees would have to be notified of their changing status which would remain subject to existing employment law and depending on their contract, may be subject to negation. It’s crucial for an agreement to be made between the employer and employee as to whether the employee becomes ‘furloughed’.

How can this be imposed?
Employer’s must check to see whether they have a contractual right to lay off workers, if so, they can instead furlough workers, in an effort to safeguard the business and the individual’s long term employment. This should then be confirmed in writing.  

Where there is no temporary lay-off or short time working clause in place, the employer would need to seek the agreement of each individual employee to amend them to ‘furloughed workers’.  

How much does the Government pay, and how do they process this?
Although full details of the scheme are yet to be released, what is known so far is that under the scheme, if someone is designated as a ‘Furloughed worker’, employers will be able to register and can look to be reimbursed up to 80% of an employee’s wage, based on a salary cap of £2,500 per employee per month. These payments can be backdated from the 1st of March.

Process:

  • The employer would need to submit information to the HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed, about their earnings through a new online portal, which has not been set up as of yet. HMRC will provide further details on this.
  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of ‘Furloughed workers’’ wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are urgently working to set up this system. This is broadly, £30K per annum which is roughly the national median salary. It is not clarified as to whether this is Net or Gross pay, however, from guidance, this states it is to cover all employment costs, such as pensions and national insurance contributions.
  • An employee classed as a ‘Furloughed worker’ should not undertake work for their employer while they’re ‘Furloughed’. 
  • The scheme has initially been set up for 3 months, however the government have already indicated this can be extended if needed.  
  • Employees must remain on the payroll
  • The 80% relates to Gross Pay, CJRS payments will be classified as employment earnings and therefore PAYE/NIC etc. apply and other deductions such a pension contributions

Questions to be answered:
Full details of the scheme are yet to be released and this has left a lot of unanswered questions, such as:

  • If employees have already received a P45, how are they ‘re-employed’ to then be ‘furloughed’?                                                                                            
  • What will the online HMRC portal look like?
  • How will the 80% be calculated for employees on variable hours and those who receive overtime, bonuses or commission? 
  • Will the system be in place for the next pay run for Weekly Staff? 
  • How will temporary staff be affected and is there a cut-off date for ‘employed’ workers at the time of a business shut down?
  • Will Optional Remuneration Arrangements continue for furloughed employees?
  • What are the implications for National Minimum wage? (BEIS have now issued some guidance around loans and advances)
  • What are the implications for apprenticeships (although some guidance has now been released)? 

Can the employer top up to 100%?
There is no guidance on whether the employer needs to top up the 20%, as this would be optional to the employer. The employer has the option whether to top up the extra 20% or not.

How does this affect the Self-Employed?
Proposals have been put forward which would protect the income of self-employed and freelance workers to a set level, and an announcement is expected at some point today (26th March) about self-employed individuals. 

The amendment of the COVID-19 bill, entitled Statutory Self-Employment pay, appears to propose the government will guarantee earnings of 80% of monthly net earnings, averaged over the last three years, or £2,917 a month, whichever is lower.

Business Interruption loans 
Amongst a raft of other support for businesses, the government have announced a Business Interruption Loan scheme to help businesses with short-term costs, such as wages etc. The loans will be interest free for 12 months and businesses with less than a £45 million turnover, who meet the British Bank Eligibility criteria, will be eligible for the scheme. Further information can be found here.

What you can do as a business
There are still many unknowns, however, you can start to prepare by undertaking the following:

  1. Review your employment contracts to establish whether you have lay-off or short-term contract provisions. 
  2. If you do not have lay-off or short-term contract provision, you will need consent to change employment status to ‘furloughed’ – Stallard Kane are able to assist you with a letter to do this.
  3. Be aware that changing the status of employees is subject to existing employment law. Criteria are needed for selecting which employees are affected. Failure of an employee to accept a change could lead to a redundancy, so we recommend using similar criteria to redundancy selection.

Statutory Sick Pay

What we know so far: 

  • Coronavirus related SSP starts from day 1 of sickness or self-isolation. This applies retrospectively from the 13thMarch 2020. Waiting days do not apply.
  • If self-isolating because you have the virus or someone in the household has symptoms or has the virus, SSP is payable covering a maximum of 14 days.
  • The first 7 days of isolation/sickness are self-certificated, following 7 days’ virtual certification from NHS 111 online.
  • Certificates must be in place by law to account for not only coronavirus related sickness, but all sickness.
  • For an employee working from home but not self-isolating, SSP does not apply, it’s not payable or recoverable. 
  • Pregnant women are covered by the same 14 days coronavirus sickness regime. If they are concerned and cannot return to work, a doctor’s certificate is required. 
  • Employers can only recover SSP up to a maximum of 14 days, and only sickness relating to coronavirus.

MOT tests and garages

From 30 March 2020, MOT due dates for cars, motorcycles and light vans will be extended by 6 months. This is being done to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

This is only applicable for cars whose tests are due after (and including) the 30th March.

If your MOT is due up to and including 29th March, the Government’s guidance is:

  • If you’re not self-isolating or extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 you still need an MOT to make sure your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards. Currently, MOT centres and garages are still allowed to stay open, so book your MOT test at any open test centre. 
  • If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus and your MOT runs out while you’re staying at home, you should book an MOT test after your period of self-isolation is over. The Department for Transport (DfT) is working with insurers and the police to make sure you are not unfairly penalised for not being able to get an MOT.
  • If you are extremely vulnerable from coronavirus you must not take your vehicle for its MOT. DfT is working with insurers and the police to make sure you are not unfairly penalised for not being able to get an MOT.

Advice for garages and test centres
Currently, you’re still allowed to open your garage or MOT centre and carry out MOT tests.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published guidance for vehicle owners that says:

Your MOT centre can stay open after 30 March 2020 to carry out MOTs if you need to. This could include retests or tests of a vehicle that had an MOT due before 30 March.

Garages can also stay open to carry out essential repairs or services as well.

What to do if someone becomes unwell in your MOT centre
If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.

For more full information read guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID 19)

Limiting the spread of coronavirus at your centre
You should:

  • follow social distancing advice and keep at least 2 metres between customers and members of staff at all times
  • remind employees and customers to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal
  • frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
  • use seat covers and new disposable gloves for every test

You can download posters, leaflets and other materials to display at your MOT centre.

Virtual school day for those with children at home

One of the challenges of working from home is keeping your children occupied and ensuring they’re still getting a decent education. Routine is really important too, so we’ve put together a daily timetable of free resources to help:

Non-daily events include:
Science with Professor Brian Cox, Robin Ince & Guests https://cosmicshambles.com/stayathome/upcoming-schedule

25th March 2020

Today’s update includes useful documents, advice on business closures, training, working from home and wellbeing.

Work carried out in people’s homes
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Businesses that must close
We have included above an updated list of all businesses that have been instructed to close, including the exceptions. However, as with a lot of guidance at the moment, things change frequently, so please check the Government’s website for updates.

First Aid training certificate expiration
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is aware that people holding Offshore Medic (OM), Offshore First Aid (OFA), First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certificates nearing expiry date, might experience disruption to access requalification training as a result of events or circumstances generated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If requalification training is prevented for reasons associated directly with coronavirus or by complying with related government advice, it is reasonable and practical to extend the validity of current certificates by up to 3 months.  Anyone taking advantage of this extension should be able to describe clearly their reasons for delaying requalification training, and demonstrate steps they have taken to undertake the training, if required.

This guidance comes into effect for certificates expiring on or after 16th March 2020. HSE will review this matter over the coming months and will issue further statements as necessary.”

You can read more here.

Critical workers
Due to the new travel restrictions, we have produced a template letter for key workers, in the event they are stopped and have to provide evidence of their need to travel. The template is downloadable as a Word document in the Useful documents section above.

The do’s and don’ts of working from home
It can be very hard to discipline yourself and settle in to a good routine when working from home.

Our Health & Safety Advisor, Steve Taylor, has put together some tips on how you can work more effectively from home, which covers the following points:

  • Maintaining regular contact with your team
  • Snacking
  • Dress
  • TVs
  • Workspace
  • Breaks
  • Organisation
  • Hours

The full document is included in the Useful documents section at the top of the page.

Face masks
British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) have shared this free article from the Annals of Work Exposures and Health on filter performance of N99 and N95 face-piece respirators.

If you need to wear a mask, the simple takeaway from all this is:

  • Ensure that you’re face-fit tested for the mask you’re wearing.
  • Make sure that you’re clean shaven so the mask seals properly.
  • Ensure that you’re using the correct filter for what it is you’re trying to protect against.
  • Check your mask regularly. If it is damaged, cut, worn or broken, stop wearing it and get a new one.

You can find the full article here.

Looking after your mental health
As we are all aware social distancing and isolating are the best tools we have to help stop the spread of the CORVID-19. However, being inside and isolated from our usual support systems will have a negative impact on all of our mental health.

Below are 7 “Top Tips” that our Training Manager (and Mental Health First Aider) Faye Bevington, has put together for looking after your Mental Health during this time:

  1. Communication – find other platforms to communicate with your friends and family. Set specific times to Video Call people, having a “virtual” cup of tea with friends is a good way to stay connected. Different communication platforms are already offering inclusive activities for people to join with their friends and families. Zoom are offering daily sing along sessions to get people singing and dancing together which are currently free to attend. Netflix Party allows users to have synchronised screens and has a group chat function, this will allow you to watch a film together and share interaction about the film in real time without anyone leaving the house. Text and emails are a great way to communicate, but they lack intimacy, find ways to communicate with each other that still feel personal. From a working/business point of view, Stallard Kane are utilising Microsoft Teams, which they’re currently offering free to businesses for 6 months – you can sign up here: https://bit.ly/2wxmqD7
  2. Exercise – as it currently stands we are allowed to leave the house once a day for the purpose of exercise. Whatever you choose to do with this time, ensure that it follows government guidelines of remaining only with people in your household and not gathering in groups of more than two people. Walking and cycling are both great forms of cardio-vascular activities which also have the additional benefits of being outside in the fresh air. Many gyms and fitness instructors are also now offering Virtual Training Sessions, some are free to join (see the Joe Wicks’ PE sessions link below), others do have a cost associated . Not only will this keep you active, but will help to make you feel part of an online community.
  3. Deep breathing – breathing in slowly and deeply for 60 seconds encourages our bodies to release endorphins (the happy hormone) which will help us feel instantly more relaxed
  4. Being grateful – in such uncertain times it is hard to find things we are grateful or thankful for. But take the time to write down three things each day that make you grateful. This will help to improve your mood and can aid to fight off feelings of mild depression.
  5. Tidy your workspace – not all of us will be able to have a “home office” set up. Many of us will be working from our kitchen tables or lounges, however, it is still important to have a clear, non-cluttered workspace. This helps with feeling organised and more in control of your surroundings. You’ll find more tips on working from home in our Do’s and Don’ts document above.
  6. Limit screen time – as much as possible, when not working, it is important to limit the amount of screen time you have. Constantly scrolling through news feeds and social media, especially during this crisis, can cause many people to have increased anxiety. To help clear your mind, set specific times of the day when you can have your phone and screen off, your mind needs time to process all of the information it already has without constantly overloading it with further information.
  7. Routine – working from home will push all of us out of our normal routines, it is therefore vital that we create new ones. It is important to break your day up so please ensure that lunchbreaks are being taken as this will also allow you to have time away from screens.

If anyone wants further information on any of the above, or would like information on more specific support tools that are available please don’t hesitate to contact our Training Team.

Free resources for those with children at home
Those of us working from home may find it difficult if you’re also having to entertain and home school your children. Here are some great free resources you might enjoy…

  • David Walliams has confirmed he will be releasing a free audio story each day for the next 30 days to help keep children entertained during the coronavirus lockdown: https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/elevenses/
  • Joe Wicks is holding free PE lessons on YouTube for all the kids whose schools have been closed. It’s live-streamed every weekday at 9am.

24th March 2020

Following last night’s statement from the Government, we’ve listed the latest guidance and and advice below, but as this is a very fluid situation, we encourage you to regularly check the Government’s website for updates: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

FREE Microsoft Teams to help us keep in touch
Remember, we’re still working for our clients, just in a different way. To enable us to do video/telephone audits as much as possible, our preferred method of communication is Microsoft Teams, which allows us to share documents and screen share etc. Microsoft are offering this service free to businesses for six months, so we encourage you to sign up if you haven’t already done so: https://bit.ly/2wxmqD7

It’s business as usual, so to relieve the strain on our switchboard, please contact your designated advisor directly in the first instance if you need any further help or guidance.

Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading
Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

This includes people of all ages – even if you do not have any symptoms or other health conditions.

You can only leave your home:

  • to shop for basic essentials – only when you really need to
  • to do one form of exercise a day – such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with other people you live with
  • for any medical need – for example, to visit a pharmacy or deliver essential supplies to a vulnerable person
  • to travel to and from work – but only where this is absolutely necessary

Business closures

The Government has enforced business closures, with some exceptions. The full list can be found here (PDF):https://bit.ly/2Jb6yZD

Currently, building sites are allowed to remain open, according to Michael Gove on the BBC this morning, but this guidance is changing by the hour. We encourage you to use your own judgement as to whether to remain open, until the government says otherwise, but is important that all workers remain at least two metre apart and follow government advice on protection and hand washing etc. 

Compliance is essential. Everyone is instructed to comply with the rules issued by the government in relation to Coronavirus, in order to protect both themselves and others. As of 2pm on 21 March 2020, closures on the original list from 20th March (including cafés, pubs and restaurants (except for take-away food), nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres) are now enforceable by law in England and Wales due to the threat to public health. The government will extend the law and enforcement powers to include the new list of premises for closure. Further measures on enforcement could be taken following the passage of the Coronavirus Bill through parliament. 

A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence. As agreed with the devolved administrations, these measures will be extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland by Ministerial Direction once the Coronavirus Bill is in force.

Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate. Businesses and premises that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines.

Isolation notes

If you are an employee and need to prove that you have to self-isolate, you can get a note from the NHS website

Use this service if you have been told to stay at home because of coronavirus and you need a note for your employer.

This service is only for people who:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus and have used the 111 online coronavirus service
  • have been told by a healthcare professional they have symptoms of coronavirus
  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus

If you are not sure if you need to stay at home, get the latest NHS advice on coronavirus.

If you have to stay at home but feel well enough to work, ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note. You can also use this service for someone else.

Staying at home isolation guidance

It can be tricky to understand exactly how and why to keep apart from each other if everyone is at home. The government has produced some useful stay at home guidance for households here.

Deliveries

If you have goods delivered to or collected from your work premises, you must let visiting drivers use your toilets and hand washing facilities by law. Be part of the national effort to tackle the spread of coronavirus – it’s vital that drivers are able to wash their hands when they need to. More guidance can be found on the HSE websitehttps://bit.ly/33HcCCA

Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers, end-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance providers

These are difficult times for employers, apprentices, and providers of apprenticeship training and assessment. As part of the cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures, for the duration of the pandemic, to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way, if they need to take break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible.

The full guidance can be found here: https://bit.ly/3bnnDLU


23rd March 2020

Job Retention Scheme 
Following the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s briefing on Friday evening, the Government has stepped in to support with the payment of employees’ wages for individuals who are not currently working due to the Coronavirus, by offering to pay 80% (up to £2,500 per month) of wages for the next three months under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The scheme will be back dated to the 1st March and is hoped to be in place by the end of April. All employers will be eligible for the scheme. 

To access the scheme the employer will need to:

  • Designate affected individuals as ‘furloughed workers’ and notify the employees of the change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to employment law and will depend upon what is contained within the contract of employment
  • Submit information to the HMRC on the ‘furloughed workers’ and their earnings via the HMRC online portal.

It is hoped that the scheme will be up and running within the next six weeks, however businesses that are struggling to pay in the meantime may be eligible to apply for a Coronavirus Business Interruption loan

The scheme has originally been set up for three months,  however Mr Sunak announced that this could be extended if needed.  Although full guidance on the scheme has yet to be released, on the issue of zero hour workers,  Sunak added: “Zero hours covers a variety of situations, but it may well be you are on a PAYE scheme and have a set of regular earnings and it will be covered depending on your particular circumstance.”

VAT payments
Further measures to support business include Mr Sunak announcing that this quarter’s VAT payments for all firms will be deferred. No companies will be required to pay VAT until the end of June. The business interruption loan scheme that was announced earlier this week, will now be interest free for 12 months, rather than the 6 months that was previously announced.

Business closures
The Prime Minister further announced the closure of all Bars, Restaurants and Cafés, leisure centres and Gyms  from Friday 20th March, although restaurants and cafés can still operate to provide home delivery services. 

Working from home
Like us, many businesses are having to temporarily change the way they work, and have their employees work from home. ACAS have published some useful guidance…

Employers and employees should be practical, flexible and sensitive to each other’s situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Employers should:

  • talk to their employees and workers about working from home arrangements
  • consider which roles and tasks can be done from home – this might involve doing things differently and not assuming a role cannot be based at home
  • support employees to adjust to remote working
  • consider individual employees’ needs, for example anyone with childcare responsibilities, a long-term health condition or a disability
  • write down the arrangements that have been agreed so everyone’s clear

To help prepare their workplace, employers can: use the preparing for homeworking questionnaire from CIPD

As the spread of Coronavirus is changing by the day, it is most important that you keep up to date with the latest information and advice provided by the Government.

Wellbeing if working from home or isolating
Working from home and being isolated from others is a new experience for a lot of people, and many thrive on social interaction, so it’s important to consider your employees’ wellbeing at this time.

We are equipping all of our staff with home work stations and mobile phones, as well as utilising Skype and other channels to help us communicate with each other and with our clients. There are many ways employees can communicate, other than phone or email, such as WhatsApp group chats and Workplace from Facebook.

Mind.org also has some useful advice to help look after your wellbeing, including:


19th March 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every one of us. We would like to reassure all of our clients that we have put measures in place to provide our usual services as much as we possibly can. Our foremost responsibility is keeping our employees and clients safe, so the way we work may be different, with people working from home or unable to do site visits, but we are equipping all of our staff to be able to communicate with each other and our clients using digital solutions and a variety of channels.

This current crisis will pass and we understand the importance of keeping your business safe and ready to face the future. We will be posting regular updates on our website and social media channels, so please keep checking back. Please read our updates and advice below – specifically covering advice for employers and keeping your premises safe.

We will also be sending out news bulletins via email, not just about the current crisis, but about all of our services, and in particular, upcoming HR and employment law legislation updates. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

Remember, we are #oneoftheteam and are always on hand, as ever, whenever you need help or advice.

Keeping your premises safe

In these uncertain times many of you will be closing down your premises to work from home because of Government instruction, for an unknown period of time. As you prepare to adapt to working from home where possible, some things can easily get overlooked. Please see the reminders below.

Mains Gas
If you can, isolate the gas at the point of entry to your building. This will prevent possible leaks and the hazards that produces

Gas Cylinders
Remove from workstations to your secure storage, external if possible. If there are any cylinders that cannot be moved or your storage is not external, then ensure any hoses or regulators are removed and the cylinder head valve is closed.

Electricity
Where possible isolate and disconnect machinery and isolate any lines where the power does not run essential systems. Remember to keep fire detection systems and intruder alarms powered, along with your servers.

Water
Again, if possible, isolate. This is important if there will be no heating in the building.

Key holder information and response numbers
Ensure all key holder information is up to date, along with response names with fire and alarm monitoring companies. You may want, if you are able to, to add additional names in case people are unavailable due to isolation requirements. 

Also ensure your internal contact list is up to date and distributed.

Vehicles
Any vehicles that remain on site should be locked and parked in a secure location. You may want to move them inside if possible or park them in a tighter formation for enhanced security. Keep keys in a separate secure location.

External fuel tanks
Turned off and ensure they’re securely locked.

Compressed air systems
Turn off, vent and isolate if possible, unless they are running essential systems. If you have vented the system, it is a good idea to leave the air receiver drain open.

Site security
Ensure that if you have CCTV that you do not obstruct any cameras, and your boundary is secure. If you have remote access via a smart phone, ensure you know how the system works. If possible, periodic checks on site security should be made. 

Advice for employers

Under health and safety law, employers have a duty of care to protect employees from infectious diseases at work. Coronavirus is the most recent outbreak of disease and it is the employer’s responsibility to take precautions to prevent exposure to the disease and ensure the health and safety of employees. Developing a plan or a policy on reducing the risk of infection and what to do in the event of an outbreak is the best way to be prepared for an outbreak in the workplace. 

As employers, our own policies and procedures on the matter are under constant review, and with that so is the guidance that we are issuing to our clients. Every update from the Government, NHS, Public Health England (PHE) and Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) should be considered and, where necessary, form part of an internal review. 

Advice and updates for employers is available for employers on the Gov.uk website. Public Health England also provide useful further information via their blog “Public Health Matters” which is updated daily, and we encourage employers to keep up to date with it.

What are the symptoms of someone with coronavirus? 
The following symptoms may develop within 14 days of coming into contact with someone who is infected by COVID-19:

  • A new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly
  • A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • Difficulty breathing

Important: These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are like many other illnesses that are much more common, such as a flu or a common cold. Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

So, what to do if a member of staff displays symptoms of coronavirus?
Following the latest Government guidance, any person displaying a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should stay at home and self-isolate for 7 days. If you have employees who live with other people who are displaying the symptoms then they, and everyone else living in the house, should self-isolate for 14 days from the day of the first person having the symptoms.

For anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.

If asked to self-isolate you will find advice here.

You should not phone 111 as a first port of call any longer due to the understandable demand that this situation has put on the service. You should instead use the NHS 111 coronavirus service if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • Your condition gets worse
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

Please note that you should only phone 111 if you cannot get help online.

The NHS have asked the public not to go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. This is simply a control measure to prevent the spread of the disease. Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home. Remember to stay calm and seek the advice through the NHS 111 coronavirus service first. 

What practises can we adopt to help protect employees from infection?
At the time of writing, there is no vaccine for Coronavirus. There are two main routes by which people can spread COVID-19:

  • Infection can be spread to people who are nearby (within 2 metres) or possibly could be inhaled into the lungs.
  • It is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching a door knob or shaking hands, then touching otheir own face).

The most efficient way to prevent the infection is to avoid exposure. Maintaining and encouraging good levels of hygiene is highly important. Methods you could employ are:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. See hand washing guidance.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Other steps to explore to mitigate the risks are:

  • Risk assess your activities to help identify potential sources of exposure and formulate suitable control measures, e.g. can some face to face meetings where there is the potential to increase the risk of contact be just as easily carried out via video conference calls, or conference calls?
  • Where possible employees should be asked to work from home.
  • Encourage employees to follow Government guidance and avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres.
  • Monitor staff who have pre-existing medical conditions, pregnant workers, persons with weak immune systems etc. as further steps may be required to reduce risk.
  • Keep information to employees clear, concise and up to date – ensure effective communication.

What if I have staff returning to the UK from other countries?
It is down to the employer to assess the risk of the employee returning to work, however Government guidance should be followed on a case by case basis as the rules and guidance for each country may be different.

Self-isolation should be followed as per the above guidance should any employee display symptoms upon returning home from another country.