NFU Scotland | /guidance-for-employers.aspx

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Guidance for Employers


I employ people, what should I be doing?

On Monday 23 March, the UK and Scottish Government called on all workers who can work from home, to do so. Non-essential businesses have been asked to close to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.

Where working from home is impossible, employers are being asked to truly consider whether staff are required and what processes can be introduced to make them as safe as possible.

It is still important to keep up to date with new information regarding your responsibilities as an employer, including what support they will be eligible for.

Advice for employers is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19


My staff cannot work from home, what should I do?

If your staff cannot work from home, it is important to consider the following questions:

  1. Is my business and work essential to produce food for the food supply chain or contribute to a wider national benefit to tackle coronavirus?
  2. Can I implement the necessary precautionary measures to ensure my staff can carry out their work safely? This may include (and is not limited to): social distancing and the provision of hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser etc.
  3. Can I implement protective measures in the workplace, for example social distancing, whilst adhering overarching health and safety regulations?

If you have answered NO to any of the above questions, employers are being urged to ask their staff not to attend work.

My employees are essential and must attend work, what should I do?

Employers must consider if they require their workers on site seriously. If your employees are essential, employers are advised to keep up to date with current government advice and to refer their employees to this guidance if they are concerned about their individual risk.

Scottish Government guidance is available here:  https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-business-and-social-distancing-guidance/

UK Government guidance can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19


What Good Practice Measures Can I Implement?

Good practice for employers is to:

  • Regularly review whether your work is essential and requires staff or actioning; it may be possible to delay certain jobs by a few weeks,
  • Understand the correct procedure to manage staff who go into self-isolation and potential implications for sick pay,
  • Make sure you, and any managers you may have, know how to spot the symptoms of COVID-19 and know the relevant process in dealing with this, 
  • Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date,
  • Consider if any travel or meetings are necessary and try to arrange remote meetings instead,
  • Minimise the risk of COVID-19 impacting your workforce by: 
    • Keeping everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace, 
    • Consider extra precautions for staff who may more vulnerable to COVID-19, for example if someone is pregnant, aged over 60 or has a long-term health condition,
    • Make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, encourage all staff to wash their hands regularly for more than 20 seconds and provide hand sanitiser for staff and encourage them to use it.
  • Keep up to date with latest coronavirus advice.

Social distancing guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-business-and-social-distancing-guidance/

My employees need to travel for work, what can I do to assist them?


If you’re employee must travel for their work, you may wish to consider the following letter format:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

ESSENTIAL TO TRAVEL TO WORK
 
I am writing to confirm that the person in possession of this letter is employed by (enter business name and location|).
The First Minister has been clear that food production is part of our critical national infrastructure and should continue where it is necessary and where it can continue safely in line with social distancing.

We want to assure you that this letter is not being issued to all our employees. It is only being issued to employees who are absolutely essential to the ongoing operation of our business so that we can continue to produce food.

This individual is a key part of our business and is essential to our ability to produce food.  We have therefore requested that they are still required to travel to work.

Should you have any questions, whether this is confirmation of their name and they are in fact employed by the business, please do not hesitate to contact me on (enter telephone number).
 
Yours sincerely
 
(Enter Name)
(enter position in the business)


Please click below to download the letter templates

Farm Worker Movement Letter

Key Workers Movement Letter

I have asked my employee to stay away from work, what should I be doing?

If you have asked your employee to stay away from work, for example because they have returned from an affected area, they will be entitled to their usual pay unless there is an express contractual right to suspend without pay in these circumstances.

I have a worker who has self-isolated, what should I be doing?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, new Regulations known as The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force on 13 March and will remain in place for 8 months.

These changes alter the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 and means employees who have self-isolated in accordance to guidance published by the Public Health Bodies in Great Britain and are unable to work will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

This means that SSP is extended to employees who are self-isolating with a symptom of COVID-19 for 7 days in accordance with Public Health Advice.

I have an employee who is self-isolating, how does this fit with the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Order?

The Scottish Agricultural Wages Board have advised that an employer has some discretion in terms of whether to pay if the employee is not actually unwell.

If the worker is not unwell but has been told to self-isolate in accordance with government guidance then they are still entitled to SSP.

If the worker has no symptoms, are genuinely well and have not been told of any reason why they would have to self-isolate (for example by NHS 24) then the situation must be considered on a case by case basis whether it is appropriate to pay the employee sick pay or not.

It is vital that the first port of call should be to have a conversation with your employee and seek legal advice if you are unsure about how to proceed.

I have an employee who is absent from work because they have contracted COVID-19, what should I do?

As per any other illness, Scottish agricultural workers are entitled to Agricultural Sick Pay (ASP) through the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Order.

Workers must qualify for ASP and it is not paid for the first three days of absence.

For more information regarding ASP, please refer to the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Order (no.66) 2019, available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-agricultural-wages-board/

If you have any questions regarding Agricultural Wages Order, contact the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (see key contacts).

Please note, as of 1 April 2020, the new Wages Order will take into effect. The 67th Order is available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/agricultural-wages-scotland-twenty-fourth-edition-guide-workers-employers/

It is vital to keep up to date with information from the UK and Scottish Governments regarding when it is safe for your employee to come back to work and seek medical recommendations from NHS 24 or your employees’ GP.

What can I do if an employee needs time off work to look after a dependent?

The UK Government states employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them in case of an emergency. This applied to situations related to COVID-19.

Further advice is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19#what-to-do-if-an-employee-needs-time-off-work-to-look-after-someone

Is there support available to business paying sick pay to employees?

On 11 March the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Government will reimburse smaller employers (less than 250 employees) any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) that they pay to employees for the first 14 days of sickness due to COVID-19.

More information about eligibility for the scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-who-are-paying-sick-pay-to-employees

What can I do if employees refuse to work?

Employees may be anxious about the risks of being exposed to COVID-19 at work or through traveling to work. Normally, if an employee is refusing to come to work, there would be no legal obligation to pay and it would be treated as a disciplinary matter. However, it is recommended that employers have a conversation with their workers to understand their position and direct concerned employees to the Public Health advice.

It is vital to consider the individual circumstances of each case and explore practical ways around the problem. Seek legal advice if you are concerned about any aspect of your process.

What financial support is available for my businesses to pay my workers during COVID-19?

The UK Government has issued guidance for both employers and workers, available here:

Two support packages directly related to providing support for employers include:

  1. Statutory Sick Pay Refund,
  2. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.


What is the Statutory Sick Pay Refund?

This support is available to businesses who are paying sick pay to employees who are absent due to COVID-19. The support is available to businesses who have fewer than 250 employees. Businesses will be able to reclaim expenditures for any employees who has claimed SSP due to COVID-19 if the correct qualifying procedure has been implemented.
More information, including the eligibility criteria, is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-who-are-paying-sick-pay-to-employees

Please note that there is no repayment mechanism currently in place.


What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The scheme is for people who would otherwise be laid off during this crisis. It is designed to safeguard workers being made redundant. All businesses are eligible.

This scheme does not apply for:

  • Self-employed people, or
  • People who get any income from being self-employed.

This scheme is available to workers who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the payroll. These workers are classified as ‘furloughed’ workers and cannot conduct any work for their employer whilst classified as ‘furloughed’.

Through this scheme, HMRC will reimburse 80% of the employees' average wages, capped at £2,500 per month. It will include the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.

The scheme will cover the costs of wages backdated to 1st March and will be initially open for 3 months. Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period.

More information is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Who is eligible for the Job Retention Scheme?

Detailed information is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme


I have a worker who is absent from work due to Coronavirus, are they eligible to be furloughed?

  • If you have a worker who is currently absent from work because they are self-isolating, they will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay,
  • If you have a worker who is currently absent from work because they are ill, they will be may be eligible for Agricultural Sick Pay.

Following a period of self-isolation or sick leave, it is possible to furlough workers.

More information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

I have a Worker Shielding in Line with Public Health Guidance, what can I do?

If you have workers who have been told by Public Health Authorities, they must shield themselves from the virus, it is possible to furlough workers.

More information is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

How Do I Claim Via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

This is a temporary scheme open to all employers for at least 3 months starting from 1st March 2020. It is anticipated that the scheme will be available at the end of April, so it is not yet live.

More information is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

What is a Furloughed Worker?

A furloughed worker is a specific status of worker which allows their employer to request financial support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.


Who is Eligible to be Furloughed?

Detailed information to consider if an employee is eligible to be furloughed is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Key things to note include:

  • Employer and workers must come to agreement to furlough first,
  • Employers must apply


How does a Worker become Furloughed?

The decision to furlough a worker must be through agreement between the employee and worker. Employers will need to:

  • Select and tell (designate) the employees affected that they are furloughed,
  • Keep these employees on to employer’s payroll.

Importantly, the employer and employee must come to an agreement to do this, and furloughed workers must be selected to avoid any discrimination.


How do I come to a Furlough Agreement?

Any furlough agreement will overlay an existing contractual agreement between the employer and worker. Therefore, any existing agreements remain intact.

To start this process, it is a good idea to start with an open and honest conversation explaining the reasons you have come to the decision to furlough the worker. Any furlough agreements should be made in writing, it is a good idea to include information such as:

  • When the date of the furlough starts,
  • When it will be reviewed,
  • How to keep in contact during furlough.

It’s important to note that the worker will must remain on the employer's payroll during furlough and they are unable to work for this employer during furlough. Further, it is important to consider how to manage accrued holidays during this time, and how to manage this upon the workers return to work.

More information is available from ACAS here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/if-the-employer-needs-to-close-the-workplace

More information is available from the UK Government here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme




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