Main points from the PM announcement
- PM announces national emergency.
- Everyone must stay at home except for the following very limited purposes:-
- To shop for basic necessities as infrequently as possible.
- To take one form of exercise a day e.g. walk, run or cycle ride, alone or with members of your household.
- To deal with any medical need to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- To Travel to and from work where you can’t work from home.
- Police have the power to issue fines and disperse gatherings.
- Close all non-essential shops and libraries.
- No gatherings over 2 people unless from same household.
- All social events cancelled including weddings and baptisms but excluding funerals
- Foreign Secretary tells all British travellers to return to the UK now – All British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad should return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available.
Latest Guidance (employment and business)
The latest Gov guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
As at the time of writing (9.15pm on 23rd March 2020) the only update to the above guidance was to confirm that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme is now open.
No further measures were announced by the PM today.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
How to access the scheme
You will need to:
- designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
- submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)
It is the phrase ‘changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation’ that is confusing. On the one hand the advice is just designate employees and notify them, but on the other hand you may need to negotiate/consult.
The best advice at this point is to speak to employees and ask them if they agree to be furloughed. If they do, there can be no argument in the future. You would explain that you are asking them to agree to this in order to avoid having to look at forced lay off or compulsory redundancies. If your contracts of employment contain a lay off clause you are in an even stronger position, because you have a contractual right to impose an immediate lay off period of four weeks where employees would not be paid at all. Best to do it by agreement where possible. Consider whether you offer to pay a little more to top up the wages, maybe not to 100% but 90%.
Nothing further about bringing someone out of being furloughed but I expect you could end it quite easily, if there was work to do. By necessity, I expect the scheme will probably be quite flexible.
Latest Guidance (health)
Shielding in place for 12 weeks for those that are ‘extremely vulnerable’
What do we mean by extremely vulnerable?
People falling into this extremely vulnerable group include:
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- People with specific cancers:
- people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
- people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
- People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
- People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): attendance recording for educational settings was updated today 23rd March 2020 but only to include clearer guidelines on using the spreadsheet and submitting to the online form.
Universities told not to alter applicants’ offers – After some universities altered conditional offers to unconditional the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan asked higher education providers not to change their offers to students for two weeks to maintain stability.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): apprenticeship programme response was published today – here
The general coronavirus guidance starts here:-