COVID-19: What do further restrictions in Scotland mean for you and your business?

James Richardson


COVID-19: What do further restrictions in Scotland mean for you and your business?

Written 7th October 2020.

Our HR team explore the repercussions for business following the announcement from the Scottish Government to impose a mini ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown across central Scotland.

Introduction

Who would have thought that more than 6 months after initiating a national lockdown, our lives would still be so consumed by the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic? However we have now had confirmation of further restrictions being put in place across Scotland, specifically focusing on tackling the spread of coronavirus cases in the central belt.

These restrictions are swiftly becoming part of our everyday lives, at both home and work, and the most recent announcement from the government only cements the idea that it doesn’t seem likely anything will be changing back to ‘normal’ for the foreseeable future. As we enter the winter months, where the flu and other common respiratory viruses are already likely to become more prominent, it is even more likely that government-led measures are continued or reintroduced in an attempt to slow the spread of rising Coronavirus cases.

What does it mean for you?

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of scaremongering and increased media attention in regards to a potential further lockdown and travel ban being implemented by the UK & Scottish Government. Whilst a national lockdown has not been considered necessary at present, the measures that have been introduced in Scotland this week only highlight how important it is to acknowledge the uncertain times we are all living and working in. Where possible, employers should think about any contingency plans, or steps that can be taken to ensure their business can be as prepared as possible for potential restrictions being introduced once again.

The measures taken up to this stage have had a significant impact on the economy and many business have already been dramatically affected by the pandemic – the hospitality sector has been adversely affected. In light of the continued concerns surrounding the virus, it is important to consider whether your business is prepared for the implementation of further social restrictions should they be deemed necessary.

What’s our advice for businesses?

We would recommend that employers try to utilise the schemes available to ensure they are in as strong a financial position as possible for the future.

  • Remember that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can still be utilised in full until 31 October 2020; as long as your staff were furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks prior to 30 June 2020. At present, the government contributions are 60% of staff wages (capped at £1,875) meaning employer are responsible for topping this contribution up to 80% and also for covering NI and pension costs.
  • For some, this may simply involve asking staff to use up some of their accrued annual leave. The employee should receive 100% of their contractual pay whilst on annual leave, but if the employee is eligible for furlough, 60% of annual leave costs can be reclaimed until the end of October 2020. This is a substantial saving for many business if the absence can be accommodated at present.
  • Further details of the new Job Support Scheme are expected in due course, however, this may be somewhat beneficial for employers who are able to offer some work to staff at present and expect things to improve in the near future. The scheme will open on 1st November for 6 months to all SME’s (larger companies will need to provide evidence that they have suffered financially due to COVID-19) and will be in place until April 2021, claims can be made from December 2020.
  • The Job Retention Bonus Scheme seeks to reward employers with a £1,000 payment for every employee who has been furloughed at some point but is continuously employed until the end of January 2021.To qualify for the bonus, the employee must earn, on average, above the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions (£520 per month) in the three-month tax period from 6 November 2020 to 5 February 2021. Claims for this can be made from 15 February 2021 to 31 March 2021.

It is important to ensure that any period of furlough, or any changes to your staff’s current furlough agreement, is agreed in writing and clearly filed in their employee record in case of any future disputes, or audits that may be conducted. Therefore, having the correct documentation ready for use will mean you are able to move quickly should a change in direction be required. You can download our furlough template agreement from the separate page of our website.

In addition to the above, it is also relevant for employers to consider the impact that prolonged periods of uncertainty and what can sometimes seem like a constant stream of unwelcome bad news is having on their staff’s mental health and wellbeing. Although this may seem to be of secondary importance, it is our advice to be mindful of the support you offer your employees and further information can be found in our wellbeing resources on this page of our site.

In these difficult and challenging times, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking your employees’ legal rights have changed or lessened. If you are currently about to embark on a redundancy process, please do not hesitate to talk to us for further support or you may find our Redundancy Guide helpful as you consider the options (which can be found on this page).

To discuss how we can help you, please contact us on 0141 221 2984 or email Louise McCosh, HR Director at L.McCosh@frenchduncan.co.uk

 

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Full details of how we can help you around COVID-19 / Coronavirus is available on our special page (www.frenchduncan.co.uk/covid-19) which you can access by clicking here. We will be keeping all our information updated as things progress and schemes are clarified, so please check back regularly, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn to keep informed of all the changes.

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