Employment Update, June 2021

As we begin the summer and hopefully step on the road to freedom from COVID restrictions, here is an overview of issues to be aware of in the coming months.

Furlough

Please be reminded that claims for furlough days in May 2021 must be made by 14 June 2021.

The Government has produced a new template for use by employers claiming for 16 to 99 employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on or after 27 May 2021.

Please also be reminded that from 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced and employers will be asked to contribute towards the cost of their furloughed employees’ wages. To be eligible for the grant employers must continue to pay their furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they spend on furlough.

Please see below the government guidance and table setting out the reduction in grant.

The table below shows the level of government contribution available in the coming months, the required employer contribution and the amount that the employee receives per month where the employee is furloughed 100% of the time.

Wage caps are proportional to the hours not worked.

May June July August September
Government contribution: wages for hours not worked 80% up to £2,500 80% up to £2,500 70% up to £2,187.50 60% up to £1,875 60% up to £1,875
Employer contribution: employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Employer contribution wages for hours not worked No No 10% up to £312.50 20% up to £625 20% up to £625
For hours not worked employee receives 80% up to £2,500 per month 80% up to £2,500 per month 80% up to £2,500 per month 80% up to £2,500 per month

You can continue to choose to top up your employees’ wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at your own expense.

Right to Work Checks

On 12 May 2021 the Home Office confirmed that the amended COVID-19 process for right to work checks would continue until 20 June 2021. From 21 June 2021, employers will be required to revert to conducting right to work checks in line with the statutory code of practice on preventing illegal working and must either check the applicants original work documents by conducting a manual check or check the applicants right to work online.

The Government guidance confirms that employers, “do not need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had a COVID-19 adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 20 June 2021 (inclusive). This reflects the length of time the adjusted checks have been in place and supports business during this difficult time.” Employers will maintain a defence against a civil penalty if the check they have undertaken during this period was done in the prescribed manner or as set out in the COVID-19 adjusted checks guidance.

Mental Health

Whilst the success of the vaccination program is aiding a return to a work and social life for many, it is worth highlighting again the impact that this pandemic has had on employees’ mental health. There has been an acknowledged increase in mental health issues since the start of the pandemic and these show no sign of abating.

Prior to the pandemic, mental health issues were the leading cause of absence and sickness in the workplace. A report published by Deloitte in January 2020 found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. Following the pandemic, the cost of mental health issues to businesses cannot be underestimated.

The impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health is likely to be ongoing as businesses continue to operate, begin to return or implement and adapt new working patterns. Sanctus – a provider of support and assistance with mental health in the workplace have found that:

Only around 13% of employees say that they’d feel comfortable discussing a mental health issue in the workplace, and yet 89% of those who say they struggle with a mental health issue also say that it directly impacts their work.

What can employers do?

In 2017, the mental health charity MIND was commissioned by the Government to conduct an independent review of mental health at work. Their report – Thriving at Work- set out six mental health core standards for employers.

These six mental health core principles are:

    • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
    • Develop mental health awareness among employees
    • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
    • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for development
    • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
    • Routinely monitor employee mental health and well-being

To assist in implementing these core principles MIND have provided Wellness Action Plans for employers to use to support the mental health of their employees.

Whilst it is difficult to anticipate the long-term effect of the pandemic on employees’ mental health at this time, employers are encouraged to take a proactive approach to help in supporting employees’ mental health, which will aid in reducing absence and maintaining a healthy workforce and simultaneously lessen the risk of litigation.