Coronavirus – Job Support Scheme

Employment Law Partner Paul Maynard discusses the recently announced Job Support Scheme “JSS”.

As we come into the last month of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, details have emerged from the Chancellor’s statement last week, of the scheme’s successor.  The Job Support Scheme (“JSS”) will run for six months from 1st November 2020.  Its intention is to support the wages of people in work, giving employers the option to keep employees in work on shorter hours, rather than make them redundant.

The JSS is more complex than its predecessor in that, employees will need to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours. For every hour not worked the employer and the Government (or should we say the taxpayer) will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay.  This means that employees using the JSS will receive at least 77% of their usual pay (assuming the Government’s contribution has not been capped – see below).  The idea is that the employee, the employer and the taxpayer “share the pain” equally.  Whether it is a sufficient incentive to avoid large scale redundancies remains to be seen.

The Government’s contribution is capped at £697.92 per month. It will not cover Class 1 employer National Insurance or pension contributions, which remain the responsibility of the employer. The employer will be reimbursed in arrears for the Government contribution.

The JSS is open to all employees regardless of whether they were previously furloughed under the CJRS, provided they were included on the employer’s Real Time Information submission to HMRC on or before 23 September 2020.  An approach which mirror’s the Government’s controversial cut-off date under the CJRS.  However, unlike the CJRS, the JSS is not available to employees under notice of redundancy.

The method of calculating “usual pay” is the same as under the CJRS.  For a more detailed explanation you can refer to our previous briefing note on the subject.

The minimum 33% threshold hours for which an employee must work may be increased in months 4-6 of the JSS.  Working patterns can vary, but each short-time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days.  Employers will still be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus at the end of January 2021, even if they have placed employees on short time working under the JSS.

The JSS is open to all small or medium sized businesses (those with less than 250 staff). Larger businesses will only be eligible if they can establish that their turnover has fallen during the pandemic.  In such circumstances the Government expects that they will not be making capital distributions (such as dividends) while using the JSS.

We will update our briefing note when more details of the JSS are published.

 

In the meantime, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations came into force at midnight on 27 September 2020.  The provisions that have received the most publicity are the mandatory period of self-isolation and a duty to notify the Government of those living with anyone who has been positively tested for COVID 19.   There are also some important provisions that all employers need to be aware of and which may have come in “under the radar”.

Regulation 7 makes it an offence for an employer to knowingly permit a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating.  This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive.  So if an employer knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive) the employer is obliged to prevent the worker from working (unless they can work from home).  Fines start at £1,000 but a greater risk can come from the exposure to claims for constructive dismissal or health and safety or whistleblowing related dismissals from other employees (something we have already begun to see a great deal of).

There is also an obligation on the worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating.  Any individual who breaches self-isolation will, normally, commit a separate criminal offence under Reg 11 and potentially expose themselves to dismissal for gross misconduct).

Our specialist employment team have been available to all of our clients throughout lockdown and will of course maintain those same service standards if, as appears likely, a second COVID wave and stricter lockdown measures follow.

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