One of the changes to the furlough scheme announced by the Chancellor last Friday was that the scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, and so the last date on which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time is 10 June 2020 (so they can complete the minimum three week furlough period by 30 June). The Government fact sheet published following the Chancellor’s speech states that “employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three week period prior to 30 June”.

The question many of our clients are asking is: can we “re-furlough” an employee who has returned from furlough, or who returns before 30 June? Or are they treated as a “new” employee?  We are hoping that this will be clarified by a new or amended Treasury Direction but, as yet, that has not been published.

We have, however, been made aware of advice provided to one of our clients by HMRC, which confirms that employers can re-furlough employees after 30 June, as long as they were furloughed for a minimum three week period at any time prior to 30 June 2020. While this is not definitive, it is a helpful indication as to how HMRC envisages this change being applied.

Remember, too, another key change to the scheme going forward is that the total number of employees that an employer can furlough cannot exceed the maximum number for whom they have claimed previously under the scheme. It is not clear what date is relevant for these purposes, but it seems likely to be effective from 1 July.

To read our latest update on the UK Government’s announcement regarding the end of the furlough scheme, please visit MayerBrown.com.

Following our recent update on Life in the Time of Corona, Part 3: Handling Collective Consultation in the UK, we have produced a practical checklist that highlights the steps that employers should consider when handling collective consultations in the UK during these challenging times, particularly when staff are working remotely.

To download the checklist, please visit MayerBrown.com.

The UK Government has, in keeping with past practice, used the arrival of the bank holiday weekend to update the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It has now published a second iteration of the Treasury Direction, which we have reviewed. To read our commentary on the updated Direction, please visit MayerBrown.com.

It is going to be one of the sadder consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic, that most employers are going to have to look closely at whether or not to make significant job cuts to their current headcount. Whilst some employers may view this as an opportunity to recruit and acquire staff either generally or in particular areas, most employers are going to be looking at scheduling necessary headcount reductions. The news that there are more than 7 million people are currently on the Furlough Scheme has doubtless concentrated minds wonderfully at the UK Government, which is why the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of July 2020 in its current format and is then being tapered rather than a cliff ending. Presumably some of the Government’s thinking is that some employee’s jobs may be saved, and some employee’s jobs may be moved to part-time working, and to the extent that there are job losses these will be scheduled over three months rather than one horrendous month. To read the full update, please visit MayerBrown.com.

The latest guidance from BEIS, published 13 May, confirms how holiday entitlement and holiday pay is to work during the Coronavirus pandemic. The Guidance Note is informative in some areas but makes a number of quite odd suggestions in others. We must remember that it is simply guidance. An employee’s statutory rights for holiday leave and holiday pay are not affected by this, although the guidance will be of persuasive effect. It will have more impact in relation to the Furlough Scheme, where clearly employers are entitled to expect that HMRC will respect guidance put out by BEIS. To read the full update, please visit MayerBrown.com.

This update follows on from the Article we recently published on the many areas of planning that UK employers could usefully carry out in preparation for a return to work. We now have had the announcement from the Prime Minister on Sunday 10 May, and the advisory document, “New Guidance Launched to help get Brits Safely Back to Work”, published on 11 May. It sits alongside the rather longer document dealing with the strategy generally for recovery, “Our Plan to Rebuild”, and has limited information directly in relation to work matters. There are then specific guidance documents, such as Working safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres, published by BEIS, also on 11 May, which contains more practical guidance in relation to the sorts of details employers need to think about for office workers.

This update looks at the guidance that has been published and the principles that can be derived from the published guidance. It then also looks at the recent ICO guidance on workplace testing which is likely to feature in many employer’s plans for a return to work. To read the full update, please visit MayerBrown.com.

Each spring, the Pensions Regulator (“tPR”) publishes its Annual Funding Statement on what it expects for defined benefit pension scheme actuarial valuations. With the recent 2020 publication, it is of particular interest to employers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst aimed at pension schemes with valuation dates between 22 September 2019 and 21 September 2020, it is also relevant for schemes experiencing significant changes and which have to review funding and investment risk.

Continue Reading TPR Annual Funding Statement 2020

We now have a further updated Guidance Note from HMRC. On 30 April 2020, the Government produced some new guidance on the Furlough Scheme. Contrary to some of the previous guidance updates, these are broadly helpful in clarifying some areas of uncertainty.

We have written a short report on the changes, which is available from MayerBrown.com.