Coronavirus update: HR expert responds to latest Government announcements

Mar 22, 2020 | Local News

Statement from the HR Dept, Durham in response to the ever-changing coronavirus situation:

Due to our close involvement with SMEs across various sectors, we have been hearing firsthand of the devastating impact that COVID-19 is having on businesses nationwide. Many emergency measures have already been put in place and it has been reported that, sadly, millions of people are likely to lose their jobs.

Enforced closures from Friday, March 20

To further slow the spread of coronavirus, the Government has closed all cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants, although they can continue to provide take away. Also closing will be nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms. This decision is to be reviewed monthly.

Coronavirus job retention scheme

We were pleased to hear the announcement that the Government is further stepping up its rescue response with an employment and wage subsidy package. The announcement came just one day after prime minister Boris Johnson spoke directly to employers saying, “stick by your employees because we will stick by you”.

We are expecting more details to be made available in the coming days but below is what we know so far:

• Coronavirus job retention scheme – any company will be eligible and can contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but kept on payroll. This means that workers can retain their jobs and be paid at least 80% of their salary. This is up to £2,500 per month but employers can top this up if they choose. The scheme is open for 3 months but will be extended if necessary and cover the cost of wages backdated to 1st March 2020. The first grants are expected to be made available in weeks and before the end of April.
• Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme – This will now be interest free for 12 months and loans will be available from Monday.
• Further cashflow support through the tax system – The next quarter of VAT payments are deferred. No business will pay VAT from now until the end of June and have until the end of the year to repay.
• Abolishing business rates for certain sectors – Business rates are abolished this year for businesses in hospitality and leisure.
• Increasing universal credit and providing access to the self employed to pay SSP for their employees.

Advice on taking necessary steps

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s message was clear “you will not face this alone”.

Whilst this support is significant, we understand that it may not be enough to keep everyone employed. Redundancies and lay-offs can be difficult but are sometimes necessary for a business to survive. The process of letting staff go, even for a temporary period, is complicated. And the added pressure of the coronavirus pandemic can make this even more strenuous. Our HR Dept professionals are here to offer their expertise and guide employers compliantly through the process.