BREAKING NEWS: Furlough Scheme extended by four months

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BREAKING NEWS: Furlough Scheme extended by four months

Key Contact: Christian Farrow

Author: Chris Doherty

This afternoon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak confirmed that the Coronavirus Job Retention (“Furlough”) Scheme will be extended to October. Employees unable to work due to the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak will continue to receive 80% of their monthly wages up to £2,500.

Mr Sunak confirmed that, from August, the scheme would introduce “greater flexibility to support the transition back to work”, including the ability to bring furloughed employees back on a part-time basis. It was also confirmed that businesses would be encouraged to “share the cost” of the Furlough Scheme. It is not yet clear exactly how the Scheme will be modified, or in what way firms will be expected to contribute going forward.

New guidance on returning to work safely

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday that those in England who cannot work from home are encouraged to return to work, the Government has issued guidance to help employers and workers operate safely, and to help businesses become “COVID-secure”.

There are 8 guides in total, which cover a range of different workplaces and types of work including: construction and outdoor work; factories, plants and warehouses; labs and research facilities; offices and contact centres; working in others’ homes, restaurants (offering takeaway or delivery); shops and branches; and working in vehicles. The full guidance documents can be found here.

We would encourage business-owners, employers and workers to consider in full those guides which are relevant to them; this may mean considering multiple guidance documents if the business operates across a number of different workplaces.

We have summarised below some of the key themes set out in the guidelines.

Social distancing: This should be adhered to wherever possible, and may include staggering shifts, minimising contact with outsiders, operating a “one-way system”, adopting 2m distance markers, updating the layout of break rooms, and minimising congestion at entrances and exits. Those who can work from home should continue to do so, and remote meetings are encouraged wherever possible.

Managing transmission: In situations where social distancing is not possible, steps should be taken to minimise transmission of the virus. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be considered in some instances. Other protective steps include erecting barriers between staff/customers, encouraging contactless or online payments, operating in “fixed teams”, and minimising face-to-face contact points.   

Hygiene practices: Reinforced cleaning processes are encouraged, including regular, thorough cleaning of surfaces, equipment and door handles. Staff, customers and visitors should be reminded of the hygiene guidance, and a template “hygiene notice” has been included in the Government’s guides.

Risk assessments: Employers should carry out COVID-19 risk assessments to establish the protective measures required to operate safely and to minimise transmission. Employers are encouraged to publish the results of their risk assessments on their website (particularly those with over 50 employees).

The above guidance comes in light of the phased reopening of parts of the English economy. Wales and the other devolved nations are not, at this stage, actively encouraging people to return to work, although the guidance documents will provide some insight to Welsh businesses on the steps they may need to take in future.

Please see our daily updated Financial Support Guide for Businesses for further information- COVID-19 FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES

For more information on any of the points raised, please contact our corporate team.

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