August 2020 – SSP & Quarantine. Redundancy Procedures
Employment Update for Small Businesses
This month, we provide clarification about SSP and when it is payable in connection with employees who are required to self-isolate. Also, as we approach the last few months of the furlough scheme, many of you will need to consider whether you are going to be able to maintain your current workforce and will have to consider redundancies. We look at the redundancy procedure but also consider some alternatives to redundancy.
Please contact me if you would like to find out a bit more about any of the subjects raised in this update or if you need any help or advice.
Please forward this email to any of your contacts who might find it of benefit.
The rules as they apply to coronavirus-related absence
There has been some confusion among employers recently, as the recent reintroduction of quarantine for people returning from Spain has been widely reported, with the press being very clear that SSP is not payable in those circumstances. But the rules on SSP were changed early in the lock-down period to clearly include those self-isolating. So what are the rules?
When is SSP due?
SSP is payable in connection with coronavirus in these circumstances:
the employee is self-isolating because they have symptoms
the employee is self-isolating because they live with someone who has symptoms, or someone in their support bubble has symptoms
the employee has been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have been in contact with someone with coronavirus and need to self-isolate
This does not include anyone who has to quarantine because they have visited a country which is not one of the exempt countries stipulated by the UK government.
When does SSP start?
The normal rules for SSP are that it starts from the fourth day of sickness absence. However, for anyone who is absent in connection with coronavirus, as set out above, it starts from the first day of absence.
Can I claim back SSP?
You can claim back SSP paid out to staff who are absent in connection with coronavirus, as set out above, but not if they are absent for any other reason.
We have been assisting with lots of redundancy programmes over the last few months and we expect that trend is likely to continue, as the furlough scheme is no longer cost neutral and as many sectors of the economy are a long way from recovery. An important part of any redundancy programme is the consultation process.
What is consultation?
It is quite simply a series of conversations with staff about redundancy proposals. It gives them the chance to ask questions about and to challenge the proposal; it should also cover ways of trying to avoid redundancies.
How can redundancies be avoided?
Consultation can sometimes throw up some interesting proposals from staff which can lead to a reduction in the number of redundancies or even cancel redundancies altogether. Staff may offer to reduce their hours as a group in order to protect jobs, they may even offer to reduce pay. You may find that some staff volunteer to be made redundant.
In the current climate, with very few job opportunities available generally, staff are much more likely to accept a reduction in their terms and conditions of employment if that means keeping their job. They are also much more likely to cause difficulties if selected for redundancy, leading ultimately to tribunal claims. So it is really important to ensure your redundancy proposal and procedures are robust.
The most important thing is to allow time to prepare the redundancy programme – a lot of thought needs to go into it, particularly if you need to select a number of staff for redundancy from a pool. Putting together appropriate, objective criteria can be very difficult.
Click here for our general guide on redundancy, but please feel free to contact us if you need more direct support.
National Minimum and Living Wage Rates
The current National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates are:
£8.72 per hour for workers aged 25 and over
£8.20 per hour for workers aged 21 to 24
£6.45 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20
£4.55 per hour for workers aged 16 and 17
£4.15 per hour for apprentices under 19 and those over 19 in their first year*
*N.B. Apprentices over 19 and who have completed at least one year are entitled to the appropriate rate for their age.