With so much information currently circulating regarding COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, it can be difficult to know how best to proceed as a manager or business owner.

With this in mind, we’ve consolidated the UK Government’s most recent advice to business owners, and have put together a guide for putting it into practice using your RotaCloud account.

We recommend bookmarking this post for future reference. Please note that all information is up to date as of 12/05/2020.

*Recently updated.


Government measures & advice

In the past week, the UK Government has issued advice, instructions, and information to UK businesses to help them cope with the impact of COVID-19. These have included making financial aid available via loan schemes, a statutory sick pay relief scheme, and promising to pay the majority of employees’ wages in the event that they have to be let go.

We’ll go into detail for each of these, and more, below.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

In an unprecedented move, the UK Government has announced that it will provide financial support to all UK employers, enabling them to retain staff whom they would otherwise have had to let go due to the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.

The scheme, known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allows UK employers to apply for the government to reimburse them to the value of 80% of employees’ salaries (up to the value of £2,500 per month), should they otherwise have had to let them go due to the effects of the virus. This effectively means that no UK employee should have to lose their job as a consequence of COVID-19.

If, however, you feel that you’d struggle to pay your employees’ wages between now and the time you’d be reimbursed, the Government has also set up an interest-free business loan scheme, which we’ll talk more about below.

It was announced on 12th May that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be extended until October 2020.

Who’s eligible for the scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all UK employers, but your staff will need to be on PAYE in order to claim the grant for their wages.

The scheme is open to businesses, charities, recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE), and public authorities.

How do I make a claim for support?

To claim this support from the government, employers will need to:

  1. Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’. A furlough is basically just a leave of absence. Although any staff you designate as furloughed won’t actually be coming into work, they’ll remain under your employ and on your payroll under the exact same conditions as before. Following the Government's announcement of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, we've added a new leave-type option to RotaCloud to allow managers to mark furloughed staff as such. Visit our Help Centre for more info.  
  2. Tell your employees about this change. There needs to be a clear record of this, but an email clearly telling the employee that they are on a furlough (and from what date) should suffice for now.
  3. Inform HMRC. Next, you’ll need to send the information about your furloughed  employees over to HMRC. You’ll need to tell them things like the employee’s name, National Insurance number, the date they were furloughed, and their earnings.

What calculations do I need to make to claim?

For full- and part-time workers:
Take each employee’s actual salary before tax, as of 19th March 2020, to calculate the 80% you'll be reimbursed.

For staff whose pay varies:
If the employee has been employed for a full 12 months prior to the claim, you can claim for either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year, or
  • the average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

whichever is higher.

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

If the employee only started in February 2020, use a pro-rata for their earnings so far to claim.

You'll also be asked to provide:

  • your ePAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the claim period (start & end date)
  • amount claimed
  • your bank account number & sort code
  • your contact name
  • your phone number

Bear in mind that the minimum an employee can be furloughed for is three weeks.

When can I submit a claim?

The HMRC portal went live on the 20th of April. Visit the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme website to make a claim. You'll need your 12-digit Government Gateway ID to log in to HMRC's site.

Reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP)

If your business had fewer than 250 employees on 28th February 2020, you can reclaim up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been absent from work because of COVID-19.

It’s really important, therefore, to maintain accurate records of absences, and differentiate between COVID-19 related sickness, and non-COVID-19 related sickness. More about this below.

How this repayment system will work has yet to be announced, but keep your records tidy so you’re ready when the system goes live.

Bounce Back loans

On 27th April, the government announced a new form of support for SMEs – the Bounce Back Loan scheme.

Due to launch on 4th May, qualifying businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 (or up to 25% of turnover)– and the government guarantees 100% of the loan.

Payment terms last for up to six years. During the first 12 months of the loan, no fees, interest, or repayments will be due.

The government sees this scheme as an easier way for smaller businesses to obtain finance, with only a simple form to fill in and no "forward-looking tests of business viability".

One thing to note: you can't apply for a Bounce Back loan if you've already got a business interruption loan (see below) – but if the interruption loan's value is less than £50,000, you can transfer it to a Bounce Back loan to gain all its benefits.

Business interruption loans

If short term cash flow issues are a concern, you might be able to apply for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan. These provide up to £5 million of partially government-backed loans to small and medium businesses. You can learn more about the scheme at the British Business Bank website.

Other support

All VAT payments will automatically be deferred by three months. Many small businesses in England, especially those in retail, hospitality and leisure will see business rate cuts and even grants. Your local authority will apply these measures automatically.

If you are struggling with your tax bill, the government’s Time to Pay service can help you arrange a new payment plan.

Keeping records

It’s really important that you record different types of absence accurately, particularly in the current climate.

Here are some of the types of leave you might want to record:

Furlough: A (usually unpaid) temporary absence (see above). This is a new term in UK employment.

Maternity/paternity leave.

Sick leave: Statutory sick pay (SSP) usually applies from the fourth day of a period of sickness. However, if employees are self-isolating due to COVID-19, they can receive SSP from the first day of their absence.

Dependency leave (e.g. childcare). Usually unpaid.

Lay-offs: Where you ask employees to stay at home or take unpaid leave because there isn’t enough work for them. If you don’t pay staff (or offer reduced pay) during lay-offs, this should be outlined in employment contracts.

Short-time working: Like lay-offs, but with reduced hours.

Redundancy: Permanently dismissing an employee because you no longer need them to do their job.

The measures introduced by the government reduce the need for lay-offs, short-time working, and redundancies. Instead, furloughing staff may be more appropriate.

If you use RotaCloud, you can differentiate between many types of leave when you enter it into the software. You can also add comments to further separate normal sick leave and COVID-19-related sick leave. You can then gather this information in reports for each employee.

Communicating with staff

If working remotely is new to your business, it can take some adjustment — but with today’s technology it’s easier than ever to adapt. Many businesses used cloud-based email services, file storage, HR software, and so on — which make working from home easier than ever.

Even if your team can’t work from home, it’s important to keep them up to date on what’s happening at the business. Make sure all employees know which channel to expect important announcements to come through: it could be WhatsApp, email, or a Slack channel.

Remember: if you use RotaCloud, you can send out email memos across the entire company or a subset of employees. You can also add notes to individual shifts or days, so everyone’s on the same page even when they’re working remotely.

FAQs


How do I mark an employee as furloughed in RotaCloud?
We've added 'furlough' as a new Leave type. Check out the Product Updates page in your RotaCloud account or visit the Help Centre for more info.

Can I furlough everyone?
Yes, you can. Though it should be worth noting that furloughing staff who you don’t need to furlough might complicate matters further down the line, depending on the Government's application process. Remember that furloughed employees aren't allowed to work for your business at all while they're furloughed.

Can I furlough staff on a rota basis?
Yes, you can change which staff are furloughed but the minimum furlough time is three weeks. If you wanted to furlough staff on a rota basis, you could, for example, furlough 50% of staff for three weeks and then furlough the other 50% of staff for the three weeks after that.

This approach will seem fairer to many employees, and could help boost morale.

What if I’ve already had to let staff go?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will allow claims to be backdated as early as 1st March 2020. This means that, if you’ve already had to let staff go as a result of the virus prior to this announcement from the Government, they’ll still be eligible.

How you approach this is down to you — if you’ve already started doing the paperwork, you’ll need to reinstate the employee in order to enter them into the reimbursement scheme.

How long is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme running for?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will run until October 2020 (we'll update this article with an exact date once it's been given by the UK government).

How do I send memos in RotaCloud?
Click the paper aeroplane in the top-right of RotaCloud. Visit our Help Centre for a complete guide.

Are the RotaCloud support team still available?
Absolutely! The whole RotaCloud team is currently working from home, but our support hours remain unchanged: Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm UK time.


We’ll be updating this post regularly, so check back soon for new announcements. We will also be using this space to provide practical tips and advice for RotaCloud users — showing them how to utilise the tools, features, and reports within RotaCloud to make the process of claiming support from the government during this difficult time a little bit easier.

In the meantime, take care of yourselves, and remember that we’re here to help if you have any questions or concerns about your RotaCloud account.