Furlough scheme extension and lockdown in England

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 2 November 2020. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check o the government website for updates as they happen.

Following an autumn surge in COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on 31 October, admitting the time has come to move beyond regional measures and announcing a series of further, stricter restrictions across England.

From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December people must stay at home and may only leave home for specific reasons including:

  • for education
  • for work, if you cannot work from home
  • for exercise and recreation outdoors with your household or on your own with one person from another household
  • for medical reasons, appointments or to escape injury or harm
  • to shop for food and essentials
  • to provide care for vulnerable people or volunteer

 

The impact on businesses

All non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed but click and collect services can continue.

  • Essential shops will remain open.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants must close apart from takeaway and delivery services.
  • Workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home including the manufacturing and construction sectors.
  • All child-care and educational facilities will remain open.
  • Single adult households can still form support bubbles with other households.
  • Those who are clinically vulnerable or over the age of 60, should be particularly careful to follow the rules and minimise contact with others.
  • After Wednesday 2 December, the government plan to return to a tiered basis of restrictions.

Extension of the furlough scheme

The PM also announced that the furlough scheme would be extended throughout November to December. Over the weekend further details of the extension emerged which, taken as a package, look like the most generous version of furlough we have seen to date. The key points are:

  1. Flexible furlough is retained.
  2. The government will fund the entire 80% of lost wages and the employer is only required to pay employer NICs and pension contributions.
  3. There is no longer a requirement that the employee was previously furloughed (in fact, it does not matter if the employer has not used the scheme previously).
  4. The scheme will be open to employees who were employed and on your payroll on or before 30 October.

We’re currently waiting for guidance to be published on the operation of the extended scheme, but it’s understood that this will broadly be the same as the previous furlough scheme.

Guidance on the Job Support Scheme Open and Closed was finally published late on 30 October but this has now been withdrawn. The scheme will come into operation when the furlough scheme ends. Although this is expected to be 2 December, it’s possible that this may be further extended – particularly if it is necessary to extend the period of lockdown.

Shielding

The PM also announced that, although shielding was not being fully reinstated, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable who cannot work from home should not go to work. Over the weekend the Cabinet Office published a paper stating:

“If you cannot work from home, you are advised not to go to work and may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). You are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible but are encouraged to go outside for exercise. The full new guidance will be published on Monday 2 November and the Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place.”

We’ll be sending a further update as soon as this guidance is published.

Citation with you every step of the way

We’re following the situation closely and sending out exclusive updates to our clients via email, so keep an eye on your inbox for the latest information. Plus, log in to your Atlas account to find new template letters for putting your employees on furlough.

If you want to speak to one of our experts, you can call our advice line on 0345 844 4848.

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