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Covid-19 update: Government guidance changed on 19 July 2021 - we're currently updating our information in response to this. In the meantime, visit the government's guidance on lifting restrictions.

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Working with staff

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How to support and manage staff during covid-19 and the key government schemes available to employers.

On this page you will find both practical tips for making sure staff can stay safe and well, along with an explanation of relevant government policies and financial support. It is aimed primarily at senior leaders in voluntary organisations who have responsibility for human resources and employee engagement but may be useful for any manager. 

Working from home

Supporting staff to work from home

  • Employers have a legal duty of care to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff when working from home. This also includes making sure that there are reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.
  • It is good practice for your organisation to have a written record of your approach to home working and make sure this is applied consistently for all staff. You should build in flexibility to respond to individual circumstances such as caring responsibilities. You should seek to actively involve staff and any recognised trade union in developing your approach. 
  • A new covid-19 variant, known as Delta, is spreading in some parts of England. Some staff may be based in one of these areas. If this is the case, you may want to consider any additional support needs such as support to cope with increased anxiety, flexible working to allow for twice weekly or surge testing. 
  • Acas have developed advice and resources to help organisations set up and manage staff working from home. Read the Acas guidance on working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published a range of resources for employers to enable their staff to work from home or work more flexibly. They include a home working questionnaire to plan what preparations and next steps are needed.
  • Employers should provide equipment which enables staff to work effectively from home. This could include allowing staff to borrow equipment from the office. If doing so, employers are responsible for the equipment and technology they give employees. You can follow guidance from Acas on providing equipment and technology including the duties of both employers and employees.
  • Where possible, provide flexibility to staff to work from home. This could include:
    • additional flexibility in working hours
    • relaxing ‘core hours’
    • coordinating cross-organisational times where staff are not expected to be available or in meetings
    • setting expectations of keeping in touch with team members and managers - for example through a different pattern of team meetings. 
  • Holding remote meetings can be difficult. CAST has developed a practical guide to remote meetings.  

Considering longer-term changes to working arrangements

  • As national lockdown restrictions ease (as outlined in the government’s roadmap), employers may want to consider longer-term changes to working arrangements.
  • Employers and employees may have found benefits in working from home such as: 
    • increased productivity
    • a healthier work-life balance
    • improved job satisfaction.
  • Some employees may wish to continue to work from home part or all of the week even when workplaces fully re-open. 
  • Employees can make an informal request for flexible working or if they are eligible by law they can make a formal request. Read Acas’s guidance to check if you are right to make a formal request.
  • Note that working from home may not benefit all employees, so it is important to maintain communication about this on an individual basis.
  • Employers and managers should: 
    • encourage and be open to conversations around flexible working arrangements 
    • think about what jobs can be done flexibly 
    • work with employees to find a solution that works for both where possible. 
  • For HR guidance on flexible working, Croner, an NCVO trusted supplier, has a HR and employment law helpline available to all voluntary sector organisations, free of charge. Call 0844 561 8133.

Tax and benefits implications of working from home and supporting staff

Supporting staff not working at home 

  • Where employees must attend their workplace, the employer should make sure that the risk of covid transmission is minimised. Learn more on our Knowhow page: managing covid risk.
  • Staff needing to attend their workplace may experience worries about how this may affect them and the people they live with or care for. The mental health charity Mind has issued guidance to help with understanding these feelings and tips for taking care and finding the right support.
  • Staff in essential worker roles, such as those working in health, care, emergency and education roles face a range of physical and mental health risks. Our Frontline offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text, from trained volunteers. You will also find a range of resources, tips and ideas to look after your mental health. 

Supporting staff wellbeing

Supporting staff who are clinically vulnerable

  • Certain groups of people are at higher risk of covid-19. There are two levels of higher risk:
  • Under the government’s roadmap out of national lockdown in England, people at higher risk should not go into work, unless they have to.
  • As of 1 April 2021, people who are clinically vulnerable are no longer advised to shield.  
  • Those who are clinically vulnerable should continue to take extra precautions including: 
    • keeping the number of social interactions low 
    • limiting the amount of time spent in a setting where social distancing requirements cannot be maintained.
  • If someone has a disability or a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for them to do their job, they may be able to get help from the government’s Access to Work scheme. This might cover extra travel costs if you have been told to not use public transport, additional personal protective equipment or additional remote support services, such as video remote interpreting or British Sign Language interpreting.

Supporting staff and covid-19 vaccinations

Self-isolating due to covid-19 symptoms or exposure and sick pay

  • Staff should immediately self-isolate at home for at least 10 days if:
    • they have symptoms of covid-19 or have received a positive covid-19 test result
    • someone in their support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive
    • they have been told to, by the NHS ‘test and trace’ service.
  • Staff should self-isolate at home for 10 days from when their symptoms started. Anyone in their household must also self-isolate for 10 days. This should be the case even if they have received one or more doses of the covid-19 vaccine. See guidance about households with possible or confirmed coronavirus symptoms on GOV.UK.
  • If staff develop symptoms of covid-19, they should arrange to have a PCR test if they have not already had one. Staff should stay at home whilst waiting for a home self-sampling kit, a test site appointment, or a test result. See circumstances in which staff can leave home.  
  • It is a legal obligation on workers to notify their employer if they are required to self-isolate when they are due to work anywhere other than the place they are required to self-isolate. They must do this as soon as reasonably practicable and before they are next due to start work within the isolation period. The rules also apply to agency workers who must tell either their employer, their employment agency or their principle. Whoever is informed by the agency worker must pass the information onto the other two parties. Any worker who fails to do so will face a fine of at least £1,000.
  • Similarly, it is a legal obligation for employers who are aware of the requirement of a worker to self-isolate to not knowingly allow them to attend any place other than where the worker is required to self-isolate, for any purpose related to the worker's employment.  Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine of at least £1,000. It is advisable for employers to keep a record of the worker’s reported self- isolation records and dates they attend the workplace.
  • Employees who self-isolate are entitled to sick leave and statutory sick pay from the first day they are absent from work if:
    • they have coronavirus
    • they have coronavirus symptoms
    • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
    • they have been advised to stay at home by a doctor because of underlying health conditions
    • they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
    • they've been told to self-isolate by a government 'test and trace' service.
  • If you have been told to self-isolate because of covid-19 and cannot work from home, you might be able to get a payment of £500. To claim: 
    • you must be employed or self-employed
    • you must make the claim within 28 days of of your first day of self-isolation.
  • To learn more, Acas has issued guidance on sick pay for self-isolation during coronavirus
  • If you're an employer, you may be eligible to use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to claim back employees' coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Employers can learn more in HMRC guidance and they can check online if they are eligible
  • Croner, an NCVO trusted supplier, has an HR and employment law helpline available to all voluntary sector organisations, free of charge.  Call 0844 561 8133.

Planning international travel 

  • If you are planning to travel internationally, you should check what you need to do in order to do so. You need to check entry restrictions, testing or quarantine requirements. Read the guidance to plan for your travel on GOV.UK.
  • If you live in England and have had 2 doses of the vaccine you will be able to demonstrate your covid vaccination status using an app or letter to enter some countries or territories.
  • If you are returning to England, what you are required to do before you return depends on whether you are returning from a red, amber or green listed country. Find out how to prepare to return to the UK on GOV.UK.
  • If you break the quarantine rules, you may face a penalty of up to £10,000.
  • Employees are not entitled to statutory sick pay if they're self-isolating after returning from holiday or business travel and they cannot work from home.
  • Employers have discretion to grant unpaid leave for emergency travel. For details on this and other employment rights issues read Acas’ guidance on self isolating after returning to the UK.

Meeting your equality duties as an employer

Coronavirus job retention scheme (furloughing)

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) gives employers access to support from HMRC to continue paying wages and avoid laying off staff or making them redundant due to the covid-19 pandemic. The scheme was introduced in March 2020 and has now been extended until 30 September 2021. 
  • The CJRS will reimburse 80% of salary (to a cap of £2,500 per month). As of 1 July 2021 the level of the grant has been reduced and employers have to contribute 10% towards the hours their staff do not work. This will increase to 20% in August and September 2021.  Find out more information about proposed changes to CJRS on GOV.UK.
  • Employers do not need to have used the CJRS previously to access the extended scheme. Employers can claim for employees who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 31 October 2020. 
  • Any of the following can be put on furlough whether they work full or part time: 
    • Employees 
    • Workers
    • Agency workers
    • Those on zero hour contracts 
    • Apprentices 
  • Employers can also furlough those who are temporarily unable to work because: 
    • they are clinically extremely vulnerable
    • they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus.
  • Find out which employees you can put on furlough on GOV.UK.
  • Employers can flexibly furlough employees. This means they can work for any amount of time and any work pattern.  They cannot work for you when they have been recorded as being on furlough.
  • Furloughed staff can do volunteer work as long as it is for another employer or organisation. For a detailed overview of what furloughing means for those who want to volunteer or take on volunteers, please read our blog on furloughing and volunteering
  • Furloughed staff can do training to keep their skills and learning up to date. 
  • If only some employees are furloughed, consideration should be given to capacity and demand. You must be careful not to discriminate and to make furloughing decisions based on roles, not on personal characteristics. It may be appropriate to use a similar selection process as in a redundancy situation. 
  • Public sector organisations and organisations receiving public funding specifically for salary costs are expected to continue to use that funding for salary costs rather than furloughing staff.  
  • Read detailed government guidance to find out what happens when your employees are on furlough.
  • Get the last update on the CJRS from HR Services Partnership, one of our Trusted Suppliers.  

              Annual leave and furlough

              • Employees on furlough continue to build up:
                • statutory holiday entitlements 
                • additional holiday provided under their employment contract.
              • While on furlough employees can take holiday without disrupting the terms of their furlough. For example, if an employee is on furlough for four weeks and takes five days holiday during that furlough period, the start and end dates of that furlough period remain the same and will not be extended by five days. 
              • Employees on furlough can request holiday through the usual channels at work. 
              • Workers on furlough must get their usual pay in full, for any holiday they take while on furlough.
              • Standard notice requirements still apply if:
                • requesting an employee to take holiday
                • refusing a request for holiday. 
              • If requiring an employee to take holiday during furlough, consider any restrictions the employee is under. For example, social-distancing or self-isolation would prevent them from enjoying leisure time - a fundamental purpose of holiday. 
              • As of 27 March 2020, the law changed regarding carrying over annual leave into the next calendar year.   
              • Employees can now carry annual leave forward into the next two years.  This is the case where the impact of covid-19 meant it was not ‘reasonably practicable’ to take leave in that year. Check what can be considered ‘reasonably practicable,’ on the GOV.UK website. 
              • For more information on holiday entitlement and pay during covid-19, refer to the government guidance.
              Page last edited Jun 21, 2021

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