07801 250 668secretary@uckfieldchamber.co.uk

Furlough Scheme extended until October

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain open until the end of October. Chancellor, Rishi Sunak told Parliament the furlough scheme would be extended by a further four months with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary. However, from the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers expected to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.

The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July and the changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August. More specific details and information will be available before the end of the month. Businesses broadly welcomed the announcement with the British Chambers of Commerce describing it as ‘a huge relief for businesses across the UK.’

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Job Retention Scheme is a lifeline which has been hugely beneficial in helping small employers keep their staff in work, and it’s extension is welcome. Small employers have told us that part-time furloughing will help them recover from this crisis and it is welcome that new flexibility is announced today.”

Employers who fail keep workplaces COVID-secure could face prosecution

Business Secretary Alok Sharma, speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday 12 May, was joined by Sarah Albon, the chief executive of the Health and Safety Executive – which has been tasked with doing spot checks to make sure any businesses reopening are keeping staff safe. He predicted there will be a “very, very small number of workplaces” where social distancing won’t be followed safely, but said: “Employers have a duty to keep employees safe in the workplace.”

Albon said in her experience of receiving complaints about unsafe working environments, often it is the firm not understanding the rules – not maliciously trying to avoid following standards. However, she added if there was a serious breach, then it would be considered a criminal office. “We can prosecute people who fail to do the right thing,” she said.

The UK government, in consultation with industry, has released its ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible (click here to view). The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways. This sets out practical steps for businesses focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:

1. Work from home, if you can
2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
3. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible
4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

The eight guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep employees safe.

• Construction and other outdoor work – click here for guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.
• Factories, plants and warehouses – click here for guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses
• Homes – click here for guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to home environments as well as their employers
• Labs and research facilities – click here for guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments
• Offices and contact centres – click here for guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments
• Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery – click here for guidance for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services.
• Shops and branches – click here for guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
• Vehicles – click here for guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

New guidance for Safer Travel and Safer Transport Operations

New guidance published provides advice on how passengers should make journeys safely, following the publication of the government’s roadmap for the next phase of the pandemic. It urges people to consider cycling, walking or driving to help ensure there is enough capacity for those who need to travel on public transport to do so safely.

The advice sets out that if people who cannot work from home and have to travel for work, they should first consider alternatives to public transport. Those driving their own cars have been asked to avoid busy areas.

Train operators have advised customers to continue to check timetables as they continue to accommodate infrastructure improvement work and may also add further services in the light of changes to government guidance.

Testing for all workers

Eligibility for COVID-19 testing has been expanded to all workers who have to leave their home in order to work. People can self-refer, or be referred by their employer. Details can be found here.