NAJ News

Coronavirus Advice (part six) from NAJ

26 Mar 2020

fusion-medical-animation-NAJ

Image: Fusion Medical Animation 

The government today released much-needed clarity on furloughed workers, as well as information on the support available to self-employed and others not on PAYE. 

The mitigation package for the self-employed and freelance workers from the Chancellor of the Exchequer was welcomed by NAJ, as many in our sector are not on PAYE. 

The Self-Employed income support scheme offers a taxable grant of 80% of average monthly earnings over the last three years, up to a ceiling of £2,500, and covers around 95% of the self-employed. 

This will be available for three months initially, and those eligible will be able to claim and, importantly, continue to do business. 

The scheme is open to those with trading profits of up to £50K who are making the majority of their income through self-employment, but as a fraud prevention measure, only those with a 2019 tax return will be eligible. 

The scheme will accessible from the beginning of June, and HMRC will contact individuals directly to inform them of how to access the support. 

This is in addition to a job protection package now available for all, including free cash grants for all businesses of up to £25K.

Coronavirus financial support for business

 

Access to the Job Retention Scheme (JRS)  

All UK businesses are eligible as long as they: 

  • Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’ – this term is yet to be legally defined 
  • Notify those employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation 
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings. This will be through a new online portal – HMRC will set out further details on the information required. 

How businesses should prepare – the financials 

  • Set up the payroll with a furloughed pay element to identify the amounts for reclaim 
  • Calculate furloughed pay based on the 12 weeks up to the end of February. Use regular basic pay but not overtime or bonuses. Please note: This is our estimate of the likely period for assessment – details still to be confirmed by the Government. 
  • For employees off sick during that 12 weeks, base furloughed pay on the amounts excluding sick pay 
  • Assume this is still pay and that PAYE tax and NIC deductions will be due, albeit that  payments to HMRC are likely to be deferred 
  • This is a grant that reimburses the business, so cash flow could still be an issue. A bank facility or loan may be required to fund these payments prior to reimbursement. 

Practical step by step process 

  1. Identify those employees ‘at risk’ and earmarked for lay-off 
  2. Analyse pay from the last 12 weeks up to the end of February (estimated timeframe, government still to confirm) 
  3. Establish base pay that qualifies for 80% furloughed grant 
  4. Identify employees where £2,500 cap will apply 
  5. Calculate additional pay required to get to ‘normal’ pay 
  6. Model options to manage any top up outside of the grant 
  7. Identify employees required to remain in employment 
  8. Model options to flex remuneration for those employees not furloughed, including establishing new ‘base’ pay in line with national minimum wage and employment related loans 
  9. Commence communication with all affected employees including illustrations of proposed payments 
  10. Obtain employee/union buy-in 
  11. Implement changes to payroll and pay elements 
  12. Prepare application to HMRC 
  13. Register and log-on to new HMRC portal (timing TBC) 
  14. Submit required information to HMRC 
  15. Receive reimbursement via new system. 

Additional considerations 

When are employees entitled to SSP? 

  • If an employee is displaying coronavirus symptoms, they should stay home and will be eligible for SSP; this will be for the whole 14 days and not from the fourth day onwards as is usually the case for SSP 
  • If an employee is in a vulnerable group, has returned from high risk country or been in contact with a confirmed case or person displaying symptoms, they should stay home or be sent home and will also be entitled to SSP 
  • If an employee is in the same household as someone who is displaying symptoms, they should stay home for 14 days and will be entitled to SSP 
  • If an employee chooses to self-isolate and does not fall into any of the above categories, the employer does not have to pay them as this is a personal decision the employee is making 
  • If an employee is not displaying symptoms, in a vulnerable group, or living with someone displaying symptoms but is told to go home or not come in, for example because the whole business is shutting temporarily, they are entitled to full pay unless the employer has a short time working/lay off clause in their contracts, as this is a business decision the employer is making 

What happens if we have to close the business? 

If the employer shuts the business and tells staff who are ready and able to work not to come into work, it is the employer that is not providing work for them. The employer would have to continue to pay them in full pay unless there is a shortage of work/lay off clause in their contracts and the employees have signed their contracts. 

Enforcing use of holiday entitlement 

Businesses are permitted to require employees to take any paid holiday entitlement they have, but must give notice of twice the length of the period of holiday they are being required to take. 

Source: Retail Sector

 

Are all employers in the UK eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme? 

Yes, all UK businesses are eligible to participate. The government has specified that the scheme will apply to any employer in the UK, irrespective of whether it is small or large, charitable or not for profit. 

What do employers need to do? 

The employer will need to designate affected employees as “furloughed workers,” and notify employees of this change. We anticipate that the employer will then need to provide certain details to HMRC through a new online portal (the details of which are yet to be released). 

How does this work? 

HMRC will administer the scheme and will make the reimbursement payments to employers. They are setting up an online portal and new systems to do so, of which we await details. It is currently anticipated that the grants will be made within weeks and before the end of April although the timing remains to be confirmed. 

If the business needs short term cash flow support, they may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan. 

What happens during the period of furlough leave? 

The crucial point here is that the employee will not be able to undertake any work for their employer during the period in which they are on furlough. The aim of the scheme is to support workers who would otherwise be facing redundancy or unpaid layoff. This means that furloughed workers must stop working immediately. If an employer still wants an employee to perform certain aspects of their role or some of their duties, the scheme will not be suitable. 

What is the difference between a furloughed worker and a “laid off” worker? 

This is a good question and the terminology being used can be confusing. Many people assume that being “laid off” means that the employment has been terminated and the employee has lost their job permanently. However, under UK employment law the term “lay off” actually indicates a temporary period of not working. This is generally unpaid (subject to the right to guarantee payments) and the employee remains employed throughout the period of lay off. 

In reality, lay off and being a “furloughed worker” appear to be the same concepts. In both cases the employee will not be undertaking any work for the employer for a period of time, but their employment will be continuing. The crucial difference is that, under the new government scheme a furloughed worker will remain paid during this period. Laid off workers are usually not paid. 

Does the employee have to consent to being a furloughed worker? 

The answer is that it depends on a number of factors including: 

  • the employment contract 
  • the kind of work the employee does and if pay depends in part on the employee being able to work (such as sales staff earning commission on sales or placements) 
  • if the employer is topping up to full pay. 

Advice should be sought on your specific situation. However, in broad terms, a payment of less than 100% of wages will normally represent a unilateral change to an employee’s contractual terms. Such a change would need consent unless the employer was going to follow a longer route for trying to force a contractual change. 

In practice, we think employees are likely to accept furloughed status. For most, it will be a more desirable outcome than a redundancy situation. 

The situation may be more straightforward if the employer is topping up the employee’s wages to 100%. In this case, there often won’t be a breach of contract by reason of a unilateral reduction of wages (unless there is a right to work). 

Employees have a legal right to be paid but only a limited number of employees have a right to work, and it’s generally limited to those employees whose earnings are dependent upon them working, for example those who need to work in order to earn commission. However provided that your employees don’t fall within the category of employees who have a right to work, then sending an employee home on full pay won’t generally be a breach of contract. Therefore for these employees you should be able to impose furlough leave. 

Could an employer enhance the scheme to offer their employees an increased payment? 

Yes. Employers are not obliged to do so but they could, of course, opt to top up the scheme for an employee. The government and trade unions will encourage employers to pay 100% of wages wherever possible, albeit this is not compulsory. 

There are aspects of the scheme about which we await more clarification and we anticipate that HMRC will be publishing further guidance in the coming days. Some burning questions include: 

  • What precisely are “wage costs”? 
  • How will deductions such as NI and pension contributions be managed? 
  • How will this affect employees already off sick or self-isolating? Can they be re-designated as furloughed? 
  • To what extent can this scheme be backdated? The government has said that it will run from 1 March 2020 which is nearly 3 weeks before the announcement. 

NAJ’s Employment helpline can give further advice including sample letters.

Please read the current government guidance ‘Covid-19 – Support for businesses’ 

 

HiUp JET Certificate

NAJ Education

In a further step to support the Jewellery Community, the NAJ is offering free access to its online JET Essentials programme, as many members consider the implications of the Coronavirus pandemic on their business. 

The programme, which is designed to give students a strong grounding and appetite to progress in their own jewellery journey, is a precursor to the well-respected JET Certificate and Diploma and promises to help develop confidence to better serve the needs of the customer in the future.

Enrol onto free JET Essentials Module

 

Security 

Due to the UK Government forcing stores to close, there is a strong possibility that Customer/Card Holder Not Present fraud may increase. We would therefore urge members to be EXTRA VIGILANT when dealing with such enquiries and remind themselves of the most recent scams published in the attached Alerts. Members are still encouraged to report any suspicious or fraudulent activity to SaferGems via 07702099483.

 

Hallmarking arrangements during temporary closure of Assay Offices  

The pandemic has caused many disruptions to business across the U.K. The UK Assay Offices have of course been similarly affected and from the end of today, all four Offices will be closed for at least three weeks. Any business that requires product hallmarking or needs advice should contact the Assay Office they usually use and guidance will be provided. 

The British Hallmarking Council is maintaining an overview of the situation and further information will be issued when Government restrictions are lifted. 

Follow the links below if you need to get in touch with them.

Birmingham  (or call 0121 236 6951)

Edinburgh 

London

Sheffield

 

Commercial insurance 

Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19. 

However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy). 

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. 

 

Notifiable diseases 

Notifiable diseases are certain infectious diseases that registered medical practitioners have a statutory duty to notify the ‘proper officer’ at their local council or local health protection team about when they come across a suspected case. 

The government keeps an updated list of notifiable diseases. On 5th March 2020, the government added COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases. 

Many insurers use diseases on this list as triggers for the activation or exclusion of insurance cover. For example, insurers’ policies that cover notifiable diseases will typically only cover a specific subset of notifiable diseases (such as Cholera or Anthrax) that the insurer will reference in the policy documentation. These policies will exclude any notifiable disease that's not on the insurers' list, as well as future/unknown diseases (such as COVID-19). The price that the insurer charges for the policy is modelled against the risk posed by this set list of diseases. 

 

Unspecified notifiable diseases 

Some businesses will have purchased add-ons for their insurance that cover for ‘unspecified notifiable diseases’. These policies effectively cover any disease listed as a notifiable disease, enabling the business to claim for losses for all notifiable diseases as well as from diseases that are unknown at the point the policy is written. 

The effect of the government adding COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases is to ensure that businesses with unspecified notifiable disease cover are able to make a claim – subject to the terms and conditions in their policy. For example, someone infected with COVID-19 may need to have been on the premises.

 

Government ordered closure 

The government asked a number of different businesses and venues to remain closed from 21 March onwards. 

Insurers have agreed that this advice is sufficient for businesses covered for COVID-19 losses to make a claim (if the only barrier to them making a claim was a lack of clarity on whether the government had ordered businesses to close). As such, intervention by the police or any other statutory body is no longer required to trigger cover in the current circumstances. 

However, most businesses’ commercial insurance policies (including for denial of access) are unlikely to offer cover for COVID-19. Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. 

There might be some better news here but as always it will come down to speaking with the insurance company and checking all the relevant clauses. 

 

Your Views Matter 

Retail Jeweller has launched a new survey aimed at gathering information on how the industry is reacting to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. We want to find out what challenges jewellery and watch retailers, brands, manufacturers and suppliers are all facing. All responses are anonymous. 

Complete the survey 

Financial support 

The Benevolent Society wants to reassure its beneficiaries and bursary students that the charity remains fully operational and will continue its absolute support, wherever and however they can, in these unprecedented times. 

We encourage anyone who is concerned about their financial situation to contact them on 0121 236 1150 / 07985611209 or email Laura.b.banner@gmail.com. They will do their best to help and assist you at this most difficult of times.

 

Advice 

NAJ’s free advice lines have received a lot of requests for information regarding the current extraordinary situation.  

Check the latest on the situation 

 

The HR Service to members advice line is the hottest ticket in town at the moment, and as such it’s extraordinarily busy please be patient. The Quest website is crammed with useful forms, documents and advice such as working from home policies, short term working, redundancy, etc. 

www.roydswithyking.com/coronavirus 

www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

www.acas.org.uk/webinars

www.parissmith.co.uk/blog/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme/ 

www.thewalpole.co.uk/news/coronavirus-guidance-for-british-luxury-businesses/ 

www.robbreport.com 

 

Webinar 

Covid-19: What you need to know  

Thursday 26th March 14:00-15:00 

Covid-19 is impacting global supply chains around the world as businesses grapple with a wide range of support from Government and a rewiring of international trade flows. In this 1-hour webinar, the Institute of Export & International Trade will advise on what exporters and importers can do to mitigate for the impact of the Coronavirus on their international trading. 

It will cover: 

  • Impacts on trade and supply chains 
  • Specific business impacts 
  • The changing nature of supply chains 
  • Steps that businesses should consider, from a trade perspective 
  • Professionalisation and Training.

Register for this webinar 

 

Stress Management

  • Register on the home page -unchainyourbrain.org
  • Add the "How to de-stress yourself & your team: Stress Management and Resilience’ course to the basket 
  • Go to checkout, and at the top you’ll see ‘click here to enter your code’ 
  • Use the coupon code pt2029 - it will give you free access to the course until end of March 2020. 

 

Source: The NAJ