What are the changes to the extended furlough scheme?

Under the extended furlough scheme, the government will contribute a percentage of wages up to a cap of £2,500.

From the 1st of July 2021, the contribution was 70% with employers having to pay 10% for hours not worked plus NICs and pension contributions.

In August and September 2021 the government will pay 60% and employers will contribute 20% plus NICs and pension contributions.

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ending at the end of September, we await information on whether there will be a secondary scheme established.

What do I do if I’m ‘pinged’ by the Test and Trace app?

Whilst most restrictions ended on the 19th of July, the rules about isolating when testing positive for COVID or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace currently remain in place in England.

If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate, then it is a legal requirement to do so.

However, the Test and Trace app is advisory rather than a legal requirement, so being “pinged” by the NHS app and being told to isolate means it is strongly recommended, but not a legal requirement.

This has been a source of contradictory messages although the government has said it is crucial people isolate themselves when they are told to do so, whether legally or morally, and they expect employers to support their employees to self-isolate in any circumstance.

What are the changes from the 16th of August?

From the 16th of August, all people in England who are double vaccinated will be exempt from self-isolation, even if they have been in close contact with someone identified as having been infected by COVID.

Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test after close contact.

What are the Test and Trace exemptions?

The UK government announced on the 22nd of July that fully vaccinated workers in some critical industries, including food depot workers and manufacturers, will be exempt from having to self-isolate if instructed to do so by the NHS test and trace service.

This policy only applies to employers who have received a letter of exemption from a government department that names specific individuals.

Other sectors who believe the self-isolation of certain key employees would result in serious disruption to critical services can contact the relevant government department to make a request to be exempt.

You can access the government list here.

What is the news about compulsory vaccination for the care sector?

The government has now passed legislation in England requiring care homes to vaccinate workers against Covid-19.

The legislation will come into force on 11 November 2021 and it requires care home providers to ensure that visitors are fully vaccinated unless they are in an exempt category of:

  • Being a care home resident.
  • Friends and relatives of care home residents.
  • Emergency help providers (eg paramedic), but not tradespeople unless it is an emergency.
  • Children under 18.
  • Are unable to be vaccinated for clinical reasons (but not for a religious or another belief).

There is a 16 week grace period before the regulations come into force to allow care homes to encourage workers to get vaccinated.

For those who won’t, the consequences will likely be dismissal.

Can right-to-work checks still be done remotely?

The Government has extended the ability to conduct remote right to work checks until the 31st of August 2021.

The temporary changes allow right-to-work checks to be carried out by employers remotely over video calls without a requirement to see physical documents.

The “virtual” checking allows:

  • Job applicants/workers to send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending original documents.
  • Checks to be carried out over video calls by asking the worker or job applicant to hold up the original documents to the camera whilst the employer checks them against the digital copy of the documents.

Employers should record the date they made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.

From the 1st of September 2021, employers must revert to face-to-face and physical document checks.

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