COVID-19 NEWS BULLETIN APRIL 20th 2020
Daily Press Briefing
Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered today’s press conference. Much of the update featured around the procurement issues of PPE, on which the government has been criticised. It was stated that every possible option is being pursued for the procurement of PPE. Todays death toll of 449 is the lowest in two weeks and there was much talk of the UK plateauing. However, earlier today it was reported that Boris Johnson had told colleagues that he had concerns on relaxing lockdown measures too soon for fear of a second outbreak of coronavirus. There is the continued promise of dramatically increasing testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month, with 19,316 tests completed in total yesterday being reported in today’s briefing.
Daily Updates on the Markets
A fairly flat day on the markets. Other business news reported today was that UK house price growth continued to slow due to COVID-19. The oil price continues to weaken as storage facilities begin to reach capacity, thus lowering demand. Today saw the government scheme for furloughed workers open for application. More than 140,000 firms have applied for grants from the scheme, as of 4 o’clock this afternoon. Earlier today, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the BBC that employers had made 67,000 applications in the first 30 minutes of opening. Which is likely the reason why I am hearing that the system was crashing throughout the day, but I am told those who need to make applications are getting through with persistence.
HMRC has also published two new guidance documents. One is a step by step guide for employers on how to claim under the CJRS, setting out the information that you will need to provide and the processes you will need to follow
The other is a guide to calculating 80% of an employee’s wages for the purpose of claiming under the CJRS including guidance on which payments can be taken into account https://www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-80-of-your-employees-wages-to-claim-throughthe- coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
I have received further clarification on the below points today which I would like to share with you, should you have plans to utilise CJRS.
Extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to end of June HMRC have confirmed following the Chancellor’s announcement that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will be extended for an additional month and will now be open for four months from 1 March 2020 to the 30th June and may be extended further. This is in relation to redundancy consultation periods for an employer that anticipates the need to dismiss 20 or more employees within a 90 day period but must also take into consideration that for some employees who are being asked to shield for 12 weeks, that the original scheme finish date of 31.05.2020 would actually end before some employees had completed their 12 week shielding period.
Annual leave on furlough clarification
HMRC have also updated the employees guidance (but not yet the employers guide) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirusjob- retention-scheme where they have provided some clarification as to whether annual leave can be taken whilst on furlough and how it should be paid. It confirms that it is possible to take annual leave whilst on furlough and that employers should top up to 100% of an employee’s normal pay. This should therefore settle the issue that about whether taking annual leave breaks the 3-week block of furlough necessary in order to be eligible for the grant under the CJRS.
This information has been supplied by our HR consultants. Should you have queries in this area, I would be happy to make a introduction for you to acess their assistance. Much has been written in the press in recent weeks of the importance of maintaining good health during the lockdown and the period of social distancing, including the subject of mental health issues. With the coronavirus outbreak affecting the way many of us live our lives, its normal that this may affect people’s mental wellbeing. With this in mind, here is a link to available support.