Government Job Retention Scheme
The government have introduced a scheme to allow some employers to furlough certain members of staff and reclaim a proportion of their salaries — find out more about the scheme.
The government's Job Retention Scheme is available to public sector organisations and the guidance states that "the government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak".
At this point, we should highlight strongly that NALC feels that the government guidance at this point is not clear on whether local councils could reclaim salaries from furloughed employees or not. We will need more detail from the government to clarify this situation.
It would appear to be possibly relevant for those staff whose jobs have fallen away as a result of the restrictions being put in place to fight COVID-19 and where they cannot be reallocated to other roles. At the heart, the Job Retention scheme is to help avoid redundancies. For example, where a local council has community facilities that have been closed as a result of COVID-19, there will be no income from these facilities to pay for the caretaker or other staff who run the facilities.
So where local councils have staff who are unable to work in their current roles, where that role is funded from income other than precept, and they are unable to be redeployed to another role to support the response to Coronavirus, the council may wish to consider furloughing those staff with the hope of being able to reclaim a portion of their salaries. But at this stage, NALC could not be certain that the council would be successful in claiming back that salary.
If a local council is considering furloughing any staff then NALC and HR Service Partnerships (HRSP) have produced template letters for members to aid this process.
Template letter asking to be furloughed
Template letter to confirm furloughed arrangements
HRSP has also uploaded FAQ’s on their website this morning with the latest updates on the scheme.
Statutory Sick Pay
The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 were made on 12 March 2020 and came into force on 13 March. They amended the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 and provide that statutory sick pay will be available to anyone isolating themselves from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with the guidance published by Public Health England, NHS Scotland or Public Health Wales and effective on 12 March 2020, and by reason of that isolation is unable to work. The government has said that the Statutory Sick Pay will be payable from the first day (not, as previously from day four) and that employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim the cost from the government up to a maximum of two weeks’ Statutory Sick Pay.
The Secretary of State is required to keep the operation of the Regulations under review and they will cease to have effect eight months after they come in to force.
National Joint Council guidance on working from home
On 17 March the National Joint Council for local government services has issued guidance for councils and council staff on working from home.
NALC's partner HR Services Partnership are keeping their website updated with issues related to the coronavirus.