Furloughing staff

This is a post to navigate, so much is going on. I have included a piece from Amanda Longden, Amanda@the-hr-company.co.uk, about furloughed employees and holiday pay. She looks at the questions: Can you reclaim holidays? Do staff earn holidays whilst on furlough?

And finally I have a note from Les Newbigging enquiries@frey-it.co.uk regarding business continuity which I though was of the moment.

The government portal to claim money for your furloughed employees will be open 20/04/2020 (HMRC have confirmed this date). If we do your payroll we will be writing to confirm what you intend to claim before that date.

Important action if you do your own payroll. We have not yet been given full guidance from HMRC, but the funding will need to be claimed through the government gateway service for employers. You will therefore need to make sure you have access to your PAYE online account.

If you already have a government gateway account, please log in to make sure it works, and your password is correct or is renewed. Then ensure that PAYE Online for Employers is listed as a service that you can use. If it is not, please follow the instructions to add it. You will need your PAYE reference number and accounts office reference number to hand when you do.

If you do not have a government gateway account already, please visit https://www.gov.uk/log-in-register-hmrc-online-services to do so. An activation code will need to be posted to you, which is why we suggest you action this now.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any assistance with PAYE online services.

Amanda’s note on holidays
I may have spoken to you about employees taking holidays during furlough and told you that it is permitted as long as 100% of salary is paid. You would then reclaim 80% of that under the Job Retention Scheme. The rules of the CJRS have, so far, been silent on this subject so I have been following the advice of employment law barrister, Daniel Barnett. He explains his reasoning on his website here:

Furlough and Annual Leave – Are We Clear?

It has become apparent, however, that there is differing opinion from some employment lawyers who believe that allowing employees to take holiday during furlough may cause the 3-week period to be broken and therefore leave you unable to reclaim salary.

The advice on the Acas website originally supported that view but they seem to done an about-turn and updated their website to confirm that holidays can be taken in the usual way:

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/using-holiday

There may be operational reasons why you would like employees to use some of their holiday during furlough, in which case, this is helpful advice. However, if any employee is ill with coronavirus, you can’t ask them to use holiday during that time. There is also the option for employees to carry over up to 20 days of their holiday for up to 2 years to help you maintain adequate operational cover when things return to normal.

Note that holidays will continue to accrue during furlough.

On a practical note, you need to agree something sensible with your employees. If they come out of furlough with a whole year’s holiday and only 6 months to take it (and no one takes holiday in November so that’s 5 months!) then that would damage the business which is in no one’s interests.

Note from Les Newbigging on business continuity
As an IT Consultant with over 30 years’ experience, I’ve worked in various sectors including Banking & Finance, Insurance, Publishing, Telecoms, and Government Organisations. The majority of these organisations had some form of Business Continuity Plan, to ensure that business continued during a threat or disaster. In many of these, if their staff were unable to access their usual office, a secondary site with desks and workstations configured with their applications would be made available for key staff.

However, the current situation is one that many had not considered, and as a result, even these large organisations have had to quickly come up with a plan to ensure they continue to do business; and as time has gone on, they have had to revise their plans as the situation had changed.
In short, despite their Business Continuity Plans, even they were unprepared.
For small businesses, this may be an ideal time to consider creating a Business Continuity Plan. This should cover a range of scenarios such as (but not limited to):

Staff issues (e.g. usual sickness cover);
Equipment issue (e.g. server breakdown, theft);
Data loss (e.g. corrupted files);
Location issues (e.g. office inaccessible);
Supplier failures (e.g. Internet connection failure, office power failure).
You should consider carefully what the risks are to your business, and plan accordingly. However, one possible solution to many of these issues you may encounter may lie in Cloud Services.
To many people, ‘The Cloud’ is something where you can store files and pictures. However, Cloud services encompass much more than this.

File storage is the obvious one, where you and your staff can access documents located on cloud storage, no matter where you are. However, you should be aware that using a standard Google Drive or One Drive account may put you in breach of GDPR rules, or even other regulations, depending on which industry sector you are in, as the data you are storing may be located anywhere in the world.

The main Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) offer storage options restricted to locations within Europe, or even the UK to meet such regulations.
In the office, your staff may be using workstations configured with your software for them to use. Unless these are laptops devices which your staff are expected to take home with them, the implications of allowing your staff to use their own computers include:

The PC not meeting the requirements to run your software/applications;
Sensitive or confidential data being stored and accessible by others who use the computer;
Unable to maintain version control on documents being emailed around.
CSPs offer the facility to ‘spin-up’ virtual machines which your staff can access, configured to your requirements. These machines could be kept as ‘images’ until such a time as they are required, and you would only be charged compute time for the time the virtual workstations are active.

Software as a Service (SaaS) means that you can subscribe to a service providing the application, which would be available for you to use regardless of where you are, and of which device you are using. Examples of this are Office 365, and Sage Online.

Backups are always strongly recommended, both in case a recovery from a machine failure is required, as well as retrieving data that may have become accidentally deleted or corrupted. This can backup not only your online storage and virtual machines, and can also be used to back-up your on-premises systems.

Who are these Cloud Service Providers? The three largest CSPs you will already have heard of, being Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. They offer similar services, so be sure you have a good idea of what your requirements are before committing to any such service.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *