Protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable

Updated government advice on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable has been published by the Government.

It reinforces the Prime Minister’s statement that clinically extremely vulnerable staff should not attend their place of work during the period of restrictions. Formal shielding notifications have been issued which will act as evidence for the employer that such individuals are advised not to work outside their home.

People who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable can and should still attend work.

Two additional groups of people have been added to the clinically extremely vulnerable list. These are:

  • Adults with stage 5 chronic kidney disease
  • Adults with Down’s syndrome

There is no new advice for those who are clinically vulnerable, though the over-60s and clinically vulnerable should be particularly careful to follow the rules and minimise contact with others. The Cabinet Office advice is that public sector employees, including those working in the education sector, should continue to go into work. There is no different advice for clinically vulnerable staff who are working, except that generally extra consideration should be given to workers who are at higher risk.

The DfE guidance on full opening of schools is still to be updated at time of writing but we are expecting revised guidance to be issued.

Government Guidelines for returning to work during COVID-19

The Government has released guidance for UK employers to assist with staff returning safely to the workplace.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), along with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), developed the best practice for safe ways to return to work.  Included in the consultation were businesses and unions, with the aim to give employers and staff confidence in returning to work safely at this time.

They key outcomes which businesses need to consider are:

If you can, work from home

Employers should continue to help staff work from home wherever possible.  For staff who are unable to work from home, and those where the workplace was not told to close, staff should go to work.  Employers and staff should be in contact with each other about when their workplace will open, if it is not already.

A COVID-19 risk assessment must be carried out (in consultation with trade unions or workers)

The risk assessment will provide employers with guidelines to put in place in their workplace.  Employers should, where possible, publish their risk assessments on websites, with businesses employing over 50 employees expected to do so.

Wherever possible 2 metres social distancing should be maintained

Workplaces may need to be re-designed to ensure the two metre distance is required.  Staggering start times, altering walkways to become one way, using different entrances and exits and considering other changes such as alterations to seating layouts in rest areas.

If 2 metres social distancing is not possible, the transmission risk must be managed

Barriers can be installed, to be used alongside staggered start times and new shift patterns.  Creating fixed teams will minimise the risk of transmission through reduced contact amongst staff.

Cleaning processes must be clear and enforced 

As with earlier guidance provided, workplaces must be cleaned more frequently than prior to COVID-10, all staff should be aware to maintain high standards with regards to the high risk/high contact areas, including keyboards, door handles.  Facilities should be provided at entrances/exits for either hand washing or hand sanitising.

See the link below for the guidance documentation in full:


Car dealerships failing to treat staff properly with “discretionary” commission payments not paid to Sales staff

Car Dealer magazine announced that they have been inundated with calls from furious sales staff who have not been paid properly under the furlough scheme.

It is understood  that some dealerships are withholding commissions earned in March. By taking such action this has clearly unsettled many employees and has many implications in terms of loyalty and future engagement of their sales teams.

Some dealerships are refusing to include commissions when calculating furlough payments, even though government advice that it should be. Dealerships are relying on the clause in contracts stating that commission is ‘discretionary’. Whilst this may be the case, they should also consider whether it is custom and practice, especially for employees who have been employed for many years and haven’t had contracts updated for a long period of time.

Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal People & Business Services says “We have seen a significant increase in the number of Car Sales Executives registering with our recruitment agency over the last few weeks and many have expressed their disappointment in the way these dealerships have treated them.  Long term, this will have a significant impact on dealerships both from a brand and an employee engagement perspective. Whilst the automotive industry has been impacted immensely due to lockdown, making costs savings like this can only be detrimental to the business”

To read the full article click on the below link;


April 30, 2020Iy

If you are in need of any support or guidance on how to support your employees then please give us a call on 01422 897152 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

UK Chancellor announces more flexibility and an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

The main aim of UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also known as the furlough scheme to many) has been to protect businesses and safeguard jobs. The scheme is one of the most supportive schemes for businesses across the world and has provided welcomed financial support during one of the toughest periods in the UK economy in history. To add to this, business owners looking to bring employees back from being furloughed have been provided with extended  support through further announcements from the Chancellor on the 29th June which bring much needed flexibility to the scheme and allows employers to gradually introduce employees back to the workplace over a phased period and still be eligible for financial support from the UK government.

So, what’s new?

From July 1st, the scheme will enable employers to bring back furloughed employees on a part time basis. It will also see employers contributing to salaries of employees who have been furloughed from August onwards with the financial support given being lowered over a phased period until the scheme closes in October.

The CJRS will also close to new entrants from the 30th June and employers will only be able to furlough employees that have previously been furloughed for a full three-week period before 30th June.

A business that brings employees back to work on a part-time basis from 1st July can claim financial support for any days not worked and the 3 week minimum furlough period has also been removed from this date to provide greater flexibility to employers.

When making a claim through the HMRC website for the funding, employers will able to report and claim for a minimum period of one week. The one-week period is to enable grants to be calculated accurately across working patterns. However, this is a minimum period. You can claim for longer periods such as two weeks or a month if you wish.

In terms of workers returning part time there is no restriction on the number of hours an employer decide the employee should return to work on, so consideration should be given to how much work is available and the organisations ability to pay wages for staff returning.

If an employee is unable to return to work, or the business does not have enough work, then employees can remain furloughed and employers can continue to claim the grant for the full hours under the existing rules.

How tapering of the scheme will work

From August 2020, the CJRS scheme will be slowly reduced to reflect businesses bringing employees back to the workplace.

The scheme updates mean that the following will apply for the period people are furloughed:

  • June and July: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything.
  • August: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • September: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 14% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • October: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.

HMRC will require employers to submit data on the contracted working hours for an employee and actual hours worked. It will also be important to communicate and state in writing to employees so that they agree and understand what they will be paid. This should prevent an unwelcome and unwarranted audit by HMRC.

There will be a further update and guidance and how to calculate claims on the 12th June.

Optimal People & Business Services provides HR advice and support to businesses across the UK.  Whether you require general advice or more strategic support to look at bringing workers back, restructuring your business or making redundancies then we can help.  For a confidential discussion please call us on 01422 897152 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

What can you do if an employee refuses to return to work from being furloughed?

The UK government announced on the 11th May that those who cannot work from home should start to return to work if their business has reopened.

Concerns are now being raised by employers on how to handle situations where employees are refusing to return from being furloughed or from being absent due to illness.

Under normal circumstances if an employee fails to attend work this could be grounds to follow the disciplinary process with a potential for dismissal. However, under  present circumstance’s employers need to be very careful about applying this approach.

From a legal perspective, an employee cannot be placed in a  detrimental position for refusing to return to the workplace where they have genuine  serious health and safety concerns.

So how do you deal with this as an employer?

It’s important to treat every concern seriously and ensure that all mitigating actions are reflective of everyone’s individual situation.  All employers need to be able to evidence that they have;;

  • Implemented and communicated the governments guidelines to minimise the risk, including providing any protective equipment necessary to keep employees safe. This will be entirely dependent upon the role and the building they work within.  Communicating this to employees is critical to the success of supporting employees return to work.
  • Considered the wellbeing of all employees. Employers may wish to consider holding a well-being interview prior to employees returning to check the physical and mental well-being of their employees.  Remember, lockdown and COVID-19 has impacted everyone in different ways and it’s important to understand how it has impacted each employee individually by giving them the opportunity to discuss their well-being and any concerns they have.
  • Considered all flexible working options. Employers must remember that many people may still have caring commitments to children or other family members who are still shielding.

Once an employer has gathered all the relevant information they  can then make an informed decision as to whether the refusal is reasonable or not.

Consideration should also be given to issues raised by an employee relating to any serious health and safety concerns which may give them  whistleblowing’ protection.

If you are in need of any support or guidance on how to safely and effectively support employees returning to work, or if you would like support or training on conducting well-being interviews before deciding whether to bring employees back to work then call us on 01422 897152 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk