COVID-19 POLICY UPDATE 6 June - 12 June 2020
- Official DfC Announcements
- Further Changes to the Coronavirus Regulations
- New Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health Services
- Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA)
- Testing and Contact Tracing Programme
- Update on Childcare for Keyworkers
- PPE Arriving from China
- Coronavirus & Government Services Information from NI Direct
- Plans for Phased Return of Dental Services
- Job Retention Scheme Update
- Parents Returning to Work Eligible for Job Retention Scheme
- New Guidance for SEISS and Job Retention Scheme
- Job Retention Scheme and People Receiving Direct Payments
- Job Retention Scheme Official Stats
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Official Stats
- Advice NI Training
- Advice NI ‘Universal Credit and redundancy payments’ Briefing Paper
- New ID Card for Carers
- Charity Commission Guidance
- Law Centre Updated Employee Rights Guidance
- CIPD Updated Furlough Guidance
Social Security Changes, Announcements, Information
Official DfC Announcements
- NISRA has published reports of statistics relating to: UC claims, payments and Advances; JSA; discretionary support. These stats don’t replace the quarterly statistical bulletins. Access the reports here:
- DfC’s £15.5million COVID-19 Charities Fund, to help local charities facing financial difficulties as a result of the current public health emergency, will open on Monday 15 June. Further information is available from https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid-19-charities-fund
- DfC has provided further funding to support the Arts Council to deliver two emergency programmes:
- The Artists Emergency Programme will provide support to 150 individual artists; read more here http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/150-more-artists-offered-funds-from-artists-emergency-programme
- The Organisations Emergency Programme will provide £150K additional support to arts organisations; read more here http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/arts-council-opens-emergency-programme-for-arts-organisations
Further Changes to the Coronavirus Regulations
- The current estimate R Rate of the virus is 0.5 – 0.9 which means the Executive has made further relaxations to the lock down restrictions; details are available from the Department of Health https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/r-number-covid-19
- The relaxations include:
- permitting indoor visits with one other household for those who live alone
- outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people
- opening up of the housing market; read more at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/hargey-confirms-re-opening-housing-market
- opening up the remainder of the retail market; https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/news/economy-minister-welcomes-confirmation-re-opening-all-goods-retailers
- allowing outdoor training for elite athletes; read more at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/return-outdoor-training-elite-athletes-announced
- allowing places of worship and community centres to open to provide day-care
New Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health Services
- The Department of Health has published a new Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services to deal with the fact that services will not be able to resume as before. Complementing this document, the 6 Trusts have published plans setting out the immediate work being done in their areas. In addition, a new Management Board for Rebuilding HSC Services has been set up. Full details here https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-launches-strategic-framework-rebuilding-services
Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA)
- The Executive Office this week launched a public appointment competition for the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA). The Historical Institutional Abuse Act 2019 made statutory provision for the Commissioner to be established. Read more at this link https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/news/public-appointment-competition-launched-commissioner-survivors-institutional-childhood-abuse-cosica
- Advice NI provide support and advice for victims and survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse. Call the confidential helpline on 028-9064-5919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to a HIA specialist advisor.
Testing and Contact Tracing Programme
- The recently launched Testing and Contact Tracing programme is now fully operational. It has been developed for long-term use to deal with the continuing threat of COVID-19. More information is available here https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-sets-out-scale-contact-tracing-operation
Update on Childcare for Keyworkers
- The definition of a keyworker is being extended to bring it into line with the definition used for schools. Access to childcare will be provided to all keyworkers currently able to access school places. These measures are in addition to the £12 million already allocated to the COVID-19 Childcare Sector Support Scheme. Find more information here https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/ministers-announce-extension-definition-key-workers-access-childcare-0
PPE Arriving from China
- The first consignment of PPE, 1.5 million Type 11R respirator masks, has arrived from China this week and will be used to supply frontline workers. In total, over 63 million masks have been purchased, as well as 54 million pairs of gloves, at a cost of £60m. The full story is at this link https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/first-consignment-ppe-order-arrives-china
Coronavirus & Government Services Information from NI Direct
- NI Direct has a COVID-19 webpage with up-to-date information on a range of issues relating to the crisis. Visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19
- Further advice on NI Direct for businesses can be found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-businesses-and-employers and at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
- Further advice on NI Direct for workers can be found at
- DfC has a COVID-19 webpage providing the last updates on action they’re taking during the crisis. Visit https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/landing-pages/covid-19-service-updates
- Department of Health daily statistics on COVID-19 are available at www.health-ni.gov.uk
Plans for Phased Return of Dental Services
- Head of Dental Services at the Health and Social Care Board, Michael Donaldson, has recently released a 3-step approach to reopening dental services which you can find out about here http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/phased-return-dental-services/
HMRC and Employment Updates
Job Retention Scheme Update
- The following message came through from HMRC this week, to be shared with employers and agents
Important dates - what you need to know now
- The scheme will close to anyone who hasn’t been furloughed for 3 weeks by 30 June, so you will only be able to claim for employees after that if they have been furloughed for a full three-week period at any time before the end of June.
- So, if you intend to furlough an employee who hasn’t been furloughed before, you will need to agree that with them and start their period of furlough on or before 10 June. This is the last day on which someone who has never been furloughed before can start a period of furlough and qualify for the scheme. This ensures the minimum three-week period is complete by 30 June.
- You will then have until 31 July to make a claim for any periods of furlough up until 30 June. This applies to both employees furloughed for the first time and those you have previously furloughed and claimed for.
- The rules of the scheme are changing from 1 July.
- On 12 June, we’ll publish full guidance on all the scheme changes on GOV.UK – search for 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' to find this. Webinars offering more support on the changes will also be available to book online from 12 June. Please do not call us for more information, as everything you need to know about the scheme changes will be published online on GOV.UK.
- From 1 July, you’ll have the flexibility to bring previously furloughed employees back to work part time. You can decide the hours and shift patterns they work to suit the needs of your business. You’ll pay their wages for the time they’re in work and can apply for a scheme grant to cover any of their normal hours they are still furloughed for.
- Also for periods starting on or after the 1 July, the maximum number of employees you can claim for in any period cannot be higher than the maximum number you have claimed for in a previous period. For example, if your highest single claim for periods up to 30 June was for 100 people, you can’t claim for more than this number in later periods.
- From 1 August, you will need to contribute towards the wage costs of your furloughed employees until the scheme ends on 31 October.
- If you’ve made an error in a CJRS claim that means you received too much money, you must pay this back to HMRC.
- We’ve updated the application system so you can tell us if you have overclaimed in a previous claim – when you apply you’ll be asked if you need to reduce the amount to take account of a previous error. Your new claim amount will be reduced to reflect this. You should then keep a record of this adjustment for six years.
- If you have made an error in a CJRS claim and do not plan to submit further claims, we are working on a process that will allow you to let us know about your error and pay back any amounts that you have overclaimed. We will update guidance and keep you informed when this is available.”
Parents Returning to Work Eligible for Job Retention Scheme
- Parents on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the job retention scheme, thus disregarding the requirement for employees to have claimed before 10 June. This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees. The full details are at this link https://www.gov.uk/government/news/parents-returning-to-work-after-extended-leave-eligible-for-furlough
New Guidance for SEISS and Job Retention Scheme
- New DWP guidance has been issued in relation to the impact of SEISS and job retention scheme payments on JSA and new-style ESA claimants.
- For job retention scheme payments, recipients are considered to be engaged in remunerative work and are not entitled to JSA, with the exception of those who were working less than 16 hours a week, pre-COVID-19.
- For SEISS payments, recipients are considered to be engaged in remunerative work both for the notional period and for any later period the payment covers, and are not entitled to JSA; if a recipient can show that pre-COVID they worked less than 16 hours a week on average, their SEISS payment will be treated as part-time earnings and will be brought to account for the period covered by the payment.
- Payments from the job retention scheme don’t impact on ESA entitlement; where work is being undertaken the exempt work regulations would apply to both hours worked and earning received, which would include the job retention scheme.
- Payments from SEISS don’t impact entitlement to ESA.
- Full details of the guidance are available from here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/890799/adm8-20.pdf
Job Retention Scheme and People Receiving Direct Payments
- Official guidance is now available explaining how the job retention scheme can be used by direct payment holders who employ people for their care. Full details are available at this link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-people-receiving-direct-payments/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-people-receiving-direct-payments
Job Retention Scheme Official Stats
- HMRC has released the first official statistics on the job retention scheme, up until 31 May. Key points include:
- The total number of employers that made at least one claim is 1.07 million.
- 8.7 million employments have been supported through the scheme, with claims totalling £17.5 billion.
- 6,300 large employers (those with 250 or more employees) have furloughed around 2.5 million employments.
- Employers identified as operating in the wholesale and retail sector have made claims covering 1.6 million employments with a claim value of £3.3 billion.
- Accommodation and food services employers have furloughed 1.4 million employments and claimed £2.6 billion in support under the CJRS.
- Construction sector employers have made claims covering 680K employments with claims totalling £1.8 billion.
- Read the full report here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891249/Coronavirus_Job_Retention_Scheme_Statistics_June_2020.pdf
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Official Stats
- HMRC has released the first official statistics on SEISS, up until 31 May. The breakdown of claims is presented by age and gender, sector of the economy, and geography. Key points include:
- 3.4 million self-employed individuals were identified as potentially eligible.
- 2.4 million of the potentially eligible population (70%) had claimed a SEISS grant with the value of these claims totalling £7 billion. The average value per claim was £2,900.
- Around two-thirds of the potentially eligible population are male (2.3m). A slightly lower proportion of potentially eligible females have claimed a SEISS grant (66%) compared to males (72%).
- The average claim for females is also lower at £2,300 compared to the average claim for males of £3,200.
- Take-up of the SEISS grant is lowest for those aged over 65 (55%) and those aged 16 to 24 (62%).
- The sector with the highest number of potentially eligible individuals and the highest proportion of claims is the construction industry, with 800K claims for SEISS totalling £2.9bn.
- Read the full report here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891165/SEISS_Official_Statistics_June_2020.pdf
Advice NI Training
- The Advice NI Training team has developed a 10-minute top-up course to cover the most up-to-date information on the Self Employed Income Support Scheme Payment.
- The course will deal with SEISS Payments and how they’re treated in an assessment period; how Surplus Losses and Surplus Income work for Self Employed People on UC; and how any other grants, loans or business support are treated by UC.
- The course is free and you can access it anytime from this link https://www.adviceni.net/content/anytime-online-universal-credit-and-seiss-payment
Advice NI ‘Universal Credit and redundancy payments’ Briefing Paper
- Advice NI produce ‘Universal Credit & redundancy payments’ briefing paper as fears grow about redundancies and a job loss spike in NI as ‘furlough’ scheme winds down.
- The Briefing Paper is available here https://www.adviceni.net/blog/advice-ni-produce-universal-credit-redundancy-payments-briefing-paper-fears-grow-about-job
New ID Card for Carers
- The Department of Health has launched a new ID card to support carers. Similar to IDs for healthcare workers, carers will be able to show their ID in stores to get access to priority shopping hours. Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s have all confirmed they will facilitate unpaid/family carers during their priority shopping hours. More information at https://www.carersuk.org/northernireland/news-ni/new-id-card-for-carers-launched
Charity Commission Guidance
- The Charity Commission has issued guidance setting out some practical steps charity trustees can take to manage their charity through these financial difficulties; more details here https://www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/media/1780/20200529-guidance-for-charities-facing-financial-difficulties-due-to-covid-19.pdf
Law Centre Updated Employee Rights Guidance
- The Law Centre employment hub has now updated the FAQs on employee rights in relation to COVID-19, reflecting the changes and announcements made by the government since the job retention scheme was introduced; providing more clarity on the rights of workers who need to shield or self-isolate; including more guidance on workers' right to sick pay; and giving guidance on the job retention scheme for people on zero-hours or agency contracts.
- Anybody with an employment query can contact the employment advice line on 028-9024-4401 or by email at email@example.com
- Read the guidance here https://www.lawcentreni.org/news/new-faqs-document-on-employee-rights-coronavirus-covid-19
CIPD Updated Furlough Guidance
- CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) has compiled updated guidance regarding furloughing, accessible from this link https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/employees/furlough