• Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 22 May

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    • Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 22 May
    • by Emer Murphy
      Support and Engagement Executive for Scotland

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    As the situation around coronavirus, develops we want to make sure that our members can access the guidance they need to understand any actions or precautions they might need to take.  We’re regularly publishing and updating important guidance for the community transport sector which you can find on our main guidance page at ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/

    As well as this, you can also contact the CTA advice service if you need any further information, or have any more questions. The CTA team are currently working remotely, so to ensure you speak to the right person first time, please email advice@ctauk.org to receive a call back for advice and support. Our advice service operates 10:00-4:00 Monday-Friday.  

    Our weekly advice service drop-ins 

    To help support our members throughout this difficult time, we’re also holding an ‘Advice Service Drop-in’ on a weekly basis. This is an opportunity for you to share how you are being affected by the situation, to ask any questions you may have and to talk to other members about how they’re coping. Whilst we may not have all the answers, we will continue to seek clarity and guidance from the relevant bodies on your behalf and these conversations will inform what we’re doing at CTA to support you 

    For those unable to make it, we will be sharing a summary of the points that are discussed during the sessions, including any best-practice or advice from other CTA members that they share during the call.  

    Last week’s call  

    The UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    Last week we were joined by Keith Arrowsmith a senior solicitor and partner of Counterculture Partnership LLP. Keith facilitated a discussion and Q&A session that helped members navigate their way through the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.  Since the introduction of the furlough scheme, many community transport operators, like many other businesses and organisations, have been left with no choice but to furlough some or all of their employees. Our recent report into the effect of coronavirus on community transport showed that 43% of CTA members said that they have, or may have to,  furlough members of staff.

    As we start to move out of the initial ‘emergency’ response to coronavirus and  into the rehabilitation phase, Keith told us, the landscape of the furlough scheme will be subject to change. We were delighted to have Keith on board with us for this week’s advice drop-in to tackle the specific questions that have emerged in response to the scheme. This session had the highest attendance rate of any we have hosted so far and members involved found it helpful and informative. Here are the most common questions and key takeaways that emerged throughout the session.

    Questions and answers

    Q: Can employees that are on furlough accrue annual leave?

    Keith’s Answer: Yes. Employees that are on furlough are entitled to take annual leave and it does not affect their furlough. However, if an employee is taking annual leave they are entitled to holiday pay NOT furlough pay.

    Q: Can I as an employer insist that my employees take annual leave even if they are furloughed?

    Keith’s Answer: This depends on the specifications of their contract. However, the general statutory position would be that employers can insist, as annual leave is granted at the employer’s discretion. But, it is imperative to give a respectable statutory period of notice for when leave will need to be taken.

    Q: Our organisation is funded from a number of different sources. It is partially funded by the public sector. Can we still furlough employees?

    Keith’s Answer: In this case it is not so much where the funding comes from, but what the funding is used for. For instance, if your public sector funding explicitly covers staff costs then the money still exists to pay for staff, there is no need to furlough. If it does not cover staff costs, you’re entitled to furlough employees. We recommend that you communicate with your funder so you both have the same understanding.

    Q: Are both full time and part time staff eligible for the Furlough Scheme?

    Keith’s Answer: Yes, but once an employee is on furlough they must not work or volunteer any hours for your organisation.

    Q: How can we support staff who are coming back to work after being furloughed?

    Keith’s Answer: This is where we need to be thinking now. We predict that once the scheme as it currently stands concludes at the end of July there may be a cost and political pressure to bring employees back to work throughout the transitional period of August-October. It is difficult to say if and how the UK Government intend to support all sectors through the transitional period. Unfortunately once the furlough scheme is gone, it is gone and it is highly unlikely that the government will provide any phased financial support. The reintroduction of staff back into the work place could potentially be difficult as we anticipate high levels of anxiety met with an employee’s personal requirements i.e are they shielding or living with someone who is shielding. Employees may require a degree of re-training, which may have financial and time implications on an organisation. We recommend that organisations are well versed on the most up to date social distancing guidelines before the reintroduction of staff and have the appropriate resources in place for training and safety purposes, and that organisations consider a phased reintroduction of staff to avoid overburdening of existing employees.

    Further Information 

    In the call, Keith also made it clear that as of yet, no details have been released concerning the contribution that employers will be expected to make as of 01 August 2020. It is expected that the Government will release further guidance and details on the extension of the Furlough Scheme by the end of May 2020. He also recommended that all organisations keep an in-depth and up to date record of their furlough agreement, as he suggest it is is highly likely that revenue will conduct an audit with the next six years.

    If you have any questions about the UK Government’s furlough scheme and what this means for you, you can contact our advice service via advice@ctauk.org.

    Our next call

    Our next advice drop-in calls is taking place on Friday 29 May from 11:00 – 12:00. If you’d like to join the call  please email advice@ctauk.org  for a link.

    As ever, you can find our latest coronavirus guidance at  ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/.  and, if you need advice or support on this or anything else, or if you have any ideas for topics you want to be discussed at future drop-ins, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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