The Chancellor announces his Summer Statement

On Wednesday 8th July the Chancellor gave his ‘Summer Statement’ where he announced a series of initiatives designed to help the UK economy as it emerges from the Coronavirus lockdown.

The statement comes ahead of the Autumn Budget and includes plans to protect jobs, help for younger workers and the winding down of the furlough scheme.

End of the Furlough Scheme

To encourage businesses to keep employees in employment when the Job Retention Scheme finishes at the end of October, the Chancellor has announced a ‘job retention bonus’. A one-off payment of £1,000 will be paid to employers for every furloughed employee retained until the end of January 2021. This will apply to workers who have earned an average of over £520 per month each month after the furlough scheme ends. Further details are expected by the end of July with full guidance being available in the autumn.  

Kickstart Scheme

The Government has also announced plans for a ‘Kickstart’ scheme with the intention of helping young people secure jobs.

The scheme will pay employers directly if they create NEW jobs for any 16 to 24 year old who is at risk of long-term unemployment. It’s important to stress that these jobs must be entirely new jobs or roles, not existing ones that need filling and in order to claim the money, businesses must be able to evidence this.

The jobs must also provide the employees with at least 25 hours per week, paid at minimum wage. Businesses must also evidence that they have provided the ‘kick-starters’ (young workers) training and support to find a permanent job.

The Government plan to set aside an initial £2 billion to cover this scheme and have said that where employers can meet the criteria of the scheme, they will pay the young people’s wages for six months, plus an amount to cover overheads. So, for a 24 year old the amount they will pay equates to around £6,500.

Employers can apply next month, with the Government hoping the kick-starters can be in their role by Autumn.

There is no cap on the number of places available.

New Apprenticeship Grants

Rishi Sunak said employers will be paid £1,000 to take on new trainees, to encourage those businesses in high demand sectors (Engineering, Construction and Social Care) to bring on 18-19 year olds.

For the next 6 months the Government will pay employers to create new apprenticeships, “We’ll pay businesses to hire young apprentices, with a new payment of £2,000 and we’ll introduce a brand new bonus for businesses to hire apprentices aged 25 and over, with a payment of £1,500.”

No doubt further details on all of these initiatives will emerge over the coming weeks and months, however if you have any questions in the meantime please contact the ProAktive Employment Team on 01302 341 344.

By Louise Turner Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPDHR Business Partner

 

Education sector: September 1st Changes

We’re sure you’ll have all read the Department for Education guidance that was issued last week. Thankfully we think the guidance is more straightforward for most schools than it will have been in recent months. It’s not our intention to go through the guidance in detail for this post, however we thought it would be useful to offer some prompts for some of the main points:

 

 

  • Numbers of persons in school – The main part of the new plans is that everyone will return to school in September. This coincides with relaxing of the shielding guidance from 1st August 2020. There may still be some medical exceptions for those persons that are still extremely susceptible but we anticipate that the majority of people will no longer be subject to restrictions. You may have a number of staff or students that will be anxious about a return to the school. You will need to reassure them, by being able to share you plans and documentation, that you have done everything possible to make the environment safe for all concerned.
  • Social Distancing – Currently the guidance is that everyone maintains a 2m distance. From September, this changes quite radically. For primary schools, the requirement for social distancing is much reduced. If smaller groups can be managed, then this should be the preference, but the reality will be that this isn’t practicable for most situations. It is therefore the case that for primary schools distancing between pupils can be reduced, however the guidance is still for adults to maintain 2m distancing wherever possible.

 

For secondary schools, however, the expectation is that distancing can and should be maintained. There is no mention of 2m specifically in the guidance, just “separation”. This will require some consideration as to how this will be achieved especially with the movement between lessons and the positioning and cleaning of furniture if different rooms are to be used.

 

  • Group sizes – The new buzzword “bubbles” is not over we’re afraid. This will now become the most important method of controlling infection spread. Mixing of bubbles must be kept to an absolute minimum, as the requirement to isolate in the event of a positive test remains in place. The good news is that bubbles can now be in excess of the current limit of 15 pupils. Again, for primary and secondary schools the practicalities differ slightly. In primary schools this makes sense as the class teachers will tend to remain with those pupils for the duration of the school day, and therefore the bubble size can be kept to the class sizes. For secondary schools this presents more of a problem and so the bubble size may have to be the size of the year group to allow the full range of subjects to be taught. This will mean that social distancing for teachers in secondary schools must be more rigidly enforced in order to prevent mixing of the bubbles.

 

There is an appreciation in the guidance for the requirements of those with SEND. As these pupils may require additional help there is an allowance for temporary workers, supply teachers etc. to travel between different schools and to be exposed to multiple bubbles. They must, however, follow strict distancing from other staff members and keep contact to a minimum.

 

  • Desk Arrangements – The big change here is reflected by the changes to social distancing. Pupils should now be positioned shoulder to shoulder, facing the same direction. Situations where pupils face each other should be avoided wherever possible. This might mean that schools need to consider the need to remove any unnecessary furniture from the classrooms in order to accommodate any new layouts. This could be problematic if classroom furniture is designed to form ‘grouped tables’, however it may be the case that, for example, furniture such as trapezoidal tables can be arranged alternatively to form a long line, rather than the usual hexagonal arrangement.

 

For primary schools, it may mean that the most favourable approach will be to form long rows in classrooms, as the need to separate desks is removed. Secondary schools may not have to adopt their classrooms too much, but in this case tables should still be kept separate as much as possible.

The big change here is that the capacity of each classroom is increased from the current limit of 15 pupils. The capacity now will be the total class size required in the room. Classroom calculations, therefore, should return to the normal calculation and you shouldn’t require a new calculation specifically for COVID-19 situations.

 

Everything else that is already in place should continue, just on a larger scale. This means that staggering of the start and end of the school day should continue. Staggering of breaks and lunches should also continue, however you may have to give consideration to the deliver of hot food, particularly if these arrangements are required to continue into winter months and if you have a larger number of vulnerable persons.

There is also still the requirement to assess and record your plans. This means that a specific risk assessment is required, although you may be able to amend your current assessment to reflect the changes. We’d also urge you to document any decisions that have to be made, especially when you can’t comply fully with the guidance. Demonstrating your thinking is essential and will be your defence against any criticism of your plans – this could be achieved by recording the issue, why the guidance can’t be met and therefore what you are planning to do instead. At times such as these, questions are bound to be asked and you do not want to be unprepared when giving any answers.

For our clients, revised documentation will be issued in the forthcoming week. For anyone who requires any advice, we are only too happy to help and so please do not hesitate to contact our trained consultants on 01302 341344 or info@proaktive.co.uk

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH, Health & Safety Manager

Employees Returning After Shielding

At the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, around 2.2 million people in England with underlying severe health conditions were asked to Shield by the NHS by staying at home and avoiding non-essential face-to-face contact. Those with severe medical conditions were deemed to be of greater risk to the effects of Covid-19 and therefore were categorised as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’

The Health and Social Care Secretary confirmed that from the 6th July these measures will start to be relaxed and people previously told to shield will be able to gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors and form a ‘social bubble’ with another household.

Further to this from 1st August, those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work, provided their workplace is COVID secure, adhering to the guidance available.

Following this review of the shielding measures, the Government will be writing to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.

 

Employees unable to work from home may feel uncertain about returning to work and employers are being encouraged to ease the transition for their clinically extremely vulnerable employees, ensuring robust measures are put in place for those currently shielding to return to work when they are able to do so.

To facilitate this return, the furlough scheme or statutory sick pay (unless a Fit Note is issued by a doctor) will no longer be available after the end of July for those employees who are not able to attend the workplace, due to ‘shielding’.

To ensure a smooth transition back to work, we would recommend meeting with employees in advance of their return and carrying out individual risk assessments. It is important to discuss all of the measures you have in place and any additional measures for that employee specifically (if that is deemed necessary), to keep them safe and to listen to and address any particular concerns they have.

The recommended measures are likely to be no different from those that you already have in place for other employees already working in your premises, however, struct adherence to these are key in relation to those who were previously shielding, given the increased risk to those individuals.

Discussing these measures with employees should help to reassure them that they will be safe in the workplace and we would recommend that regular discussions are held with these individuals to ensure they continue to feel this way.

If you have any questions about this please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01302 341 344.

By Louise Turner Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPDHR Business Partner

 

An update from our Health & Safety Team: social distancing

Following the Government’s announcement yesterday we are working on updating the relevant Covid-19 documentation for each sector and will have these sent out to you as soon as they are ready and in plenty of time for the measures to be introduced for 4th July.

In the meantime, we want to emphasise the importance of not reducing the social distancing unless absolutely necessary. The Prime Minister announced last night that the social distancing could be reduced to “1m plus” where 2m is not possible. The key here is that if the 2m social distancing has been possible up until now, and if you can reasonably continue to leave this in place, you should do so. If it is necessary to reduce this distance you must put additional measures in place and will need to update your risk assessments and other Covid-19 documentation accordingly.

If you have any questions about this please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01302 341 344.

 

Nostradamus and the world of insurance broking

Making predictions in this world is a particularly hazardous occupation.

Nostradamus springs to mind as someone with a monopoly on predicting the future but did he, really?

Nostradamus attended Avignon University but was forced to leave after just one year following an outbreak of an infectious disease. Sound familiar? Well, he didn’t see that coming.

Still, what goes around (in 1520) comes around (in 2020). The disease in question in 1520 was The Plague, for those of you who are wondering if Coronavirus has been around for a little longer than thought.

I much prefer the concept of being prepared for what might lie ahead. It is a simple case of ‘managing expectations’. In the business of risk and insurance broking, what lies ahead is largely determined by what has gone before.  And what has gone before in our world has proved to be extremely problematical for insurers.

 

Grenfell has caused many insurers of professional indemnity risks to exit the market.
Winter floods in this region were quickly replaced by Spring droughts and who knows, Summer floods? Our weather is becoming more extreme. We used to refer to some flood events as being “a one in a hundred year event”. Given there have been two such events in the last twelve years in South Yorkshire, you will understand why insurers are reluctant to listen to such missives.

Did I mention the pandemic and the economic uncertainty that follows? Insurers’ share prices took a hit at the beginning of the lockdown and this in turn impacts adversely on their underwriting capacity.

Insurers are worried.

The consequences are rather easy to predict. We are already seeing a hardening of rates in some sectors, particularly professional indemnity. We are also seeing reductions in policy coverage and the imposition of increasingly onerous terms. We are suddenly amidst a “hard market”. A buyers market has become a sellers market. Insurers with limited capacity chose where best to deploy that capacity and often those sectors seen as ‘high risk’ are left with a dearth of cover and premium increases of frightening proportions.

I fear I am beginning to sound like a BBC reporter. But far from asking questions, we are all about solutions.

The insurance market will be tough in the coming year. We won’t hide from that. We will tackle the issues early and be entirely frank with you about the likely outcome. Of course, now more than ever, it is essential to manage risk effectively. When all is said and done: those who claim less, pay less. It’s an old adage but it’s particularly true in a hard market.

And most importantly, we will leave no stone un-turned in producing the best possible outcome for you. We can’t predict the future but we can be prepared and being prepared is the key to the best possible outcomes. Perhaps if Nostradamus were alive today he might be an underwriter.

By Ian Laycock FCII – CEO and Chartered Insurance Broker

Returning to the Roads

For many businesses driving is one of the highest risk activities that their employees undertake. Following the lockdown, it may be that some employees haven’t driven for a full 12 weeks, and others only in a limited capacity. They will all be returning to the roads at the same time and, since the Government has recommended that people avoid using public transport, they could be busier than ever. It’s important therefore that businesses consider the increased risks and respond accordingly.

Busier Roads

The Government has advised people to avoid public transport to ensure social distancing is maintained. Therefore, those employees who use trains, tubes and buses to get to work may start driving. The increased road use could result in a rise in road accidents and fatalities.

More people driving on busier roads may result in employees working longer days and increase levels of fatigue. It is important that businesses review their driving for work policies and take this into consideration.

Driver competence

Given the length of time it may have been since some employees last drove their vehicles, they may need to re-learn some of the skills, habits and behaviours that keep them safe behind the wheel. Businesses should consider providing refresher training and guidance on safe driving techniques within their return to work training, particularly for employees whose work involves driving. This should include inspecting and checking vehicles that may not have been used in recent weeks.

Changes to the way we drive

As with everything following this lockdown, the roads are likely to be different in many areas. To encourage social distancing, many local authorities are reallocating road space in cities to pedestrians and cyclists. This could mean narrower roads, higher rates of congestion and consequently longer and more stressful journeys.

Anyone who has driven in recent weeks will also have noticed the increased number of cyclists on the roads. The combination of reduced road capacity and an increase in vulnerable road users is something drivers will need to adjust to and is likely to increase the risks faced on the road.

Changes to the way we work

The Government guidance on working safely through the pandemic recommend a number of changes within the workplace and to working patterns which may have an indirect effect on driving safely. To maintain social distancing, employers are separating teams, and introducing staggered shifts and longer working days. All of these measures could increase employee fatigue which is a common cause of road traffic accidents.

If you need any help reviewing your driving for work policies and risk assessments, please contact our health and safety management team. 

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

New Electrical Safety Standards for Private Landlords

Want to hear about something other than Coronavirus? I can’t promise it’s more interesting than Coronavirus but it’s still nice to talk about something else!

New regulations (The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020) have been introduced that mean that from June 1 2020, private landlords have new duties. They will be enforced by local housing authorities and remedial action could be taken with potentially significant financial penalties for a breach of duty.

 

To which tenancies do the regulations apply?

The Regulations cover private tenancies only and outline specific excluded tenancies.

What are the duties under the regulations?

The regulations impose various duties in relation to electrical installations on private landlords. The duties include:

  • ensuring that the electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a tenancy;
  • ensuring every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person;
  • ensuring the first inspection and testing is carried out before the tenancy commences;
  • obtaining a report which gives the results of the inspection and test, supplying copies to the tenant and the housing authority and retaining a copy until the next inspection is due;
  • supplying a copy of the last report to any new tenant before occupation, or any prospective tenant within 28 days of a request from them;
  • carrying out any work required in the report within 28 days;
  • obtaining and supplying written confirmation of completion of such further investigative or remedial work to the tenant and local housing authority.

Remedies for breach and financial penalties

If there are reasonable grounds to believe a private landlord has breached their duty, the local housing authority can serve a remedial notice giving the landlord 28 days to take remedial action.

A financial penalty can also be imposed on a private landlord who has breached a duty. The regulations set out the procedure and there is a right of appeal. The penalty may be of such amount as the authority imposing it determines but must not exceed £30,000 and there may be more than one penalty in the event of a continuing failure.

If you would like our help and advice in any area of health and safety management, please get in touch with our Health and Safety Management Team on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

 

 

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

It’s not the most exciting name for a parliamentary bill, but with everyone so focused on Covid-19 it’s important to remember that other legislation which will affect UK employers is still working its way through Parliament.

The above Bill was subject to a second reading on Monday 18th May 2020 and looks to do the following:

  • Repeal the EU law which will end free movement of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals. This will mean that EU, EEA and Swiss nationals (as well as their family) will be subject to UK immigration laws, after the end of the Brexit transition period, which is currently 31st December 2020.
  • Protect the rights of Irish citizens to enter the UK without being subject to the UK immigration laws that will exist for other EU members.
  • Allows the Government (through regulations) to modify retained EU law on social security co-ordination.

What does the Bill not cover?

The Bill does not indicate or confirm the new immigration system, which will apply (after the Brexit transition period) to EU and non-EU citizens. Instead, we will have to wait until the ‘Immigration Rules’ are released some time before January 2021. However, the Government did release a policy statement back in February 2020, which gave some initial details of how it would work. These are detailed below:

Skilled Workers

  • The UK will be introducing a point based system and while initially a general salary threshold of £30,000 was proposed, this has now been reduced to £25,600.
    • It is worth noting that applicants who fall under the category of skilled worker will be able to ‘trade’ characteristics i.e. specific terms of their job offer and qualifications against a lower salary than the above threshold in order to enter the country to work.
  • The skills threshold is being reduced from RQF6 (bachelor’s degree) to RQF3 (A Levels), the cap is removed on the number of people that can enter through the skilled worker route and they are removing the resident labour market test.
    • These changes mean that skilled workers will be able to come to the UK from anywhere in the world and the process will be simpler. This is to marry up with the Government’s message that the UK is open for business.
  • Skilled workers will have to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, the job offer is at the required skill level, and that they can speak English. Potential migrants will have to meet the points system as below, of which a total of 70 points is required to be eligible to apply to enter the UK:
Characteristics Tradeable Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
Job at appropriate skill level No 20
Speaks English at required level No 10
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 – £25,599 Yes 10
Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC) Yes 20
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20

 

Highly-skilled Workers

  • The government is also looking to create a route for ‘highly-skilled’ workers to enter the UK without sponsorship/or a job offer subject to them meeting the required points threshold. It is yet to be determined what would categorise someone as ‘highly-skilled’

Lower-skilled workers

  • Currently, the Government has committed to reducing overall migration and therefore is not planning on creating a new route for lower-skilled workers, however, it acknowledges the following:
    • UK businesses will be expected to adapt to the ending of free movement following the end of the Brexit transition and rather than relying on being able to easily recruit lower-skilled workers should focus on investment in staff retention, productivity and wider investment in technology and automation.
    • Over 3.2 million applications have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and both pre-settled and settled status under the EUSS allows unrestricted rights to work.
    • Pilot schemes for seasonal workers in agriculture have been quadrupled to 10,000 places
    • Youth mobility arrangements exist with eight countries/territories which allows for 20,000 young people to enter the UK which will help fill the lower-skilled vacancies

Other things to note:

  • The UK expects to treat EU citizens as non-visa nationals meaning that they can come to the UK for up to 6 months without requiring a VISA
  • Government expects to allow EU citizens to continue to use e-gates at border control, but they will keep this policy under review (potentially being a reflection on which countries allow UK citizens to enter through their own border controls using e-gates respectively).
  • There isn’t a proposed route for self-employed persons, however they will be able to continue to enter through the ‘innovator’ route, allowing artists, musicians, entertainers etc to continue to contribute to the British economy.

The changes to the system are large, so keep an eye out for future blogs from the team which will provide information on any updates, the progress on Brexit and how it may affect employee rights and information regarding the VISA process for migrant workers.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt)HR Business Partner

Covid-19 and Employers Liability Insurance

As an employer you have a legal duty to care for the health and safety of your employees. Your employers liability policy provides protection against your legal liability to your employees, including property damage and bodily injury. Bodily injury includes illness, including illness resulting in death and this could potentially involve legal liability incurred from Covid-19. However, this would be dependant on the employee proving that you had breached your duty of care.

 

Potential claims could come in several different forms:

Infection – an employee could allege they had caught the infection whilst at work due to their employers not providing PPE, enforcing the 2-metre rule, testing etc.

Psychological injury due to overworkdue to social distancing it may not be possible to have a full workforce but this could lead to others suffering increased stress as they have to cope with additional work.

Overwork or redistributed work leading to physical injurywhen staff are covering for others it is essential that they are appropriately trained to do so and should be carefully monitored.

Working from Homewe are being encouraged to work from home where at all possible but an employer has the same responsibilities for their employees working environment as they do at their own premises so need to risk assess to ensure it is suitable and that the employee is properly equipped

Vicarious Liability employers are vicariously liable for their employee’s negligence. It is possible to envisage claims where employers could be faced with claims attempts from clients where an infected employee has not self-isolated and continued to interact with customers, negligence from employee fatigue, claims where an employee has gone against instructions and operated equipment or vehicles that they are not authorised or trained to operate.

This does not paint a very pretty picture going forward but in the litigious society we live in and with potential hardship following job losses and a recession it is inevitable that attempts will be made. The key to defending such claims will be in the paper trail so employers should endeavour to get risk assessments in place with suitable PPE and guidelines for employees to follow in line with current Government Advice. All employees should be asked to sign to say they have read and understood what their responsibilities are when they return to work following lockdown.

Employers must ensure that they approach this risk as they would any other risk to the health and wellbeing of employees, taking sensible steps to discharge their duty of care and to document their assessment and adopted policies. Being able to demonstrate that you considered the risks carefully and took sensible steps to mitigate those risks will be crucial evidence in defence of any subsequent claim. If someone becomes infected at work in the absence of evidence of such steps having been taken, the employer is vulnerable to being found in breach of duty and liable for losses arising.

Planning should start with the current government advice, having regard to the need to identify vulnerable individuals, ensure the infected feel able to report symptoms and self-isolate, the instigation of sensible home working policies where possible, introducing appropriate social distancing measures, ensuring that appropriate facilities are available to wash/disinfect hands and that suitably robust and regular cleaning of premises is undertaken.

Early identification of the infected, and those in close contact with them, is essential.

Damages would include awards for PSLA for the symptoms suffered, which could vary from the trivial to the fatal, plus compensation for a range of potential heads of past and future loss, in particular loss of earnings, care and domestic assistance.

As stated above, proving causation is likely to be extremely difficult. If you would like advice or help from ProAktive relating to risk management in your workplace, please get in touch with us on 01302 341 344.

By Jo Elliott ACII, Chartered Insurance Broker – Account Executive

 

 

 

 

 

Is your insurance cover still protecting your business?

Insurance cover might not be at the forefront of your mind at the moment, but it is as important now than ever.

We have already explored and communicated some important features and changes to your insurance cover during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have spoken to lots of companies who have made adjustments to their business to adapt and follow the governments guidance, which as we know includes working from home where possible. Recently we discussed premises becoming unoccupied and the need to inform insurers in these circumstances. Whilst a lot of insurers have amended their standard wordings to allow some leeway with the notification period, we would urge you not to lose track of this.

Where computer and other office equipment have been taken away from the office and to the homes of employees, it is also important to ensure your insurance extends to cover this, often known as ‘All Risks’ cover. Again, insurers appreciate the unprecedented circumstances, and many have automatically extended their policies, but it is vital that you make your broker aware of this so they can confirm accordingly and amend your cover if necessary.

At this juncture it is also important to consider the other risks to your company which have increased as a result of the changes we’ve all had to make. Cyber attacks are on the rise which make it all the more difficult for businesses to function with their employees at home, relying on the limited equipment available. Other exposures that may also be increased are Directors and Officers as well as Employment Practices Liability. Therefore, it has never been more important to assess your cover and vulnerabilities.

It may be the case that some of the cover you have can be reduced if not currently required or being used, however, this will depend on your individual business needs and activities. We would suggest contacting your broker for a discussion on this matter if this could apply to you.

By Molly White Cert CIICommercial Account Handler