The Complete Guide To Work and CoronavirusBack to All News
The UK is now months into lockdown, in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We currently don’t know how long the lockdown will last, or what measures will be implemented, but there are already so many changes we are seeing in our day-to-day.
From how many times we are permitted to go outdoors, to the limited amount of people allowed in a shop at one time, to staying 2m from other people at all times; we are seeing unprecedented shifts in our lives. Currently, we are seeing an easing of lockdown measures, but the longer-term impact on the virus and the world around us is still largely unknown.
With a country in lockdown, one of the biggest changes is to how we work. We are now split into categories of workers, key-workers, furloughed workers, self-employed and those working at home. Unfortunately, there are also many people who are now left without a job due to the virus.
The situation is constantly changing, with some restrictions being lifted and the way we work being altered. Understandably, there are so many questions that people have.
We delve into some key topics around work and coronavirus, with some of our directors and managers giving their expert insight into the future too.
Coronavirus and Work From Home
The government advice is now to work from home, unless it is not possible for you to do so. This means that overnight, millions of people have found themselves learning how to work from home, with many workers having to balance caring duties and other responsibilities.
Updated advice from the 10th May, is that if you can work from home, you should continue to do so. However, we are beginning to see more things to return to normality, including ‘non-essential’ retail shops reopening during June.
With this being new to many people, we answer some questions:
When should I be working from home?
If it is not necessary for your job to be carried out in your usual work environment, you should be switching to working remotely. This means that a significant amount of industries should be working from home.
If it is not possible for you to complete your work from home but you can also no longer go into work, your employer may pay you in full. There is the option for employees to be ‘furloughed’ under the government’s Job Retention Scheme. See the ‘Furlough’ section for more information on this.
See ‘Essential Workers’ section to see who is deemed as a key worker and therefore, will not be working from home.
Should I get paid when working from home?
If you are continuing to work, you should expect to receive the same pay as you would when working in the office.
If you are sick and unable to do your job at home, you can at least expect to receive statutory sick pay, but some employers may pay for this.
What if I have caring responsibilities when working from home?
WIth many schools only being kept open for children of ‘key workers’, this has left many parents and carers with the responsibility for their children, as well as completing their working day from home.
From June 1st, there will be a staggered reopening of schools, starting with some primary years, beginning with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. This is still an ongoing situation and continues to develop.
If your caring duties leave you unable to complete your work, it is possible to take emergency carers leave. In terms of payment for this, the statutory recommendation is ‘unpaid.’ However, it is common for employers to provide pay for this.
It is recommended for employers that work becomes flexible where possible, in order to fit around the current circumstances and the challenges that they present.
What can I do to improve working conditions when WFH?
It must be noted that your employer is still responsible for your health and safety, even when you’re working from home.
It should also be recognised that many people are now working from home for the first time, during a global crisis, therefore it would be unfair to compare productivity to usual levels.
There are things that you can do to make yourself more comfortable at home, and to help with working such as:
- Where possible, creating a separate working space from yourself, separate from your home life ideally.
- Taking regular breaks - it is very common when working from home to work longer hours and take less breaks, make sure you afford yourself this time.
- Staying in touch with your employers and colleagues, it is important to add a level of humanity to work when you are unable to have usual working interactions.
Essential Work during Coronavirus
‘Key workers’ is the term coined to describe workers that provide an essential service during coronavirus.
But, what is a keyworker? These are the industries and the job roles that are deemed crucial during the Coronavirus by the UK Government:
Health and Social Care
It goes without saying that those working in the healthcare industry. This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midvices, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff.
This also includes volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment (PPE)
Education and Childcare
This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers, and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key Public Services
This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services.
It also includes those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
Local and National Government
This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response.
In addition to this, those who are responsible for delivering essential public services, such as the payments of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.
Food and Other Necessary Goods
This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines.)
Public Safety and National Security
This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
It also includes fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency Staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response. This also includes those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, Communication and Financial Services
This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision, which includes but is not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure.)
This also includes oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage); information technology and data structure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response.
Key staff also include those working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services.)
Finally, this includes postal services and delivery, payment providers and waste disposal sectors.
Furlough and COVID-19
There are workers that are unable to carry out their job from home but also cannot go into their place of work. For employers, the government introduced the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ which allowed all UK employers, with employees on a PAYE scheme, to ‘furlough’ workers.
This measure was brought in to protect employees from redundancy and support businesses who are unable to pay their employees due to a loss of income.
What is Furlough?
The word ‘furlough’ for many is a new one, it essentially means temporary leave of absence from work.
The reason that you are hearing this word so much is because it has been introduced by the government as a term for employees that are enrolled to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme. This so that businesses have the option to keep their staff on the payroll, so that they are not made redundant.
The stipulation of the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ is that the government will pay 80% of the wages, up to £2,500 a month. Employers have the option to top up their employees wages, but this is not an essential requirement.
When does Furlough end?
‘Furlough’ was introduced on 23rd March 2020, when the Coronavirus measures by the government were increased and many businesses and offices were forced to shut.
Since then, on the 12th May Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Furlough scheme would be extended until October, however, the scheme becomes more flexible after 1st August 2020.
This means that until July 31st, workers who have been furloughed, will continue to receive 80% of their salary as long as they do not work for their company. After this period and until October 31st, employees will continue receiving 80% of their salary, however, employers will share the burden of paying for wages. The amount that employers will pay has not been confirmed yet.
Between 1st August and 31st October, employees will be able to work part-time while on furlough.
Our director Caroline Oberman recently wrote one of her weekly blog posts on furlough and her personal experiences with it as a recruitment professional. Read all about her opinion on this.
Support for Self Employed People During Coronavirus
While the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available for employers, there are also measures in place to support freelancers and self employed people, if coronavirus has affected their business.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is in place so that those eligible, will be able to have 80% of their average profits. Like Furlough, this is available up to £2,500 a month, however, has only been confirmed up until June 2020.
Who is eligible for self-employment income support?
If you are self-employed, or a member of a partnership, you are eligible for the scheme. The caveat is that your self-employed profits must not exceed £50,000 and must make up at least 50% of your total income.
If you do make these requirements for self-employment income support, you must have also:
- Have been affected by coronavirus - however, you will not be asked for evidence of this upon application.
- Have submitted your tax returns for at least one of the following tax years: 2016-17, 2017-18 or 2018-19.
- Have earned self-employed income in the tax years 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- Be planning to trade in 2020-21.
How much self-employment income support can I get?
This is dependent on a range of factors and HMRC will calculate this for you. Self-employed people will receive the total support in one sum for the duration of the scheme period.
Coronavirus and The Future of Recruitment
There are a number of issues presented by the ongoing pandemic, especially when it comes to recruitment. In the short term, the closure of many workplaces has meant that recruitment has slowed down.
The significant loss of jobs means that there are going to be many people, however, the long-term is dependent on a number of factors.
Some of the The Linear Recruitment Regional Managers and Directors from a range of sectors have given their insight, to the current situation and looking ahead to the future.
Coronavirus and the Impact on Construction - Geoff Taylor, Operations Director
The impact of the COVID-19 virus is yet to truly be felt and is likely to take many forms and be long lasting in its impact. Organisations will not only have to consider how they are going to reopen sites but also how they will reopen buildings to their office staff; there is going to be a long time period before offices are able to open without restrictions and this is likely to have longer term implications on attitudes towards home working and working hours.
One major bearing will be on the type of projects that will be able to recommence. While large New Build Housing, Civil and Construction schemes will be able to resume, albeit with various restrictions, there is likely to be a severe delay on domestic refurbishment schemes, especially those schemes that were operating on tenanted properties; this is likely to have severe impacts not only on the companies carrying out these works, but also on their supply chain and the end client and tenants themselves.
For those projects that are able to safely restart, the additional Health and Safety restrictions that Contractors and House Builders will need to adhere to both on site and in the office will be plentiful and will impact their supply chain and the productivity of their project teams. Social Distancing will place increased pressure on all project stakeholders to work in conjunction with each other and will also place more emphasis on the planning of schemes from the outset. There may also be an effect on the typical working day on Construction, with more emphasis on shift work patterns and night working where practical to make up for the fall in efficiency
What will the impact be on the Recruitment Industry? With the professional/white collar market, there is likely to be delays on the recruitment of permanent staff while furloughed staff are reintroduced to businesses, schemes are re-opened and confidence returns to end clients. The impact on the temporary staffing market could be wide ranging; while there may be a restriction on the amount of workers allowed on a project at anyone time which may restrict the amount of agency labour required, the previously highlighted change in working patterns may well counteract this impact both on Supervisory and Trades and Labour staff. There will also be a clear emphasis on quality control when it comes to the supply of temporary staff; employees who fail to adhere to the aforementioned Health and Safety restrictions are likely to be removed from site with warning.
Coronavirus and the Impact on Highways, Infrastructure, Power & Utilities - Gareth Arnold, Director
The safety and health for our candidates and clients is foremost in our minds; we wish everyone within our industry well.
Whilst there are numerous challenges, including logistical and childcare, we are seeing more sites opening back up. If it’s safe to do so, it’s welcomed as a very positive sign.
However, it will take an unknown amount of time until we return to previous staffing levels on many sites, given the necessary social distancing and welfare available.
The good thing is, infrastructure and utilities will see investment and scheduled projects/frameworks e.g. AMP7 will still be required; we just need to work more collaboratively than ever, with well-being the most important consideration.
Coronavirus and the Impact on Rail Work - Joe Poste, Managing Consultant (Rail)
The Rail & Transport Industry was hit hard in the aftermath of the Coronavirus outbreak. Sites which were deemed to be inessential were forced to close in order to help contain the virus. The sites which have been kept open, found supplies harder to source and the availability of workers reducing due to people being, rightly, concerned about the risks involved.
Recently, we have seen projects restarting which is good news for the industry. With sites adhering to strict social distancing rules we are now starting to see an increase in the demand for workers.
Coronavirus and the Impact on Industrial Sector - Dean Plumb, Industrial Director
After an initial slump in business across all of the industrial sector, the warehousing and distribution sectors soon got to grips with implementing very strict social distancing measures and we are now seeing an increase in business and although shops are still closed the online marketplace is seeing a much higher demand than normal.
Currently manufacturing and production is still very low and this is especially the case for the food and drink manufacturers who supply into the catering and leisure markets.