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Human Resources: Staffing during Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Update:   10 November 2020

Depending on the nature of the role that someone is undertaking, there will be various matters you will need to consider as you work through the impact of the current Government advice on the operations of your church and in particular your employed staff. 

The ongoing COVID situation affecting our churches and church activities means that much of the work undertaken by any employed staff may continue to be reduced or have ceased with although some may be able to undertake their work from home in line with the current Government advice.

If your staff are able to perform at least some of their role from home then do refer to our Homeworking web page which gives further useful advice as to what your parish (ie PCC) should consider and what needs putting in place.

We appreciate there may be roles for which homeworking is not an option, in which case the following may be considered:

A  The Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (extension to 31 March 2020)

B  Lay-offs or reduced hours

C  Using Holiday Entitlement for temporary workplace closure

D  Redundancy


Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (extension to 31 March 2021)

Please note:  30 November 2020 is the last day employers can submit or change claims for periods ending on or before 31 October 2020.  In this case you can only claim if you have previously furloughed your employee before 1 July 2020 and you have submitted a claim for this by 31 July 2020.

On or after 1 November 2020:   The government is extending the CJRS to support individuals and businesses who are impacted by disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) this winter. This is an extension of the CJRS and the scheme rules will remain the same except where the government specify otherwise.

The CJRS (also known as the furlough scheme) will remain open until 31 March 2021. For claim periods running to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The £2,500 cap is proportional to the hours not worked.

The government will review the policy in January to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more.

Claims can be made by employers across the UK that meet the eligibility criteria.

On 10 November 2020 the HMRC published updated guidance for employers regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) Job Retention Scheme’.  This contains information as to:

  • Who can I claim for?
  • How do I decide who to designate as a furloughed worker?
  • What can I claim etc.


Please refer to the above guidance to find out if you are eligible and how much you can claim to cover wages for employees on furlough due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Scheme Overview

The government is providing financial support for employers affected by coronavirus disruption.  The overall objective is to keep people at home while enabling employers to retain staff who will be needed when they begin to rebuild their businesses in the future. This will enable work to begin again with a critical core who have the necessary knowledge.

If you cannot maintain your workforce because your operations have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), you can furlough employees and apply for a grant to cover a portion of their usual monthly wage costs where you record them as being on furlough.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain open until 31 March 2021. From 1 November 2020 you can claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

Who can I claim for?

Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020 and can be on any type of contract, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

Can I claim for those made or at risk of Redundancy:

Where you must make redundancies, you should do so in accordance with the normal rules. This includes giving a notice period and consulting staff before a final decision is reached. You can continue to claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory notice period, however grants cannot be used to substitute redundancy payments.

You can claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory notice period.  The government is reviewing whether employers should be eligible to claim for employees serving contractual or statutory notice periods nd will change the approach for claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, with further guidance published in late November.  If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 23 September 2020 you can re-employ them and put them on furlough.   (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#rules ).

Employees with Health Issues

If your employees health has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other conditions

If your employee is:

  • unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance
  • unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), including employees that need to look after children

They are eligible for the grant and can be furloughed.

NoteFor claim periods ending on or before 31 October 2020 you need to have submitted a claim for the relevant employee in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 and submitted a claim for this period by 31 July 2020.

If your employee is self-isolating or on sick leave

If your employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus, they may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness.

Short term illness/self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. If, however, employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.

Employers can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable, at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus or off on long-term sick leave. It is up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees.

You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time. When an employee is on furlough, you can only reclaim expenditure through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and not the SSP rebate scheme. If a non-furloughed employee becomes ill due to coronavirus, needs to self-isolate or shield, then you might qualify for the SSP rebate scheme, where you can claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee.

If your employee becomes sick while furloughed

Furloughed employees retain their statutory rights, including their right to SSP. This means that furloughed employees who become ill, due to Coronavirus or any other cause, must be paid at least SSP. Subject to eligibility this includes those self-isolating or clinically extremely because of Coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.

If a furloughed employee who becomes sick is moved onto SSP, employers can no longer claim for the furloughed salary. Employers are required to pay SSP themselves, although may qualify for a rebate for up to two weeks of SSP if the sickness is related to coronavirus.

If employers keep the sick furloughed employee on the furloughed rate for the period that they are sick, they remain eligible to claim for these costs through the furloughed scheme. Such an employee can continue to be furloughed as long as you have previously placed them on furlough before 30 June and submitted the claim by 31 July.

If your employee is returning from leave

If your employee is on or has just returned from statutory parental leave:

The normal rules for maternity, shared parental, adoption, paternity or parental bereavement leave and pay apply.

You can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

  • maternity pay
  • adoption pay
  • paternity pay
  • shared parental pay
  • parental bereavement pay

Please refer to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#rules for more information.

How do I decide who to designate as a furloughed worker?

To access the scheme, employers will need to designate relevant staff as furloughed workers. The employer needs to get agreement from the worker to do this, unless it’s covered by a clause in the employment contract.

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you.

The employer can decide who to designate as a furloughed worker.   When employers are making decisions in relation to the process equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.  If an employee disagrees with their employer’s decision they’ll need to talk to their employer and try to come to an agreement.

To be eligible for the subsidy employers should write to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed and keep a record of this communication.  It is a good idea to include the following in any furlough agreement:

  • the date furlough starts
  • when it will be reviewed
  • how to keep in contact during furlough

A worker will stay employed while they are furloughed, but they must not work.

What can I claim?

HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs to employers, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Employers will be able to make a claim for the money once HMRC’s new system is available.  It’s up to employers whether they pay the remaining 20% of wages. They do not have to pay it.

For further details of what employers can claim please refer to the HMRC Guidance.

Can the employee carry out volunteer work or training?

They can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.  However, if workers are required to e.g. complete online training courses whilst they are on furlough, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.


Other options include:

B  Lay-offs and Reduced Hours

Further options include ‘laying off’ your staff for a short time or asking staff to reduce their contracted hours.  If you think you may need to consider this, it is important that you talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the period of closure.  Unless the contract of employment explicitly provides for this or you have written agreement otherwise, you will still need to pay employees for this time.

Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a ‘statutory guarantee payment’ of up to £29 a day from their employer.  This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.

For more information please refer to the following ACAS guidance :



C  Using holiday entitlement for a temporary workplace closure

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to.  An employer could, for example, shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement.  If the employer decides to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:

•explain clearly why they need to close

•try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

Previously booked holidays:  If an employee no longer wants to take time off they had previously booked, for example because their holiday has been cancelled, they will need to get agreement from their employer. 


D  Redundancy 

If you are considered the possibility of redundancy, employment law requires that this is a final resort, having taken all other possible and reasonable measures.

Prior to making any substantive changes in hours or roles (ie redundancy), we would recommend that you:

  • consider the use of your reserves, which are established to provide a financial fallback in such circumstances;
  • consider approaching your bank who may be able to provide temporary overdraft facilities;
  • consider whether there are regular financial givers who could accelerate their giving, or provide other financial support;
  • consider whether there are other costs that can be cut back in the current season.

If you are unable to find alternatives, we would recommend you speak to your Area Finance Adviser, and/or Area Dean, to see how the Diocese can best support you in the coming weeks and months.

If having reviewed all these options you are still of the view that significant changes need to be made, and you are considering the possibility of redundancy, you would need to consult with the affected employees and go through due process. In that respect, do follow your redundancy policy if you have one.  However, in the absence of one, use the following ACAS guidelines which gives helpful detail on managing structural change and redundancies:



Please contact HRhelpdesk@nulllondon.anglican.org and we will of course be happy to help you further.


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