Virtual Assistant

Bye Bye Furlough, Hello Job Support Scheme!

I can’t quite believe we’re in October!  But we are, and that means it is the last month of the CJRS or “furlough” scheme as it’s known.  From 1 November, the new Job Support Scheme (JSS) will take over until 30th April 2021…..

The JSS has some similarities to the flexible furlough, but it is still a new set of rules for employers to get their heads around.  The idea is to get as many people as possible back into “viable” jobs (i.e. jobs where there is some work to be done) and keep them there until such times as they can go back to full time hours.

So, the JSS, like flexible furlough, offers employers the chance to keep someone on reduced hours, with the cost split between employer, government and the employee.  Below is some quick guidance on the JSS and the new Job Retention Bonus, which is available from the end of January 2021.  At the bottom of this post there are links to the gov.uk site for both these schemes.  As ever, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss.

To qualify for the JSS

If the employee meets those criteria, they may be eligible for the JSS.

Salary on the JSS

Salary payment under the scheme is centred around the working and non-working hour split.  For any hours worked (and remembering these hours must be at least a third of the full time hours) the employer is responsible for paying that in full.  For the remaining non-worked hours, the employer is liable to pay one third, the government will pay one third (to a maximum of £697.92) and the employee will ‘pay’ (the more accurate word here is ‘forfeit’) one third.

So, let’s make it easy and say that an employee works 36 hours per week.  The employee needs to work a minimum of 12 hours to qualify.  If they work 12 hours, the employer pays for those 12 hours (as well as any pension and NI contributions due) and out of the remaining 24 hours, 8 further hours are paid by the employer, 8 hours are paid under the JSS and the final 8 hours are not paid.  In total, the employee is paid for 28 hours (77% of their full salary).

For an employer, it is worth noting that the JSS portion of salary payments will not be available ‘up front’.  This means that business owners will need to make sure that they have the financial ability to cover salary payments in the first place, and then claim back the JSS element from the government.

Holidays on the JSS

As with the furlough scheme, we don’t have all the information as yet on the JSS as yet however it seems likely that, as with the furlough scheme, those on the JSS will be entitled to take holiday, following your business’ usual procedure, and this should be paid at the full time rate by the employer.

Job Retention Bonus

Another new announcement was the Job Retention Bonus.  This is a one-off payment of £1,000 for each employee who was previously furloughed and is still employed at 31 January 2021.  To be eligible, the employee must have earned a minimum of £520 per month between 1st November 2020 and 31 January 2021.  If you think you may make use of this as an employer, you will need to make sure you have accurate records around furlough payments etc.

Further Resources

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/job-support-scheme

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-details-of-the-job-retention-bonus-announced

Holiday Balances (& Coronavirus, of course….)

Since the Coronavirus outbreak some businesses have seen a leap in sales and are busier than ever.  Some businesses are having to ask staff to work longer to cover ill or shielding colleagues, and other businesses are having to make redundancies, leaving remaining staff covering more work.  This may lead to workers accruing holidays they can’t take in this holiday year.

So, how can employers deal with high holiday balances?

In the UK, workers (including those on zero hours contracts) are entitled to a statutory minimum of 28 days.  This gives everyone the opportunity to take a break from work which supports overall well-being.  Some businesses offer holidays in addition to the 28 days – this is called ‘contractual leave’.

Whatever you offer by way of holidays, the employee’s entitlement must be clearly noted in their contract.  You also need process and policy in place for those with unused holiday at the end of your holiday year.

Along Came Coronavirus

In light of Coronavirus, the UK Government introduced The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, in March.  This regulation is designed to help protect annual leave for those who are unable to take it this year.  But it’s not a ‘blanket’ piece of legislation, it does require some thought in its application.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the legislation relates to the 28 days’ statutory requirement.  It does not apply to any contractual leave that you may offer.

Secondly there’s a really important phrase in the wording: ‘reasonably practicable’.  This means that if it has been possible for the individual to have taken holidays, despite coronavirus, then the ability to carry forward any part of the statutory entitlement doesn’t apply.

With that in mind, here’s the lowdown from gov.uk:

What is reasonably practicable?

When considering whether it was not reasonably practicable for a worker to take leave as a result of the coronavirus, so that they may carry untaken holiday into future leave years, an employer should consider various factors, such as:

As an employer, you need to make sure you give your employees every possible opportunity to take their holiday in the holiday year that it is accrued.  If it’s really not possible due to Coronavirus, then it can be carried over for up to two years.  However, if your business or employee has not been directly impacted by Coronavirus, using the legislation to allow carry over many not be appropriate.

Dealing with High Holiday Balances

Employees with large holiday balances can cause issues further down the line for your staffing levels.  Ensure you have a plan in place so that everyone can take leave without affecting operations.  Remember you cannot make a ‘payment in lieu’ for any part of the 28-day statutory holiday entitlement.  This means you can’t reduce an employee’s holiday balances by ‘buying back’ excess days.

I strongly recommend having an informal conversation with any employee who has a high holiday balance.  At this point in the year, I’d class this as anyone who still has over half of their entitlement still to book.  Ask the employee to put dates in the diary now so that you can look at managing your workforce.  If nothing happens following this conversation, speak to an HR professional to look at the next steps.

Top Tips

If you’d like to discuss anything that this post has raised, please contact us.  I’d be delighted to chat.

Final Phase of ‘Furlough’ Scheme Announced…

 


The final phase of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced recently.  The below key dates will be of use to you if you have any staff on furlough, or are considering using the scheme (although you’ll need to be really quick!)

Please remember that you should provide a letter to anyone who is coming back from furlough to confirm that their normal terms and conditions will resume.  If you are bringing someone back part time, the letter should detail what their hours will look like and any next steps.  I can help with this if required.

In addition, please note that the record keeping requirements for the CJRS changed recently – any paperwork relating to claims for furlough pay now need to be kept for 6 years (previously 5 years).

Please get in touch if you would like any further information.  The following sites are also useful:

Government CJRS Page
Acas Coronavirus Guidance Page

Going Live!

This morning I was live on Facebook!  This was a new experience for me. I was really pleased to be invited by Gail Logan, an excellent Leadership Coach I have worked with in the past, to speak to her group.

Gail has been running a series of ‘guest expert’ slots recently and invited me along to give an update on recent HR happenings.  Many businesses have had to very quickly develop and adapt to a whole new way of working since lockdown began, so some information and guidance for Employers and Employees to help them navigate this new situation felt like the order of the day.

My presentation covered 4 main topics:

  1. Furlough
  2. Good HR Practice in strange times
  3. Mental Health & Wellbeing
  4. ‘When this is over’ – planning for a return to work

The session went really well and there has been some great feedback!

I want to share the presentation document with anyone who feels that they may benefit from it.  If you would like a copy, please click here.  You will be redirected to sign up to my mailing list and the document will automatically be sent to you.

For those of you who are already on the mailing list, my next newsletter will be released soon.  In it, I’ll be expanding on the ‘When this is over’ part of my presentation from today. Whilst I think it will be a while before lockdown is lifted, it’s important that businesses have a plan in place for when the day comes.

Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about any of the above.  If you’d like to find out more about Gail Logan, please visit www.koretransformation.com

Thanks

Kathryn

VA? What’s that then?

What is a Virtual AssistantGood question!  Short answer: a VA is a Virtual Assistant – someone who can provide support to you or your business without being ‘on-site’.  Many VA’s (myself included) work from home and provide a flexible support option.  Longer answer?  Read on…

Flexible Support Option?

Yes – a VA isn’t a member of your staff (and there are a lot of benefits to you in that – but we’ll come to that next…) they are a service provider, so you’re not taking someone on for a 35 or 40-hour week – you hire a VA for as long as you need.  Maybe you only need your email inbox quickly checked each morning – so you hire a VA for an hour or two a week to take that on; you maybe need to have a spreadsheet designed and populated as a one-off – hire a VA for a day and that’s you.  Perhaps you are looking for someone to cover admin 3 mornings a week for the next 2 months – a VA can absolutely help.  A VA can provide support on a long or short-term basis which makes it a great solution for a small or medium size business.

What are those other benefits you mentioned?

Ah yes, well, a VA isn’t a member of staff, so you are not responsible for paying salary, tax, NI, pension contributions and so on.  Paying your VA is the same as any other supplier – you’ll be invoiced for the time spent on your job (this should come with a breakdown of how time was spent) and you pay the invoice.  Easy peasy!  AND, because of the ‘Virtual’ part of ‘VA’ you don’t need to provide a desk, computer, phone or stationery (well, maybe some letterhead if that’s your thing!) as the VA is already set up with this equipment wherever they are based.

Ok, I love the concept, but what tasks does a VA actually DO?

Well, this is the part where I’m going to shamelessly plug what I do.  That said, I’ve had a long and busy career this far, so should you be reading this and you’re looking for a skill not specifically mentioned, please just ask!  There’s a very good chance I can help.

So, let’s see…

Everyone LOVES admin, right?  Ah, ok maybe not.  But luckily, I do!  Correspondence, reports, invoice preparation, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, data entry, plus much, much more.  Please just ask.

A PA? How fancy!  But actually, PA tasks such as reviewing emails and highlighting the important ones to you; setting up meetings with your clients; organising an event or booking travel can free up an amazing amount of time for you.  AND, a VA is not just for the office – I can also provide PA services for individuals or families – we lead really busy lives these days, and a VA can help with all these things for your home-life, too.

Transcription has come a long way since the days of the typing pool.  These days, transcription covers not only audio format but also video transcriptions – having a written record of a video conference is an easy way to share what happened with your team without asking people to watch an entire playback.  I’m all set up for transcription – and, perhaps strangely, it’s something that I really enjoy…

I am an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and hold a Certificate in HR Management (nifty, eh!?).  So, if your business is looking to expand, I am able to work with you to create job descriptions and role profiles, assist with advertising the role, doing the ‘sift and sort’ of the applications you receive, and I can even help with interview question creation or the interview itself.  I know that a lot of people find the recruitment process onerous, and many people don’t like interviewing.  I am more than happy to help – just think, instead of wading through CV’s, you can actually be doing what you do best – working with your clients.

I’m also available to help with HR questions around recruitment, performance management, discipline, organisation design, process and so on.

Everyone loves a project (no?) and I’m no exception.  I’ve a lot of experience working with Project Managers to support them as they deliver project work, covering the tracking, reporting and governance for the project.  I’ve even dabbled in Project Management myself, so if you have a small project that you want to hand over to someone else to run – I can be that ‘someone else’.

To many, process work is pretty dry stuff.  VA to the rescue!  I can help your business with all aspects of process work – mapping, reviewing, writing up and advising on improvements.  It’s important that process work is done correctly, and I can help.

So, that’s a whistle-stop tour of what this particular VA does!  I hope it’s given you a bit of insight into the role that a VA can play, and you may even be starting to see some ways that I could help you!  As I said earlier, if you do have something in mind that I could help with, but don’t see the specific skill you’re looking for mentioned here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and have a chat – there’s a good chance I can help.

Contact me for an initial chat – 07739 472453 or kathryn@montgomeryvs.co.uk

Until next time,

Kathryn