Flexible working hours and working from home is nothing new – in fact – approximately 1.7 million people in the UK reported that they worked mainly from home in 2019, compared to 884,000 working from home in 2008. However, since COVID-19 sent us all into lockdown, it’s thought that around 44% of working adults (14.2 million of us) have converted our living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens into home offices. Following the government’s guidelines safely, we’ve been instructed to work from home where we can, but as we slowly see the return to the office, the team here at Williamson & Croft wanted to offer some guidance on three important areas, namely:
- How to get your office working safely following the coronavirus lockdown.
- How to claim for staff expenses during the working from home period.
- The upcoming changes to the furlough scheme and how to phase staff returning to work.
We hope this information will help you with safe working practices, and should you have any questions, the team here at Williamson & Croft are only too happy to help.
How To Get Your Office Working Safely Following The Coronavirus Lockdown
- Set up hygiene measures, such as the provision of hand sanitiser and tissues and placing these in common areas such as meeting rooms, kitchens and toilet facilities.
- Encourage mask-wearing to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
- Put up appropriate signage with messaging about proper hand hygiene and disinfection practices.
- Space out desks (or people) to keep them 2m apart, and where possible, install plexiglass barriers between staff members.
- Conduct a risk assessment of the premises to determine ‘danger zones’ and steps you can take to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
- Set up a culture of respect – where team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions and thoughts on working in the office together. Some may prefer to stay at home, or only feel comfortable being in the office should social distancing measures be upheld.
How To Claim For Staff Expenses During The Working From Home Period
Team members working from home may incur additional expenses – such as heating, lighting and office supplies which they may want to be reimbursed for. There are two main approaches:
Firstly, the employer can pay the following fixed amounts:
- £6/week for weekly paid employees (£4/week prior to 6 April 2020); or
- £26/month for monthly paid employees (£18/month prior to 6 April 2020).
The advantage of paying at these rates is that there is no need for the employer to justify the expenditure and the employee does not need to keep records of their additional costs.
With this approach, you’ll need to work out a scale rate payment which reimburses the average costs of working from home. Once the scale rate has been established following HMRC guidance, then employees are not required to keep subsequent evidence of costs.
Another option is for the employer to reimburse the actual costs incurred by their employees, and these costs may include:
- Additional heating and lighting costs.
- Additional insurance
- Metered water
- Telephone or internet access charges
- Business rates (if applicable)
If you’re unsure which option is better for your staff and your business, the team here at Williamson & Croft can help you weigh up your options, and help you make an informed decision.
The Upcoming Changes To The Furlough Scheme And How To Phase Staff Returning To Work
Changes To The Furlough Scheme:
- From 1 July 2020, the scheme will be made more flexible to enable employers to bring furloughed employees back on a part-time basis and still receive a grant for the time they are not working.
- From 1 August 2020, employers will have to start contributing to the wage costs of paying their furloughed staff; this employer contribution will gradually increase in September and October.
How Will it Work?
For July, the grant will work as before, the lesser of 80% of pay or £2,500. The intention is then that the Government will reduce their contributions over the remaining months of the scheme, August to October, with a corresponding increase in the employer contribution as follows:
- August – the CJRS will continue to pay 80% of wages
- September – the CJRS will pay 70% of wages while employers will take on the other 10%
- October – the CJRS will pay 60% of wages while employers will take on the other 20%
The changes are displayed in the table below.
|Government Pays Employers NICs & Pension Cost||Yes||No||No||No|
|Government Contribution to Wages||80% up to £2,500||80% up to £2,500||70% up to £2,187.50||60% up to £1,875|
|Employer Contributes to Employers NICs and Pension||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Employer Contribution to Wage||£0||£0||10% up to £312.50||20% up to £625|
|Employee Receives||80% up to £2,500 per month||80% up to £2,500 per month||80% up to £2,500 per month||80% up to £2,500 per month|
How Will The Changes Affect My Wage Costs?
The following table illustrates the phased costs for an employer, based on a furloughed member of staff with a salary of £1,380 per month, which is the average claim amount received by HMRC.
The current cost to employers (for employees on £36,000 or less and 80% pay) is £0, however as you can see this will change over the coming months.
|Monthly Employer Costs||£0||£69||£207||£345|
|As % Gross Employment Costs||0%||5%||14%||23%|
To phase staff returning to work, advice includes limiting lift capacity, conducting daily deep cleans of your offices and creating one-way footfall routes.
Returning to the office may not be easy, but with the guidance set out in this blog, the approach you take can be a lot simpler. For extra support, we’re always here to help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today on 0161 399 0121 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for any and all accountancy needs.