Governmental Measures to Support SMEs Affected by COVID-19

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and its subsequent economic impact, the UK government issued a number of measures to support affected businesses. Read more about the different financial measures taken by the government below. The government has also launched a central website for businesses impacted by COVID-19 to help them find the right support and advice they need.

If you need help in determining what kind of financial support is right for you, try the Government’s new support finder tool.

 

Deferral of VAT and Income Tax payments

The government has announced VAT payments have been deferred for 3 months (20th March – 30th June). This is estimated to inject £30bn back into UK businesses. f you choose to defer your VAT payment, you must pay the VAT due on or before 31st March 2021.

At this time, Government has said that all the VAT payments due following the end of the deferral period will have to be paid as normal.

All UK VAT registered business are eligible to defer their next VAT payment.

For support with PAYE & Corporation Tax payments, you must still contact HMRC. Please ask your main contact at Goodwille to handle this for you if required.

No applications are required and you do not need to tell HMRC that you are deferring your VAT payment. However, note that if you normally pay by Direct Debit you should contact your bank to cancel your Direct Debit as soon as you can.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. All UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

On  12th May, the government announced that the scheme will be extended until the end of October.

This is open to all UK businesses, and the employee must be on the PAYE scheme. The employee must remain employed by the company, but not undertaking any work. Previously employees had to be on the scheme by the 28th February, but this has since been extended to the 19th March.

The online service is now live and open for applications. We have written a separate article, which will give you more detailed guidance on the scheme and how you can submit a claim. Please see it here.

HMRC’s Time To Pay service

All businesses and self-employed individuals who are struggling to pay their PAYEVAT or Corporation Tax due to COVID-19, may be able to receive support via the HMRC ‘Time-To-Pay’ Scheme.

You are eligible if your business:

  • pays tax to the UK government
  • has outstanding tax liabilities

However, please note that businesses do not automatically qualify for the scheme, but instead, the need for support will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will be tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you feel you cannot pay your tax bill due to COVID-19, please request that your Goodwille contact calls HMRC as soon as possible to avoid any penalties due to late payments.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Scheme

SMEs with up to 250 employees will be subject to a Statutory Sick Pay relief for absence due to COVID-19 (either because they have coronavirus or self isolating due to suspected coronavirus), meaning they are able to reclaim sick pay (at SSP rate) for up to 2 weeks per employee. Worth to mention is that SSP will be paid day 1 of those affected by Coronavirus, rather than day 4.

All employers based in the UK and who have fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020) can claim for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus. In addition, you must have had a PAYE payroll scheme in place on or before 28 February 2020.

You can make the claim for the following reasons:

  • 13 March 2020 – if your employee had coronavirus or the symptoms or is self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • 16 April 2020 – if your employee was shielding because of coronavirus

If your employee has COVID-19 or is advised to stay at home, they can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’).

On 19 May, the government announced that the online claims service will launch on Tuesday 26 May. Please notify our Payroll Manager if you think this applies to any of your employees.

Please note that you must keep the below records for 3 years following your claim;

  • the reason why an employee could not work
  • details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
  • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Government has announced a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England. For additional support, please see the next section about available grants.

 

All businesses in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector, and based in England, are eligible for this scheme.

Properties that benefit from the scheme include those that are wholly or mainly used as:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure (for example: a sports club, a gym or a spa)
  • as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

All businesses in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector, and based in England, will automatically qualify and do not need to take any action themselves. If your business has already received a bill showing a value, this will be reissued automatically by the local authorities. They will do this as soon as possible.

You can estimate the business rate relief using the business rates calculator.

If you’re not getting a relief you think you’re entitled to, contact your local council.

Grant Funding Scheme for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses (RHLG)

For businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000, may be eligible for a cash grant of £10,000.

For businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,00 and under £51,000, may be eligible for a cash grant of £25,000.

Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible for this scheme.

You are eligible for the grant if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector
  • your business has a rateable value of under £51,000

Exclusion to RHLG:

  • Recipients cannot receive both SBGF and RHLG on the same property. (see the next section for SBGF)
  • Businesses which are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in this scheme.
  • As of 11 March your business was in liquidation or dissolved.

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied hereditaments that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant, you do not need to do anything. All communication should go through your local authority.

Grant Funding Scheme for small businesses ((SBGF)

For those businesses already in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR) in the business rates system will be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000.

You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a small business and already receive small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief (RRR)  as of 11 March
  • you are a business that occupies property

Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

Businesses which as of the 11 March were in liquidation or were dissolved will not be eligible.

 

You do not need to do anything. Guidance and funding for the schemes will be available to local authorities shortly who will contact businesses who are eligible.

Eviction of Commercial Tenants

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction. These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June. This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent.

All commercial tenants are eligible.

As a tenant you are protected from eviction, but you do still have to pay the rent. You should contact your landlord to discuss arrangements if you are struggling to pay your commercial rent. The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. No action is required.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

In order to ensure continuous financing support for SMEs during critical times, the British Business bank have guaranteed an 80% payback to lenders of SMEs financially affected by the outbreak. The government will also cover interest rates and any lender-levied fees for the first 12 months so businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

Various type of business financial facilities are supported under the CBILS scheme, including:

  • Term loans
  • Overdrafts
  • Asset finance
  • Invoice finance

 The scheme is available through more than 40 accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website.

The criteria for the scheme was changed on the 2nd April, following the banks rejecting a large number of loan requests. The loans have been made more accessible for smaller businesses. This scheme was set up to help any viable business with turnover of no more than £45 million per year.

Changes as of the 2nd April

  • Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms, extending the number who benefit. However, the Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge.
  • Banks will be banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or property when borrowing up to £250,000
  • Larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help – with state-backed loans of up to £25m available to firms with revenues of between £45m-500m.
    source: bbc.co.uk

However, to be eligible, you still need to show that your business:

  • would be viable were it not for the pandemic
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

For detailed eligibility criteria:

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders – see the full list here.

Businesses should first approach their own provider (preferably via the lender’s website) but may consider approaching other lenders as well if they are not able to acceess the finance they need.  For more information on how to access the scheme,  please visit the Brisith Business Bank’s website.

New Future Fund For Startups

On April 20, the government unveiled plans to launch a new “Future Fund” for startups and has initially promised £250 million towards the £500 million fund, while the other half will come from the private sector. This means that the scheme will operate on a match funding basis and to unlock the investment from the government (ranging from £125,000 to £5m), the startup needs to secure an equal or greater amount of funds from private investors. Investment through the scheme will come in the form of a convertible loan note. This may be a good option for you if you rely on equity investment and can’t access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The fund is expected to be launched in May and will initially be open for applications until the end of September.

You are eligible if:

  • your business is an unlisted UK registered company
  • you have raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from private, third party investors in the last five years
  • you can attract the equivalent match funding from third-party private investors and institutions

The government will publish the full eligibility criteria shortly.

The Future Fund is expected to be launched in May 2020. We will update this section once new information becomes available.

Read the Future Fund headline terms HERE

Bounce Back Loan Scheme for SMEs (BBLS)

The Bounce Back Loan scheme is aimed at smaller businesses and will enable them to borrow of up to 25% of their annual turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000. Under this new scheme (launched on May 4), the firms are expected to get the cash “within days” after applying.  The government will guarantee 100% of the loan as well as pay the interest on the loan and any associated fees for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

The scheme is delivered through a network of accredited lenders.  Loan terms will be up to 6 years but you can repay early without paying a fee. If one lender turns you down, you can apply to other lenders in the scheme.

You are eligible if:

  • you are a UK based business
  • your business was established before 1 March 2020
  • your business has been negatively affected specifically by the coronavirus crisis and was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

At this stage, there hasn’t been any clear definition of what “undertaking in difficulty” means but it is likely to mirror the viability test which applies to the CBILS. If a business was struggling to meet its financial obligations before the outbreak of COVID-19, they may be excluded from the BBLS scheme.

You cannot apply if you are:

  • a bank, insurer or reinsurer (but not insurance brokers)
  • a public-sector body
  • a state-funded primary or secondary school

Note that you also can’t apply for this scheme if you are already claiming under:

However, if you would like to transfer a loan (of up to £50 000) you received under CBILS into the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.

There are 11 lenders participating in the scheme including many of the main retail banks. You should approach a suitable lender yourself via the lender’s website.

The lender will ask you to fill in a short online application form and self-declare that you are eligible.

The lender will decide whether to offer you a loan or another type of finance and you’ll be responsible for repaying 100% of the amount borrowed.

Find a lender here.

 

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

HM Treasury and the Bank of England have launched a Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) to provide additional help to businesses who experience disruptions to their cash flows as a result of COVID-19. The CCFF will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy. It will help businesses across a range of sectors to pay salaries, rents and suppliers.

The scheme is operated by the Bank and will run for at least 12 months.

All UK non-financial businesses that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.

For more information on how to access the scheme,  please see the Bank’s website  as well as this page for contact details.

How We Can Help 

At Goodwille, we will keep monitoring the current situation and governmental advice regarding COVID-19, regularly updating this post. Once additional information is announced regarding how and when to apply for the grants and reliefs as described above, we will make sure to keep you updated, and support you throughout the application process.

We encourage our clients, as well as other businesses, to get in touch with our team in case you have any questions or concerns regarding your UK operations and the implications of COVID-19.

Furloughed Employees – What Happens Next?

Three months ago, some of us were unfamiliar with the concept of furloughed employees. Because of COVID-19, however, we can read about it almost daily in the press. Further, many businesses and employees have been subject to its implementation for the past couple of months following the UK government’s announcement of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme back in March.

Since then, there have been question marks as to what the scheme exactly will entail, who is eligible for the scheme, when it will end, and how and when to apply for it. Though many questions have been answered in the meantime, and businesses have successfully applied for and received their first grants, there are still perceived uncertainties regarding what the next step will be.

The most recent announcement made by the Chancellor on 12th May, extended the end date of the governmentally supported furlough period from end of June until end of October, along with some variations made to its format starting in August. With that in mind – what does the extension mean for UK employers and their furloughed workers? And when furlough ends – what are your options and liabilities? We have outlined some key aspects to consider below.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – the Basics

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was initially announced back on 20th March, as a support scheme for all UK businesses who have been severely, negatively affected by COVID-19, in order to protect millions of jobs and businesses.

Through the portal which went live on April 20th, employers can claim back 80% of furloughed workers wages, capped at  £2,500 per month per employee. Additionally, the employer can claim for associated Employer National Insurance contributions (NIC) and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions.

In order to qualify, the Company applying for the scheme must have been negatively affected by Covid-19 and the employee must either be at risk of being made redundant or have stopped working for their employer. Further, the employee must have been on PAYE payroll on 19 March 2020. Claims can be backdated until 1 March and submitted at least every 3 weeks, which is also the minimum period that an employee can be furloughed for. Employees can be taken off furlough if there is work to do and then placed back on furlough again, as long as each furloughed period lasts for a minimum duration of 3 weeks, which is good for Companies who perhaps need to rotate their employees.

Read more about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and FAQs, such as how and where to claim, here.

Furloughed employees – what’s the latest?

On 12th May, almost two months after its first implementation, the government announced an extension of the current furlough period, which was previously set to finish by the end of June. With the new terms, the scheme will sustain in its current format for another month, thus, until the end of July. However, employees can remain on government supported furlough until the end of October, though under different circumstances.

Furloughed workers will from the start of August be able to return to work part-time, by which time employers will be expected to pay a percentage towards the furloughed staff’s salaries. These contributions will in turn partly replace those made by the government, thus ensuring that employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. At the time of writing, the UK Government have still to issue any detailed guidance on how the altered scheme will look or any rules around this.

Extending Existing Furlough – What to Consider

Since the extension is no longer simply speculative but rather a fact, employers need to consider whether they want to keep furloughing current employees. If so, this needs to be communicated clearly and promptly to the employee, and the employer must consider what was initially stated in the original furlough letter/documentation, such as changing the end date of furlough. If any further changes need to be made, this has to be completed in agreement with the employee – remember that you are changing their terms and conditions of employment.

Employers should also consider how they communicate with employees, and make sure to keep them informed of both their own and the business’ situation. The most recent announcement might awaken some questions among your workforce who are currently on furlough – don’t leave them out in the dark but keep them updated on your plans going forward. If you are intending to keep some employees on furlough and some not, explain to them why and make sure you have valid and fair reasons for your selection. If not, you could be subject to unlawful discrimination.

When Furlough Ends – Employer’s Options

Fundamentally, the idea of the scheme is to save jobs and for furloughed employees to come back to their normal duties. However, reinstating all employees is the most costly option for an employer, and requires expectations of your business to go back to normal within the near future. If so, the employee goes back to their normal salary and other conditions as before furlough, unless jointly agreed differently, and the company’s payroll function must be informed to make sure the employee receives the right pay.

If business-as-usual is not anticipated within the foreseeable, employers might want to consider other options. Among those, employers can choose to reduce working hours for all or some staff, though this has to be done in agreement with the affected employees. Further, any changes to employment contracts need to be in writing. It is also important to take things like discrimination into consideration when choosing whose contracts to alter.

Employers can also choose to continue to furlough staff at its own expense, or worst case scenario, consider redundancies. In cases of redundancies, normal procedures for terminations must be followed. Depending on the outcome, the right to redundancy payments could be particularly important once the government ends the scheme, as well as things like payment in lieu of notice, holidays and other entitlements, since these are costs payable by your business and not the government.

What Can Employer’s Do Today?

To prepare your employees for one of the possible scenarios described above, it is firstly important for employers to keep a transparent and ongoing dialogue with employees. This can be a stressful time for many, with concerns about their future employment and income. With possible changes happening in their private lives on top of that, it becomes even more crucial for employers to bring more clarity to an uncertain situation. Keep your staff informed about your current situation, and your plans for times ahead.

Regardless of the outcome, employers should also review existing contracts and company policies to avoid possible breaches. For example, redundancies/lay-offs will require timely preparations in order to give employees their entitled notice period as per employment contracts.

In order to avoid the “last resort” scenario of redundancies, companies might find other financial support measures provided by the UK government useful. We have outlined the ones currently available in our blog post here. Further, a review and forecast of your company’s financial situation and understanding your cash position and liquidity, are actions that employers should take in order to get more clarity about their situation and as a possible consequence save jobs.

Generally, employers should make sure to keep their paperwork in place. HMRC has reserved the right to audit Furlough grant claims over the next 5 years, and so you are required to hold documents for this long. The documents should show clear agreement of the change of terms and under what condition each employee has been furloughed.  Such documentation could become crucial in order to avoid possible discrimination claims or accusations of unfair treatment in the future.

For more support or advice about managing furloughed workers, or for support in making changes to your UK employees working arrangements, please contact our HR department on hr.support@goodwille.com

Webinar: HR Matters – Advice for UK SMEs

The people management landscape is ever evolving. As an SME employer, it is not always easy to keep up with changes in employment legislation and best practices while simultaneously stay relevant against competitors.

To address these challenges, we hosted a webinar in collaboration with the Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce, the Danish-UK Association and the Norwegian-British Chamber of Commerce. Presenters Jacqui Brown, HR Manager, and Anna Kuklinska, HR Advisor, both from Goodwille, focused on what you must do as an SME employer in the UK, but also other important considerations, such as being an attractive employer in the UK – what sorts of things will help you attract top talent, retain your talent, and generally improve your employer brand? The presenters also aimed to update the audience about the new employment legislation changes that recently came into effect.

Watch the full recording of the webinar and Q&A, or read some of the key takeaways below.

Recent Changes to UK Employment Law

Typically, every year there are changes to employment law applicable to all UK businesses – and this year is no exception. Though some have been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, there are still legislation changes that you must take into consideration as a UK employer now.

Contract of Employment – a Day 1 Right

From April onwards, employees are entitled to receive a statement of “written particulars” – the basics of employment terms and conditions – from day one of employment rather than after two months. There are also changes as to what must be included in the contract, such as benefits and mandatory training. If you fail to provide this as an employer, penalties can be as high as 2-4 weeks of compensation.

Pay Changes and Abolition of the Swedish Derogation

Agencies will no longer be able to avoid paying agency workers the same pay as employees for doing the same job, which provides increased stability and certainty for this employee group. Further, the reference period for establishing the average week’s pay has been extended from 12 to 52 weeks, in order to improve the holiday pay for seasonal workers.

IR35 Changes

The IR35 rules prevent contractors from working through Personal Service Companies (PCS), who are in similar roles to employees, to pay less tax and NICs than actual employees. Where it is concluded by the end client that IR35 applies, the fee payer will become responsible for accounting for, and paying, the related tax and NIC to HMRC.

Non-compliance as an employer is associated with fines, though the reforms have been pushed forward to 2021 due to COVID-19. Reviewing your work with contractors now is, however, a good idea in preparation for next year.

Flexible working

Flexible working is now a default scenario – you need to offer it and if you choose not to, you need to have a very strong business justification for not doing so.

Equality – Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment

Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced a set of guidelines that will now be used as ACAS Code of Conduct – although not a formal law, they will be acting as it in harassment and discrimination cases. Employers have to ensure that they are providing team members with training on harassment and discrimination; how to distinguish these, how to spot the signs and how to react to them.

Being An Attractive Employer – Why Is It Important?

It has never been more important to have a strong employer brand to attract key people and skills. A strong employer brand means your company is considered an attractive place to work, with distinctive values, work culture and career prospects.

Being an attractive employer can have many positive impacts such as the ability to recruit good quality candidates and retaining employees. Offering competitive benefits, taking care of your employees, and offering them training can be costly, though poor staff retention and candidate attraction leads to higher operating costs, low engagement and decreased productivity, which in turn affects your bottom line. Employer attractiveness will also give you a competitive reputation in the marketplace. Employer branding matters for customers as well – a loss of trust with consumers can have devastating consequences for your business.

How to Become an Attractive Employer

There are numerous things you can do to improve your attractiveness as an employer.

  • Additional benefits can be advantageous, though there are plenty of different routes to consider. Think about what your chosen benefits says about you and your company – if you want to be seen as a sustainable employer, focus on benefits in line with those values, such as offering healthy snacks and green business cards.
  • Training enables horizontal growth, which becomes especially important in a smaller organisation where everyone can’t be managers.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives are becoming increasingly common for businesses in order to make a good deed while creating a positive brand image.
  • Work/life balance and flexible working is, with the current COVID-19 situation, starting to become the new norm. For some employees, it is even a requirement, making it an important aspect when attracting talent.
  • Mental health care in the workplace, such as counselling services and the use of an Employee Assistant Programme, can be beneficial for not only its purpose, but also for how you are perceived as an employer.
  • Competitive family leave policies and retention practices, for example increasing days of annual leave, are other ways of boosting your attractiveness.

Employer Basics – the Musts

Apart from newly implemented legislation and employee benefits, there are some employer basics that you must adhere to if you are operating in the UK. Firstly, you absolutely need to have an employment contract compliant with UK employment law. Due to recent legislation changes mentioned before, already existing templates from a potential parent company pool will not suffice.

There are some HR policies that you must put in place. As a minimum, you need to have a clear, accessible guidance on the company processes and procedures for Disciplinary and Grievance. If you have five or more employees, you must also have a Health and Safety policy. As per GDPR 2018, a Data Privacy Policy should be in place for review and agreement with employees.

Though not required by law, other policies which you may want to consider for a slimmed down policy offering are Equal Opportunities, which can include Equal Pay, and Sickness-, Holiday- and Company Benefits. As for the latter benefits, these external policies give employers a better chance at varying or withdrawing from them, in comparison as if they were stated in the employment contract. It is important to note that SMEs entering the UK from overseas are not required to have all policies in place from day one, but often build them over time.

Employee benefits – what should I consider?

Before introducing, revising or removing a benefit, it is important for the Organisation to consider:

Why the organisation is introducing/offering the benefit.
How does it support the organisation’s business goals?
How does it reward the values and behaviours that the employer needs?

Mandatory Insurances & Benefits

Employers liability insurances is the absolute minimum if you have employees. For most UK businesses, it is a legal requirement and can lead to significant fines if the cover is inadequate. Further, it is a legal requirement to offer a compliant Workplace Pension scheme in the UK, with strict guidelines to follow.

Other than this, there are no other mandatory benefits in the UK unless you consider minimum sickness pay and paid holiday allowances.

What is Important to Employees Today?

Today’s and tomorrow’s workforce consist largely of millennials. These individuals generally value recognition for their work, growth opportunities, career training and development programmes, and self-improvement. Millennials are tech savvy – so access to benefit information around the clock is a definite plus. Personalised rewards and a wide range of different options are also important.

Work/life balance is important, so flexible schedules matter when choosing their employer. Of course, now with the recent pandemic and the many business that have trial run working from home successfully, it will be harder to refuse flexible working requests in the future. Therefore, businesses need to think about how to keep a ‘workable’ structure when considering work/life balance and communication challenges.

Apart from demographics, also consider other characteristics of our employees. If you are hiring salespeople, for example, they are likely to place more value on a good bonus or commission scheme rather than Private Medical Insurance or free food.

Q&A – Your Questions Answered About Benefits and Employment Law

After the presentation, Anna and Jacqui answered the attendees’ questions regarding benefits and employment law.

From an employee point of view, what is better – a variety of benefits, or a more tailored selection? According to Jacqui, it depends on the company’s lifecycle. Sometimes, you have a wish list of benefits but are not financially capable to support them, which might be the case for early stage SMEs. Consider employee benefit services such as Perkbox, which provides variety yet cost effectiveness. Some things like PMIs is a direct cost, but there are “softer” benefits such as office fruit which doesn’t necessarily have to be very costly but be of great value.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is an initiative open to all UK employers with a PAYE scheme in place for the employees. The scheme will keep employees employed by their employer but they must not undertake any work.  The government will cover 80% of furloughed workers’ wages, up to £2,500 a month. Read more about the qualifying criteria, and how it may benefit your UK business.

The government has also published a step by step guide for claiming your employees’ wages through the CJRS, which can be accessed here.

The Scheme

Employers are able to claim back 80% of furloughed workers wages, limited to £2,500 per month and employee. Additionally, the employer can claim for associated Employer National Insurance contributions (NIC) and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included. Employees must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

The government initially said that the scheme will remain open for a minimum of three months but the deadline has now been extended in its current form until end of July.

On 12th May, it was announced by the Chancellor that the scheme will remain open until the end of October, though under different circumstances. From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time and employers will be expected to pay a percentage towards the furloughed staff’s salaries. These contributions will partly replace those made by the government, thus ensuring that employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

The application portal went live on 20th April and can be accessed here.

All UK employers are eligible to apply for the scheme. This includes not only for-profit businesses, but also charities and recruitment agencies and public authorities. The scheme requires, however, that the organisation has a UK bank account and has started a PAYE payroll scheme prior to, or the day of, 19th March. In addition, you need to be enrolled for PAYE online (this can take up to 10 days).

 

About The Employees

Any type of employment is eligible, though the furloughed employees must have been on the PAYE payroll prior to, or on the day of, 19 March 2020. The employee cannot undertake any work for the organisation, thus, the scheme does not cover employees who are working on reduced hours or reduced salary contracts due to the current crisis.

Examples of type of employees you can claim for:

  • Full-time employees
  • Part time employees
  • Employees on agency contracts
  • Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • Rehired employees who were made redundant since 28 February.

Foreign nationals are also eligible to be furloughed.

Please see more detailed guidance on different types of employees on this page.

No, employers are not enforced to furlough all employees. When choosing who to furlough, the usual equality and discrimination laws will apply.

The government recommends that any changes made to employment contracts should be discussed and done in consent with employees.

Short term illness/ self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and there is a 3 week minimum furlough period.

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.

Calculating the Claim

You are entitled to claim 80% of the employee’s salary before tax as of 28 February, non-inclusive of fees, commission and bonuses and with a maximum amount of £2,500. See detailed guidance on how to calculate the wages here.

National Insurance and Pension Contributions

You are also entitled to claiming back the associated NIC and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions from the HMRC, both which you are still liable to pay. Note that you cannot claim for:

  • additional National Insurance or pension contributions you make because you chose to top up your employee’s salary
  • any pension contributions you make that are above the mandatory employer contribution

The calculation differs depending on how long the employee has been employed.

Employees whose pay varies and were employed from 6 April 2019

If the employee has been employed continuously from the start of the 2019 to 2020 tax year, you can claim the highest of either:

  • 80% of the same month’s wages from the previous year (up to a maximum of £2,500 a month)
  • 80% of the average monthly wages for the 2019 to 2020 tax year (up to a maximum of £2,500 a month)

Employees whose pay varies and who started employment after 6 April 2019

If the employee started their employment after 6 April 2019, claim for 80% of their average monthly wages since they started work until the date they are furloughed, up to a maximum of £2500 per month.

About Furloughed Employees

Yes, you may top up your employee’s salary if desired. Bear in mind, you will also have to pay for NIC and pension contributions for the top-up amount, which you will not be able to claim back.

No. According to the scheme, no one can be furloughed or claimed for unless they are on the PAYE payroll scheme before or on the day of 19 March.

Yes, as long if they do not do any type of work to generate revenue for, or on behalf of, the organisation.

Furloughed employees have the same right as they did before, including SSP, maternity rights and rights against unfair dismissal. Depending on the outcome, the right to redundancy payments could be particularly important ones the government ends the scheme.

This does not affect your claim – an employee can be furloughed for each job separately.

Claiming with HMRC & End of Scheme

To make a claim, you will need:

  • to be registered for PAYE online
  • your UK bank account number and sort code
  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • each employee’s National Insurance number
  • each employee’s payroll or employee number (optional)
  • the start date and end date of the claim
  • the full amount you’re claiming for including employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum pension contributions
  • your phone number
  • contact name

You also need to provide either:

  • your name (or the employer’s name if you’re an agent)
  • your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference
  • your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference
  • your company registration number

See more details here.

As long as you are eligible for the grant, the HMRC will pay it directly to your UK bank account. (within 6 working days of submitting the claim). The amount must then be transferred directly to your employee. You may not deduct any fees from the grant.

Once you’ve claimed, make sure you:

  • keep a copy of all records, including:
    • the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
    • the claim reference number for your records
    • your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
  • tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need to take any more action
  • pay your employee their wages, if you have not already

When the scheme ends, the employee can return to normal duties, or, it may be necessary to consider redundancy. The normal procedures for terminations must then be followed.

How We Can Help 

At Goodwille, we will keep monitoring the current situation and governmental advice regarding COVID-19, regularly updating our blog If any additional information is announced regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme we will notify you, and support you throughout the application process.

We encourage our clients, as well as other businesses, to get in touch with our team in case you have any questions or concerns regarding your UK operations and the implications of COVID-19.

Webinar: Leading a Remote Team

COVID-19 has led to significant change in most people’s personal and working life. Due to social distancing and office closures encouraged by both the UK and the Swedish government, teams who are used to working together in offices have now been left with no choice but to work remotely.

Many are new to the situation, both managers and employees. Previous ways of working are being disrupted by the lack of natural interaction, putting pressure on finding new ways of communicating, monitoring and motivating employees, and measuring performance.

To advise managers and employers in what they need to consider in order to ensure an effective running of their business during these critical and unusual times, Goodwille co-hosted a webinar on 23 April together with the British-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm. HR Manager Jacqui Brown, Goodwille, along with HR Advisor Anna Kuklinska, Goodwille, held a one hour session with the attendees, including an informative presentation and interactive Q&A.

Technology Infrastructure – What Are the Basics of Working Remotely?

After opening remarks were made by Christina Liljeström, Secretary General at the BSCC, it was time to get down to the basics of working remotely. The physical practicalities of working from home need to be in place before even considering to bring your employees out of their ordinary workplace. A working laptop might be an obvious one, but do they need additional screens, a mouse, or noise cancelling headphones in order to keep distractions to a minimum? Phones for international phone calls is another tool which might be necessary, which raises the question of who should pay for it.

With hardware comes software – and there are some great ones out there to help with the transition from office based to remote! Videoconferencing tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts can make this transition easier and fill the human interaction gap. It is advised to not only use them professionally, but to recreate social gatherings in a virtual setting.

Security in terms of protecting both your employees, your company’s and clients data needs to be taken into consideration. Especially with fairly new regulatory policies such as GDPR, you need to ensure your compatibility. A comprehensive and integrated information protections strategy is therefore key, and a VPN might have to be put in place. Discuss with your IT department and make sure their services are accessible for everyone!

Health & Safety in the Remote Workplace – What are your employer responsibilities?

As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. Ideally, you should be able to carry out a risk assessment on your homeworkers. It may not be possible for the employer to carry out a risk assessment – but the employee can. As a manager, you should provide the employee with the right tools to do so.

Insurance is another thing that must be considered before allowing your employees to work from home. Employers should check whether the company’ insurance policy for employer’s liability and personal accident operate in the same way as when office-based, and if the company’s equipment is covered.

It is important to mention employees also have to take reasonable care of their own health and safety. Employees working from home should inform their manager about any risks, or the need of changes to homeworking arrangements, including work hours or targets.

On the softer side – How to Recognise Mental Health Issues Among Employees

After sorting out the practicalities of working from home, Anna Kuklinska continued to speak about employee care – what issues in connection to wellbeing employees might experience when working from home, as well as how employers can monitor and tackle them.

The current situation, with sudden change in work patterns, economic uncertainties, social distancing, and so on, can cause a number of mental health issues for employees. As an employer you have a ‘duty of care’ towards your employees, meaning you must take reasonable steps in relation to their health, safety, and wellbeing, which also extends to mental health.

So how do you spot signs of mental health illness or vulnerability among your employees? There are a number of factors, among these changes in work habits, physical appearance and personality, as well as increased absenteeism and outbursts/mood swings.

Parents and lone workers – how to manage?

Due to school closures and social distancing, a group who might find it even more difficult to adjust to the remote ways of working are parents. They might feel distracted, unmotivated, inadequate and stressed when worklife and personal life inevitably blends together. Therefore, it becomes crucial to provide flexible working arrangements, such as working hours, and as a manager you should encourage an honest and open dialogue with the team.

There will always be a greater risk for lone workers with no direct supervision. Managers should put procedures in place to ensure regular contact, ensuring employee health and safety. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned, which can affect stress levels and mental health. It is also important to have an emergency point of contact updated and on file, so make sure your data is accessible and secure.

Workplace Communication During COVID-19

Emphasising on communication in your workplace is the key to managing your workers effectively. Employees need regular contact; however, it is even more important in times of crisis. Transparency is key – it is crucial to keep employees informed of the current business situation and be transparent on what challenges the company might face.

Employees need guidance and support on how effectively working from home. It is important to build up a healthy relationship of trust and confidence. Try to use video calls rather than phone calls if possible, which reduces possible feelings of alienation. Also, stay positive – even though the situation is challenging, remember to sometimes also deliver positive news, and encourage your staff to emphasise on the positive aspects of their current situation. Encourage working proactively rather than reactively, give recognition, and if you do have scope, fit in exciting projects and development opportunities.

Leadership communication is also critical. If you are a manager, discuss with your teams how you should run supervision, check-ins, and sign offs remotely. Let people know how and when to contact you and make sure that everyone working from home knows what is expected of them.

How to Manage Productivity, Conduct & Performance

If you’re lucky enough to have a business functioning remotely, there are still conduct and performance related issues which can arise when managing them remotely. For example, social distancing measures and working from home risks your employees feeling isolated. This can, in turn, lead to poor engagement and poor productivity, which is bad news for any employer.

Productivity doesn’t necessarily have to be measured by time spent, but keep in mind the flexible working arrangements that might need to be put in place for some employees. Instead, you should set clear targets to work towards and invite employees to discuss targets, and in applicable cases – outline why they have not been met.

Use technology to talk to your employees about issues and to manage performance or conduct matters. But – beware of excessive chit chat, rise of interpersonal issues and inappropriate conversations which the use of software such as Slack, Teams and Skype can cause.

It is still possible to implement a performance management routine remotely, where technology plays an important part. You can also still hold formal meetings to investigate a disciplinary matter, and to carry out a disciplinary process if necessary. We are entering a new world where it is likely that remote working will be normalised and we need to become used to operating like this.

Bullying & Harassment in the Remote Workplace

Just because your team no longer works face to face, doesn’t mean cases of bullying or discrimination are eliminated. An employer’s liability for the conduct of their employees is not waived simply because a victim is working from home. Bullying and harassment can occur using remote channels such as chat rooms, e-mails and phones. The act doesn’t have to be aimed directly to the victim, but for example, it could be seen as fostering an “intimidating, hostile degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for a senior employee to neglect to copy a colleague into emails or invite them to an online meeting.

When it comes to bullying and harassment, employers need to reflect upon their own behaviour. Micromanaging certain employees can be seen as victimisation or discrimination. How you monitor and assess your employees work will be taken into account, but also your reaction to, for example, a reduction in activity or working hours amongst employees. Built-in biases of who is subject to such actions should be considered, for example – do some people assume women are more likely to be caring for dependants than men? Here, it is important to have your standardised procedures in place.

Some employees might postpone complaints to a time when this crisis is resolved due to fear of employment loss. Therefore, it is important to implement measures, policies and practices to protect your business against a wave of potential cases of bullying and harassment.

Your questions answered – Remote Workforce Management

During the Q&A, attendees shared their own remote working experiences. When asked about what the major points that should be changed for managers when moving to remote working, Jacqui shared here personal experience as a HR manager: “I think for me the biggest changes is the communication aspect, and making sure you’re still keeping human contact with your team members as a manager. There is still a potential issue with productivity and managing that side, and sometimes that can be perceived as being more difficult to do from a remote working perspective”. Anna emphasized on managing expectations – the importance of conversating with employees about your reality, what employees need to achieve, and to form established procedures.

How about differences across boarders – are some countries’ workforce better at adapting to remote working? Jacqui again: “Certainly in some countries, remote or flexible working seems to be more the norm, and I think that to a certain degree the UK is catching up. So maybe we are a little bit behind the curve and learning how to make this the new norm”.

Upcoming webinar: Communications and COVID-19 – What have we learnt during business lockdown and what happens next?

On May 13, we are organising a webinar in collaboration with Rochester PR Group and the Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce.

Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, communication has been key to how we have felt about our jobs, employers, business and lives in general.  Some companies have adapted better than others and we have all been on the receiving end of some annoying, sometimes astounding communication whether that’s on email or on a Zoom/Teams meeting.   The comms function – both from HR and marketing departments communicating internally and externally – has been under more scrutiny than ever before.

In this webinar we will pull together some of the key lessons whilst also providing some advice for the next stage.  The timing – after 7 May when we should be hearing the government’s latest thinking lockdown ending/how we get back to work – has been deliberately chosen and the final content of the webinar will reflect the latest state of play. 

 
 

Speaker:

The webinar will be delivered by Joanna Dodd, Managing Director from Rochester PR Group which works with international businesses making their move into the UK, helping them on effective communication to achieve business success. 

Read more about Rochester PR.

COVID-19 Guide – Managing Employee Absence

Social distancing and inability to work from home in combination with business closures, have led to a great deal of employee absence from work. Further, employers have a duty of care towards their employees which includes not exposing them to unnecessary risk. In this case, that may mean encouraging absence.

As a result, the UK government and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) have announced temporary directives and guidelines for employers to cope with employee absence in connection with COVID-19. In order for employees to know how to communicate with their employees, we have outlined and categorised the different directives below.

Care of dependants

As of Friday 20 March, all schools, including private schools, further education colleges, sixth-form colleges and early-years care providers, will be closed until further notice. This means a great deal of working parents will be unable to work in order to care for their dependents. Normally, individuals might leave their children with the grandparents in order to continue working as usual. However – since elderly have been instructed with further social distancing measures by the government, this might not be an option either.

The right to take time off to care for a dependant is intended for emergencies only and it is up to the employer to decide whether to allow it, though the employee can subsequently make a complaint to the employment tribunal if he/she feels unfairly refused time off.

What are your options?

Employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off for dependants in an unexpected event or emergency, which could apply to the current situation. A reasonable amount differs depending on the situation, but for cases in connection to Covid-19, this time frame is likely to be extended.

An employer does not have to pay for this type of time off unless stated so in the employment contract or workplace policy. First and foremost, contracts must therefore be reviewed before considering what type and duration of leave is suitable. Eventually, other arrangements might be sought in consent between the employer and employee, such as taking annual leave. Our HR team can advise you in what type leave is suitable for your situation.

If the employee has to care for a dependant with coronavirus symptoms, the employee is entitled to Statutory Sick Pay as a minimum.

Self-isolation

What does the government say?

Everyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to self-isolate for 7 days. If someone within the household has tested positive for the virus, everyone must self-isolate for 14 days. If a member of a self-isolating household was not showing symptoms during this 14 day period of self-isolation, however, they develop symptoms during this time, they must ensure that they self-isolate for 7 days from when their symptoms started, i.e. if they become ill on day 10 of the 14 day isolation, they must self-isolate for a further 7 days from the start of their symptoms.

Those individuals who qualify as vulnerable, meaning they have an increased risk of severe illness, should be practising social distancing for a 12 week period. Among these groups are pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and/or weakened immune system, and those who care for someone with such a health condition.

According to UK law, employees do not have to show proof of illness within their first seven days. After that it is up to the discretion of the employer, though the government has advised employers to loosen their constraints on showing evidence of illness.

What are my options?

If the employee feels fit to work, they should be given the opportunity to work from home whenever possible. This also means the employee should be paid their normal salary. If the employee is too sick to work, he/she is entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (see below). In some cases, the employee might wish to take paid annual leave rather than sick pay, though employers cannot enforce them to do so.

Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay is a minimum level of pay during illness, which employers are liable to pay at a rate of £94.25 per week. This is only available for employees with an average weekly earning above £118.

From 13 March, employers must pay SSP from day 1 of self-isolation on the basis of the advice published by Public Health England. For cases related to COVID-19, small and medium sized businesses with less than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP for a minimum of 2 weeks per employee. This regulation does not apply to those able to work from home.

Who is entitled to SSP?

Employees and workers who need to self-isolate because

  • They have coronavirus
  • They have coronavirus symptoms
  • Someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • They have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

Employees who are stuck abroad

What does the government say?

The UK government has advised all non-essential travel for British people worldwide, announced on 17 March and effective for the upcoming 30 days. The pandemic has caused many international borders to close and cancelling of flights. For British people already abroad, they should listen to local authorities and follow the Foreign travel advice of their country. 23 March, the Foreign Minister further advised all British travellers to come back to the UK as soon as possible.

What are my options?

Assuming the employer has unsuccessfully tried to find ways of getting back in the country, there are number of ways to cope with the situation. In agreement with the employee, you can use their annual leave, depending on the length of the absence and their remaining holiday. If you’re able to give them the required notice, which is twice the duration as the actual time off, you may also enforce annual leave. There is also the solution of working remotely, though the employee may not insist this if it is not a viable solution.

In these extreme cases, finding other solutions by negotiating with the employee might be the answer. He/she might be open to a period of unpaid leave, use banked time off in lieu, or agree to any other type of appropriate leave.

If you’re unsure of what type of leave is appropriate, or you need a middle hand in negotiations between employer and employee, our HR department is here to help.

Employees who do not want to go to work

Some employees might feel emotional distress about coming to work due to the risk of catching the virus. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has advised employers to listen to their employee’s concerns and take necessary steps to protect everyone.

What are my options?

If the employee is unable to work from home, the employer can suggest arrangements to meet the concerns of their employees, such as offering a taxi to avoid using public transport or flexible working hours.

If a worker is still unwilling to go to work because of COVID-19, the individual can suggestively take annual leave if they give sufficient notice. We suggest, the employer tries to meet the needs of the employee to their best abilities. If unsuccessful, it is implied by employment contracts that non-valid reasons for refusing to attend work, however, can lead to disciplinary action.

What about if I need to close the workplace?

As of 23 March, the UK government have instructed all non-essential businesses and premises to shut down. For businesses suffering due to COVID-19, the UK government has launched a number of financial measures for businesses to avoid unemployment. Our HR team has also given their advice on how to cope with the sudden downturn.

For many, this is a difficult time with emotional distress and fear. As an employer it is important to maintain communication with the employees and make sure they know how to get I touch with their employer when needed. In line with recommendations from ACAS, we advise all employers to regularly check in on their employee’s health and wellbeing.

How can Goodwille help?

Goodwille’s HR team are here to answer your questions in these continuously changing and critical times. Employment matters in regards to COVID-19 where we can assist include:

  • Oversee employment contract and workplace policies
  • Recommendations in your available options in terms of governmental support as well as restructuring of employees
  • Advice and support in employee communication

Do not hesitate to get in touch with our HR team with any further questions or concerns.

Business Guide: HR Support During COVID-19

We are experiencing critical times. International borders are closing, businesses shut down – it is needless to say both employers and employees are concerned about how the COVID-19 virus will affect their work, their health, and the people around them.

To minimise both the mental distress and economic impact of this pandemic, our HR department is here to support and guide our clients through these tough times. In combination with the financial measures taken by the government, we are hoping to significantly reduce the negative consequences that this pandemic has had, and will have, on your business.

Cutting costs during downturn in work

During financially critical times, business will suffer. In combination with the government’s latest instruction of closing down all commercial businesses apart from essential services, this has entailed a large number of employers who are unable to provide their employees with work as normal.

When employers choose to close the workplace, workers are entitled to payment unless it is stated otherwise in the employment contract. In other words – if you are finding a downturn in business and you decide that you do not want your employees to work/there is no work for them to do and they are not sick – i.e. this is not a case of self-isolation or employees having symptoms – then you will need to pay them their contractual hours. If not, you are in breach of contract.

What are my options?

In case there is no work to do, businesses might have no option but to consider redundancies. On 20 March, Chancellor Rihi Sunak announced a coronavirus job retention scheme – a support package open to all UK businesses in order to protect millions of jobs during the temporary downturn in work caused by COVID-19. The scheme includes grants to cover 80% of worker’s wages limited to £2,500 per month, in the case where they would otherwise be laid off/made redundant. Additional information about the scheme, qualifying criteria and how to apply, is available in our blog post.

Employers who find themselves in a situation where they “only” have to reduce the work hours for employees, thus, there is still work for them to do, they would not qualify for the scheme as it is not a redundancy scenario. The employer will then have to look at other options.

Unpaid time off: As an employer, you may not insist on your employees taking unpaid time off unless it states so in the employment contract, which is fairly unusual. Given the current extraordinary situation, you could consult with your staff. For some employees, a period of unpaid time off might be preferable rather than losing their job completely.

Thus, unpaid time off can be given in consent with the employee. With the new wage package rescue plan (see below), this could be a particularly beneficial solution for employers within the applicable industries.

Negotiate reduced hours: Similarly as negotiating unpaid time off, this will have to be done in consent with the employee(s).

Request annual leave: The general rule is that you may require an employee to take time off as holiday, though you must give a notice twice as long as the actual holiday.

Governmental financial support: There has been announced a number of measures taken by the government to support UK businesses during these critical times, especially put in place for the survival of SMEs and to avoid mass unemployment. We continuously update our blog with the latest announcements from the government, how and when to apply for grants and loan schemes. By securing any of them, reducing staff could be avoided.

Our HR team can advise you in what option is best suitable with your current situation and future aspirations in mind. When needed, we assist in contract reviewal, restructuring of employees and potential negotiations. We will, of course, always base our advise on the latest guidelines from the government and the ACAS and thereby ensuring compliance.

Communication is key!

With the majority of the workforce working from home due to travel restrictions and social distancing measures, communicating with your employees might not come as naturally as when you constantly bump into each other in the office. This time might also be a period of emotional distress and fear amongst employees, which makes continuous communication even more important.

Frequently checking in on your employees and informing them about expectations and precautions taken in terms of COVID-19 can be reassuring and affect employee’s mental health positively. Further, it is important to pay additional attention and take extra steps for those employees belonging to a vulnerable group.

Goodwille HR can support your internal communication in connection to COVID-19 – how to communicate with employees, the latest governmental guidelines and provide with templates for employee letters.

10 Fun Things You Can Do In 30 Minutes (When You Are Locked Indoors)

As a result of COVID-19, and with an increased number of people now working from home, we want to share some fun things you can do to make sure you have the break you deserve, spend the time wisely and don’t get caught up with “working lunches”.

If working 9 – 5 is your thing, then you are probably used to a 30 minute break, so here is Goodwille’s list of “Fun things you can do in 30 minutes”, which doesn’t involve scrolling social media, watching television, or reading about the end of the world.

10 – Take Up Doodling

Whether you think you’re creative or not, everyone loves to doodle. You don’t have to be the next Picasso to put pen to paper, but if you are, then get out the pens, the paper, the apron, easel, the lot. Doodling, drawing, sketching or painting is a great way to switch off, and who knows, you might just find your hidden talent.

9 – Reorganise the Freezer

It might not sound fun, but nothing will make you happier than being able to open the freezer drawer smoothly. Pop a clip on the frozen peas, throw out any of the old stuff, and relax into your afternoon knowing that opening the freezer drawers will be smoother than a warm knife cutting through butter.

8 – Make Time For The People You Care About

Whether they live with you, or if you call them via Facetime, now is a perfect time to connect and make time to speak to your nearest and dearest, as the likelihood is, they also have time on their hands, and they are probably missing you. Take the time to reconnect with the people you’ve been meaning to speak to.   

7 – Read A Book

Get engrossed in something that isn’t the latest Netflix series and let the imagination run wild with a good book. Get a selection of the bestsellers delivered to your door (contactless delivery preferable), then throw yourself on the sofa, relax and find a book that you just can’t put down!

6 – Start Puzzling

Pick up a 500 piece puzzle, or if you have plenty of time, try a 1,000 piece one. I guarantee everyone will say ‘what have you bought that for’, but once you get started, they won’t be able to stay away. You’ll find them bringing you hot drinks unexpectedly, just so they can smugly slot in another piece! It’s a great way to bring everyone you live with together.

5 – Start Cooking Quick & Easy Meals

The internet is full of quick and easy meals, and it will give you chance to use up many things that are left over in the cupboards. If you’re used to grabbing sandwiches and a packet of crisps, now’s your chance to expand your horizons and enjoy something a little more, let’s say, exciting?

4 – Learn Something New

There has not been a better time to learn something new than now! Get online and buy whatever it is you’ve been thinking about learning. Whether it be an electric guitar, a digeridoo or learning a new language, you’ll have some spare time on your hands right now and for the foreseeable future. Kick back, relax and start teaching your brain something that you’ve always only dreamt about learning.  

3 – Pet Your Dog

Possibly the easiest one on the list, if you have a dog that is. But if you do, pick them up, tell him he’s a good boy, cuddle him, whisper in his ear and tell him how much you love working at home with him. Tickle his tummy, feed him treats, get him to do tricks, and tell him again how much you love him. Spend 5 minutes chasing him round the house and he will love you forever. Warning: This is possibly the easiest way to spend 30minutes. Keep track of time here!

2 – Exercise, or Take Up Yoga

Switching off is important when you’re stuck indoors, and exercising is a great way to do it. Houses are often full of sweet temptations, and we have no doubt that your stepometer is not what it used to be. Download an exercise or yoga app and find the inner fitness freak that’s been waiting to break free for years.

1 – Research Things To Do When You’re Allowed Back Out

Whilst many of us are disappointed that we have had our holidays & summer plans cancelled unexpectedly, there is no better time to start planning and dreaming about that break, for when you are allowed back out. Start thinking about the new you and look at things you might not otherwise have considered. Jump out of a plane, get muddy at a festival and start planning life after COVID-19.

When working from home it’s important that you take time away from the screen, so we hope you enjoy our top 10 tips of things you can do during your breaks whilst working from home!

Coronavirus update: Message from our CEO

Dear Goodwille Community,

Due to the recent developments of COVID-19 and with the health of our employees, their family and the wider community in mind, as of this week all Goodwille employees will work from home, and the Goodwille offices will be temporarily closed until further notice.

I am confident that the Goodwille infrastructure which has enabled us to work remotely for many years will continue to work seamlessly, and this decision will not impact the delivery of work to your business. All channels through which you would normally contact the team, except in person, will remain operational.

Whilst there remains a significant amount of uncertainty around the impact Coronavirus will have on businesses, both large and small, I want to reassure you that we will support you through these challenging times and will keep you updated as government support becomes available. Our team’s knowledge of this topic is constantly expanding, and I would encourage you to engage with them if you have questions about how you can minimise the impact on your business.

Whilst I am confident the changes will have little to no impact on many of your businesses, we wanted to summarise some key points below:

Visitors & Communication

On Friday 13th March we closed our offices to visitors, and the offices will remain closed until further notice. For clients wanting to communicate face-to-face we encourage the use of Microsoft Teams in the meantime to liaise with Goodwille employees. All phone numbers (020 7795 8100 and 01926 405 511) will be answered as normal.

Virtual Office & Mail Handling Clients

Clients who have mail handling services, and specifically those who collect their mail from the London or Warwick reception, can expect their main contact to be in touch shortly to discuss alternative arrangements, which may involve mail scanning during this period. We are currently unable to allow the face-to-face collection of mail from our offices, nor the collection or delivery of parcels.

There will be no disruption at present where the mail received is acted upon by Goodwille (Corporate Legal, Finance etc). Clients with telephone answering services will not be affected by remote working.

Working from Home

As of Wednesday 18th March, all Goodwille employees will be home based until further notice. Whilst this should run seamlessly, the large number of people working remotely globally has already put pressures on some communication systems this week. We do not envisage this being an issue but would ask for some understanding should situations outside of our control occur.

Support & Advice

We remain committed to providing you the best level of service during these challenging times. If you are concerned or have any questions about how this may impact our ability to deliver work to you, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. If you require support around grants or funding available to SMEs, please read our post here or reach out directly to a member of our team.

We are committed to ensuring you receive the level of support your business needs during this challenging time,

Take care and stay safe
Alexander Goodwille,
CEO