Employers Advice – from Helen Gilfillan HR Dept

Coronavirus – Employers Advice

This information is for business owners to provide some advice and useful links to keep up to date on the latest measures and guidance on Coronavirus. 

I am Helen Gilfillan from the HR Dept and I cover Saffron Waldon and the surrounding areas providing employment law and human resources support to small and medium sized businesses: –

  • I am independent 
  • Local
  • Pragmatic and personal advice
  • Tailored advice to your business
  • I am not a call centre you get to speak to me personally
  • Backed by a huge organisation with access to expert legal advice 


It is important that you, as business owners, keep up to date daily and follow the latest advice from the following organisations where they apply to your business/industry.

General Advice

As a general rule, employers should do the following:

  • Keep communication flowing. This is an ever-changing situation so it’s important to keep talking about the actions you are taking. Have an open-door policy for any concerns that employees may have.
  • Review and update all employee contact numbers and emergency contact details.
  • Know where your staff are travelling to and returning from. This applies to both business and holiday travel.
  • Remain current with government advice regarding self-isolation/quarantine requirements from each country. See above websites.
  • Advise employees experiencing even mild symptoms of coronavirus, such as fever and/or a new persistent cough to stay at home for seven days. If symptoms worsen to contact 111 for medical advice. If a member of an employee’s household has contracted it, the employee should self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Managers should be informed of how to spot symptoms of coronavirus, see above links.
  • Have a clear process to follow if someone is diagnosed with coronavirus.
  • Ensure that you provide clean places for people to wash their hands with hot water and soap and encourage your staff to do this regularly.
  • Think about protective resources. For example, hand sanitisers/gel and tissues should all be made available. Non-alcoholic hand sanitiser might be preferable to some employees on religious or belief grounds, so it might be advisable to offer both. Current PHE guidance is that face masks are ineffective and are not recommended as a preventative measure.
  • Increase general cleaning routines for handrails, door handles etc.
  • Think about planned business travel and question whether it is essential.
  • Have a home working policy.
  • Have a business continuity plan.
  • Keep employees thinking pragmatically.

Please see the link below to the Government website for guidance to employers and businesses about Covid-19


COVID-19 – Support for businesses

Many emergency measures have already been put in place and it has been reported that, sadly, millions of people are likely to lose their jobs.  

Coronavirus job retention scheme

The Government is further stepping up its rescue response with an employment and wage subsidy package. The announcement came one day after prime minister Boris Johnson spoke directly to employers saying, “stick by your employees because we will stick by you”.

Our central website is kept up to date as and when announcements are made and guidance is provided; the link can be found here:-


Full guidance from the Government can also be found here:-


However as this is an area that many employers are wishing to utilise, here are the headline points and more detailed information is contained in the government guidance:-

  • Coronavirus job retention scheme is initially open for 3 months from 1 March 2020 but may be extended;
  • Any employer in the country will be eligible provided they had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020 and have a UK bank account (however, organisations who receive public funding are not expected to furlough staff);
  • The Scheme is for Employers who, if they can’t pay wages due to the coronavirus, and staff would have otherwise have been laid off or made redundant, can claim a grant from HMRC to cover 80% of the wages and be kept on the payroll;
  • Employees must have been on the employer’s payroll on 28 February 2020;
  • If you do not need to furlough all staff, you can select those areas or roles affected; please note equality and discrimination laws continue to apply;
  • The minimum length an employee can be furloughed for is 3 weeks;
  • The employee must not undertake any work for you but can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation, please see comments in the guidance regarding the use of online training;
  • You need to designate staff as ‘furloughed workers’ and notify them of this change by way of a furlough agreement.   If there is no lay-off clause in the contract the employee will need to agree to the change; 
  • The grant will cover 80% of the salary of workers up to £2,500 a month (plus employer NI contributions and minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions) – fees, commission and bonuses are not included.  Employers can choose to top up;
  • Please note in the guidance the calculation for employees on variable pay
  • HMRC are working on the scheme now (including setting up an online portal) with the first grants envisaged to be paid by the end of April;
  • If you would like to furlough staff it is important that you seek expert advice and issue the documentation;

Please note these points above are the main points and further information can be found on the government website and it’s important to understand all the detail before embarking on the scheme.

Advice on taking necessary steps

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s message was clear “you will not face this alone”.

Whilst this support is significant, we understand that it may not be enough to keep everyone employed. Redundancies and lay-offs can be difficult but are sometimes necessary for a business to survive. The process of letting staff go, even for a temporary period, is complicated. And the added pressure of the coronavirus pandemic can make this even more strenuous.   You may also need to consider placing staff on short-time working during this period.   

I would recommend that you seek professional advice to ensure that you are legally compliant through the process as well as discuss all the options available to you.

As well as the Job Retention Scheme the Chancellor has also set out a package of temporary measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

The link to the government website for further information on support for businesses can be found here:-


Access to my website is below and I am more than happy to have a free no obligation conversation with any business to discuss options and provide advice.


HR Dept can offer affordable packages for you to have access to unlimited advice and documentation as well as an emergency package discounted for this current situation.

Do you like to feel confident that you’re doing all your HR correctly and in the best interests of your business and staff?  Please do get in touch for a discussion or a free HR health check!

Call me on 07443 672963 or email at helen.gilfillan@hrdept.co.uk