Covid-19 - Staffing, Reimbursements and other employment terms
The BMA expects general practice to be provided with additional funding to meet all extra costs associated with care in the community during the COVID emergency, and that the funding will be flexible to adapt to the changes that are required.
It is expected that NHS England will release information about funding for general practice very soon.
With the support of the Association of Independent Specialist and Medical Accountants (AISMA) the BMA have produced a template that practices can use to claim for the expenses of opening as normal on Bank Holidays.This includes staff expenses, salaried GPs, locum (up to maximum rate), partners, and an amount to cover daily non-staff expenses. Access the template here.
Acas has dedicated Covid-19 information pages for Employers (and Employees, this will help Employers understand what an employee can expect)
There is another website with Covid-19 advice around employment, Money Advice Services. This is aimed at employees, however, I think it is useful in informing employers of an employee expectation or entitlement.
The Government is putting into place a scheme whereby employers will be able to claim refunds for 2 weeks SSP for every eligible employee.
We have been asked if the government job retention scheme, that allows employers to furlough staff and claim back up to 80% of staff wages, will apply to practices. The scheme guidance indicates that public sector and public-funded jobs are not eligible for the scheme.
The guidance states:-
The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them.
This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to COVID-19 are not expected to furlough staff.
As the funding that is used to employ staff members is maintained, as is the case for GMS funding for general practice, then furlough will not be permitted.
We would suggest to practices that if they have any staff off for 12 weeks, and they need to and are able to backfill, then records of these backfill hours should be kept and added to your “Covid-19” expenses. We cannot guarantee these will be refunded under the government announcement that expenses will be covered, however, at least by keeping these records there’s a possibility.
First Practice Management offer advice on HR considerations around possible challenges with employees returning to work.
As the LMC is not qualified to give formal HR advice and guidance, we always recommend seeking formal specialist HR guidance where necessary.
Summary of Government update to Working Time Regulations
Staff who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years.
The regulations will allow up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next 2 leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.
The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 amends the Working Time Regulations 1998 to create a further exemption relating specifically to COVID-19. Where it is not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some, or all, of the holiday to which they are entitled due to the coronavirus, they have a right to carry the 4 weeks under regulation 13 into the next 2 leave years. (This will not apply to the 1.6 weeks under regulation 13A leave, but this can be carried forward one year by agreement between workers and employers. Read the full details for further information on this).
The full details go on to advise that the regulations giving a right to paid annual leave do not apply to: the activities of workers who are doctors in training. We would suggest that further specialist advice should be sought on this point if needed.
The full details can be read at:-
Holiday Travel Abroad
One FAQ that has been raised is about practice staff and foreign holiday travel. If a member of a practice team wishes to continue with their planned holiday abroad, under current travel guidance, the government confirmed (31st July 2020) any registered health and care professionals traveling to England from high-risk countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.
Does the practice have to pay them full pay or sick pay for those 14 days of self-isolation or can they
a) ask the employee not to take a foreign holiday
b) ask them to take unpaid leave for the 14 days of self-isolation?
We took some informal advice on this matter and were given the following reply :
- If an employee knows that by taking a holiday abroad they will have to self isolate for 14 days on return then they have to factor that into their holiday. They cannot expect and there is no obligation for full or part pay during that time. That is the employee choice.
- The normal rules of the employment contract should apply and they will either need to take that as further holiday or, without pay, or with the consent of the employer make suitable arrangements to work from home.
We do, as always, advise practices to take formal HR advice should they need to.
Staff Risk Assessments
Please see our dedicated page for this at:- https://www.wessexlmcs.com/covid19staffriskassessments
Death in Service - The NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020
The Secretary of State for Health has announced that staff who are performing vital frontline NHS or social care work during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may be eligible for a life assurance scheme, recognising the increased risks they are currently facing.
In the event of a staff member dying due to COVID-19 a lump sum payment of £60,000 will be made to their estate, if they meet the qualifying work-related criteria for the scheme. The life assurance scheme is non-contributory, meaning there is no cost to staff or employers.
Other Terms and Conditions
The BMA have terms and conditions advice for doctors with contracts of employment, in particular can holidays be cancelled by an employer. The answer is yes, within reason. The BMA goes into more detail about this. The principles could apply to any employee with a contract.