Category Archives: Furlough

Businesses urged to be prepared for furlough inspections

Despite Covid restrictions and support schemes being wound down across the country, leading independent accountancy firm Kilsby Williams is urging businesses to continue to ensure that their records are in order, in preparation for potential furlough inspections being carried out by HMRC.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, commonly referred to as furlough, protected nearly 12 million jobs across the UK during the pandemic with the government subsidising up to 80% of employees’ wages.

While the scheme prevented mass unemployment and supported businesses through an unpredictable financial period, it is reported that furlough has cost the government £70 billion and, in some instances, been open to fraud. It is estimated that nearly £6bn has been lost to fraud and error across the government’s Covid-19 support schemes including furlough.

Now, HMRC has created a well-funded Taxpayer Protection Taskforce with over 1000 inspectors to investigate fraudulent claims and issue penalties where non-compliance has occurred.

Mary McDonagh, Partner at Kilsby Williams, said: “Furlough was a lifeline for many businesses in Wales at the height of the pandemic. However, the ever-changing rules regarding employee eligibility and earning periods meant that calculations became more complex and companies may have reported inaccurate claims.”

HMRC is using Real Time Information submissions to check claims and the taskforce is likely to investigate instances of non-compliance such as employers claiming for fictitious employees, employees working during the furlough period and grants not being paid to employees within a reasonable period.

Mary McDonagh added: “The taskforce is predicted to audit thousands of SMEs to ensure furlough claims were legitimate. If an inspection is requested by HMRC, employers will need to provide up to date records and documents. We recommend that any claims made are reviewed now and if any erroneous amounts are found, these should be reported to help mitigate any penalties.”

Kilsby Williams’ payroll team can provide comprehensive compliance checks of any claims made to identify any areas where non-compliance may have occurred and can help in the procedure to resolve this with HMRC.

Established in 1991, Kilsby Williams works with clients from across South Wales, the Midlands and London, ranging from sole traders to companies in international quoted groups.

Five HR changes to watch out for in 2021, from caseflowhr

After a turbulent 2020, in which many HR professionals had to call upon new skills and completely transform their processes, the team behind disruptive HR tech platform caseflowhr has pulled together five changes to watch out for to support planning in 2021.

1. Mental health
2. IR35 legislation
3. Brexit and immigration
4. Coronavirus Job Retention System (furlough)
5. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

With so many changes in the horizon, it is no wonder that many HR teams are looking for support. Indeed, getting employee relations (ER) wrong can have significant impact on morale, culture, productivity, and even the bottom line. The new caseflowhr platform has been designed on the back of transformation, bot-driven technology to provide guided pathways for HR teams through both simple and complex ER cases.

Greg Hartigan, Co-founder and Managing Director of caseflowhr, comments: “HR professionals are being called upon to support workforce’s which have been through unprecedented times. Already under pressure to do more with less, they will need to step up and provide unheard of levels of individual and team support, as well as managing significant cultural change. Getting out from under mountains of admin and engaging with the people in the business will be essential. Caseflowhr has been designed by HR professionals for HR professionals.”

Mental health –

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will, of course, have physical health implications on our workforce’s, but the unknown long-term mental health impact is likely to present a huge need for proactive and sensitive responses from HR and people management teams.

The Centre for Mental Health predicts that up to 10 million people (20% of the UK population) may need new or additional mental health support because of the pandemic. Research from the Mental Health Foundation in November 2020 suggests almost half of the UK population had felt anxious or worried in the previous two weeks.

HR professionals will need to consider workplace culture and how to support workforce’s which have been fundamentally changed by the pandemic.

IR35 legislation –

Already familiar to those in the public sector, the off-payroll regulations will be rolled out to private sector organisations in 2021. There was a brief reprieve due to COVID-19; however, organisations will need to get their employment contracts in order to ensure they are behaving appropriately when it comes to tax for individual contractors employed via personal service companies.

Brexit and immigration –

Employers should encourage existing team members from the European Economic Area to apply for settled or pre-settled status if they have not done so already. The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021. There are also implications for recruitment following the introduction of a new points-based immigration system in the UK on 1 January 2021, with individuals moving to the UK for work required to pay for a visa, as well as a healthcare surcharge.

Corona-virus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) –

The Corona-virus Job Retention Scheme has been extended to 30 April 2021, allowing employers to claim 80% of an employee’s salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Employers can furlough employees for any number of hours and work pattern but will need to understand the implications for National Insurance and pension payments. While the scheme will be reviewed again as it nears the end date, organisations need to consider how they will respond to either further extensions or the scheme coming to an end.

It is also worth noting that April 2021 will also see changes to the National Living Wage, National Minimum Wage and Statutory Sick Pay come into force. All of these will have implications on organisations’ wage bills. A wider COVID-19 economic support budget is also scheduled for 3 March 2021.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination –

The Employment Bill introduced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019 included reference to extending the redundancy protection rights for pregnant employees and new parents, as well as making flexible working the default position. Timings for these consultations are still to be confirmed. However, it is likely that employers will need to continue to approach flexible working and redundancy with sensitivity and an awareness of the context of COVID-19, while preparing for any further changes.

How caseflowhr can help – 

HR technology is becoming an essential feature of organisations, filling in the communications and operational gaps created by the pandemic, remote working, and increasingly dispersed workforce’s. Caseflowhr combines employment law expertise with the skill of an employee relations (ER) practitioner to create an on-demand digital employee relations specialist that is both disruptive and trans-formative, freeing up time for HR professionals to put the people back into people management.

XpertHR helps employers understand the extended furlough scheme with new guidance and webinar

Following the recent Government announcement of the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until 31 March 2021, XpertHR has published updated guidance and resources to help employers navigate the extended scheme.

The Government will cover 80% of furloughed employees’ pay for the hours they do not work, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Employers will be responsible for paying the employer national insurance contributions (NICs) and auto-enrolment pension contributions.

The scheme will be reviewed in January 2021 to decide if economic circumstances are such that employers can contribute more from 1 February 2021.The ability to flexibly furlough employees will continue, so employees will be able to work part time – with employers paying employees in full for the hours they work.

Employers need to be aware too that the Job Retention Bonus of £1,000 has been withdrawn. The bonus would have been payable to employers in February 2021 for employees who had been furloughed but remained employed until 31 January 2021.

XpertHR ran a free webinar in November with employment lawyer, Darren Newman on the ‘Extended furlough and other workforce protection measures’ which employers can listen to for help reviewing their business models and understanding the steps they need to take to protect their workforce.

Darren guides employers through the extended scheme and other options, such as short-time working. He also discussed some of the employee relations challenges employers may be tackling, including managing employees who are required to self-isolate.

Jeya Thiruchelvam, Managing Editor at XpertHR says, “With England in lockdown and some restrictions likely throughout the winter, the extension of the furlough scheme is welcome news for employers. However, the last minute nature of the extension meant that by the time it was announced many employers had already spent considerable time planning how to transition employees from furlough to redundancy, or back to work, or onto the Job Support Scheme, in anticipation of the furlough scheme closing on 31 October 2020. Employers are currently struggling to stay on top of government guidance on the extended furlough scheme, which has been amended multiple times already. All our resources on the extended scheme reflect the latest guidance and can be relied on by employers to help them navigate the scheme.

XpertHR has over 150 COVID-19 resources which cover legal compliance and practical measures for HR managers. Its latest resources include model letters to help employers comply with the extended scheme rules as well as employment law:

Letter putting employee on flexible furlough following extension of scheme until March 2021

There are updated resources on shielding measures too. Although compulsory shielding has not been reintroduced in England, in the light of the increased number of COVID-19 cases and the latest lockdown the Government has “strongly advised” clinically extremely vulnerable employees to work from home, and if they cannot work from home they “should not attend work for this period of restrictions”.

Resources include advice on statutory sick pay and coronavirus, obligations an employer has to employee who lives with someone who is at high risk and the special measures employers have a duty to take to protect employees who are most at risk if they are exposed to coronavirus.

XpertHR also carries out regular surveys that give insight into how businesses are managing during the pandemic. The latest survey looks at the redundancy risk that still prevails for many, and how organisations’ plan for the return to workplaces.

For more information on XpertHR visit:

Kilsby Williams urges businesses to check for furlough claim inaccuracies following HMRC warning

South East Wales’ largest independent accountancy firm is urging all business that have utilised the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to thoroughly check their claims for inaccuracies before the cut-off date, to avoid the risk of fines or even prosecution.

Newport-based Kilsby Williams is issuing this warning following a growing number of businesses recently receiving a letter from HMRC, informing them of potential errors and reminding them that all claims must be wholly accurate.

Common errors that employers have been making when submitting these claims include claiming for an employee that was not actually eligible for the scheme and using the wrong calculations or reference figures when determining furlough pay.

For employers who identify previous miscalculations, HMRC has set 20 October 2020 as the cut-off date for self-declarations. Any self-declarations made after 20 October 2020 are potentially subject to penalties and even prosecution in the most severe cases.

Kilsby Williams is advising all employers making claims to ensure they retain all copies of the written confirmations issued to all employees notifying them that they were to be placed on the scheme, as well as retaining copies of the calculations used for all CJRS claims made.

Sadie Leadbetter, Payroll Manager, Kilsby Williams, said: “It is of vital importance that employers who have received a warning letter from HMRC regarding their CJRS claims take this warning seriously.

“Even if the errors made were completely accidental, businesses could indeed find themselves facing a HMRC enquiry, followed by hefty penalties and even prosecution.

“This scheme has been a life-line for many firms, and we are urging all affected employers to thorough check back through their claims, or to get in touch with an expert who can provide an audit service and ensure full compliance on your behalf.”

For those employers who have received a letter informing them of possible inaccuracies, Kilsby Williams is able to provide a comprehensive CJRS audit service, identifying claim areas where non-compliance may have arisen and helping to settle this, to avoid the large costs associated with an HMRC enquiry.

For further information, please visit

Established in 1991, Kilsby Williams offers clients expertise in a number of key accountancy areas, delivering a bespoke service to meet their specific needs. The business works with clients from across South Wales, the Midlands and London, ranging from sole traders to companies in international quoted groups.

Six ways ‘out of sight, out of mind’ furloughed employees are a concern for employers

Verbal snapshots of life under furlough highlight engagement, mental health, returning to (team) work and redundancy issues

One-to-one calls with furloughed employees has shown insights for employers and line managers, according to Renovo’s Rhys Moon, an employment expert who helps organisations support employees through workforce change.

He explained: “Three director and manager level employees from different industries talked to our team under anonymity and it highlighted distinct issues for employers and team leaders in terms of engagement, mental health, returning to work and a fair redundancy process.

“The overriding theme from the conversations was lack of communication from their employers, which exacerbated anxieties about their roles, financial security and general future. They understood their employers’ need to furlough, but it’s affecting them personally which could magnify in terms of how it impacts the organisation.”

Here are six snapshots of furloughed life, highlighting issues for employers and providing advice:

Communications are allowed – and encouraged – under the furlough scheme

Employee view: “My employer seems to think that they are not allowed to engage with me about the business. I can understand that there’s been a lot of controversy about fraud and furlough, but I feel really detached and then anxiety spirals, not helped with a disproportionate level of time on my hands”.

Although employees cannot work during the furlough period, there are, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development website clear processes about communicating with them. The site says “…an employer’s duty of care for employees continues during furlough so employers must maintain non work-related contact with furloughed staff to discuss any personal matters, including their health and well-being, and to allow employees to ask any questions or raise concerns”.

In our roles at Renovo, where we support employers and employees through redundancy, we see poor communication feeding employees with feelings that their individual needs are not being met.

However, from an employer’s perspective, getting the balance right is vital. They need to remain impartial so they’re not accused of any favouritism or bias, especially if redundancies are being considered. The balance is not easy when every individual and organisation has been finding their feet, but seeking guidance over elements that aren’t clear can significantly support relationships and the business.

Furloughed employees may feel disengaged

Employee view: “I feel quite disillusioned. I’m not sure about whether my employer’s view of how they perceive me is accurate, if they really valued me based on my ethics. It makes me feel undervalued. It’s raised a lot of questions about how much they really care for staff”.

Some individuals know they’ll be going back to work and that their financial future is fairly secure. Others don’t know what the future holds or what the business will look like if they go back.

So, remaining impartial, employers can guide their people towards practical support, or provide written advice on themes such as mental health and motivation. They can also take pulse surveys to understand emotions and then respond accordingly or offer online learning for new skills or resilience programmes.

Line managers and HR may need to redress some issues

Employee view: “If I went back, it’d change things. I’m frustrated with the company and my boss, but the boss is the face of the company to me. After I heard about being furloughed, my boss said he’d do a video at 9 the next morning. He didn’t ring – or apologise for not ringing”.

The CIPD article also explains that “contact helps maintain furloughed employees’ loyalty and engagement so that they can return to work smoothly after the lockdown. Contact should be arranged ahead of time, so it’s expected”. The article provides key considerations for employers, plus they can support line managers to maintain contact with furloughed staff, so they know what they can and can’t do.

Returning to work may feel uncomfortable for furloughed employees and those who have remained

Employee view: “When I go back, I’ll feel like a newbie. I’m so out of the loop on how the business has been innovating and changing. The guys in the team who are involved in shaping the new way of working are going to be in a different space from the rest of us. I know they’re shattered and desperate for time off. They think we’ve been having cushy life, but I’d trade places with them tomorrow”.

Employees’ different perspectives are likely to be at odds. Furloughed employees may feel anxious and like they’ve re-entered a working world that may have substantially changed, while the people who have remained may feel overstretched and frustrated that they haven’t had ‘time off’.

It’ll be a hurdle that needs planning for, so employers help relieve tensions and reunite teams.

Furloughed employees can feel lost

Employee view: “I feel bewildered and adrift with structure gone. I miss being good at something every day. I was brought up thinking if I work really hard, I’ll get on, but it’s not the case now”.

Employers may want to offer more support, but conversely may feel the strain of furlough terms and conditions or trying to remain at a distance in order to maintain impartiality.

It’s possible, however, to give employees consistent communication, whether in the form of a company update, or a more pastoral ‘catch up’, to help them feel less anxious and more involved.

Redundancies may be inevitable

Whilst the current crisis is new and unique, most employers, especially those with a strong HR function, have knowledge of redundancy terms, but HR needs support.

If redundancy is inevitable, management must be able to justify their choices, showing that the decision was made based on an objective set of values.

It would help too, to bear in mind that redundancies may be similar to the grieving process for employees. Employers who understand the basics of the Kubler-Ross change curve model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) can support employees’ wellbeing so they come to accept the situation and progress.

Rhys Moon summarised: “The conversations with these three people were incredibly touching and sad. They told us they felt bewildered and adrift with the structure gone, that they missed being good at something every day. They said they felt part of the team before, but don’t feel important now.

“They said it’s the not knowing that is frightening and scary, that they don’t know if they’re going back to work. They believed they did a good job, but that all feels forgotten, so they feel disillusioned and wonder if they really care for their staff.”

“These are incredibly difficult times for employers and employees to navigate, but understanding perspectives helps shed light on moving ahead as effectively as possible.”

Government furlough scheme only stretches to October but UK businesses don’t expect to be ‘viable’ again until the new year

Almost two thirds (64%) of businesses struggling as a result of Covid-19 don’t expect to be financially viable again until December or later, new research reveals.

The survey of 500 UK business decision makers found that business turnover has dropped even further since the UK first went into lockdown, with almost two thirds (63%) of organisations experiencing a lower than expected turnover last month, by an average of 50%.

The Covid-19 UK Business Barometer, conducted by Sapio Research and B2B agency Skout, asked firms’ CEOs and senior management about their experiences and business outlook around the ongoing pandemic. The third wave of the research was carried out between the 7th and 13th May.

Just 21% of businesses that were experiencing or expecting a reduced turnover this year thought their organisation would be operating at pre-pandemic levels again by September this year, with the majority claiming they don’t expect this to be the case until 2021 or beyond.

Given these long-term viability issues, businesses want more government support. 45% of decision makers said they are already using financial support from the government, while a further 26% plan to. Without furlough, a third of respondents claimed they would have failed within a month of lockdown.

However, despite the extension of the furlough scheme to the end of October, research suggests the government needs to go further, with confidence in the government decreasing as lockdown goes on. When asked how confident they felt in the government for the future (in three months’ time) almost a quarter of respondents (24%) said ‘not at all confident’, compared to just 18% who answered this way in the first wave, which was carried out between 9th and 14th of April.

Andy Hogg, director of Sevenoaks pub and restaurant, The Bricklayers Arms, commented, “As the owner of a pub with 33 staff, there’s no way we would have been able to pay them without the furlough scheme, which was one of the key sources of stress for me at the beginning of lockdown.”

Adam Burtt-Jones, co-founder at workplace design consultancy, Burtt-Jones & Brewer, said, “We experienced a drop in workload by around 60-70% initially when we went into lockdown, but the furlough scheme gave us significantly greater financial security. Where clients paused projects, it enabled us to essentially pause our staff.”

The research also indicated that businesses expect Brexit to hinder the recovery of the UK economy compared to other nations, with 63% claiming that it would have a negative impact. While half of those with international clients said they expect international markets to recover by March 2021, just 41% expect the same for the UK.

However, since the last wave of research was conducted, more businesses have made progress with their business strategy; moving from their short term defence strategy to mid and longer term thinking. In the last wave of the research, 20% were focusing on long term migration activities, and in the latest wave of the research, this has increased to 22%.

Vincent Efferoth, managing director at alcoholic tea producer, NOVELTEA, commented, “As we focus primarily on the UK, German and Chinese markets, we moved into crisis mode on 1st of March. Now we’ve started to think about longer-term mitigations as well as embracing ‘the new normal’ and looking for growth opportunities.”

Adam Burtt-Jones of Burtt-Jones and Brewer said, “I think there’s going to be a fundamental shift in the workplace and interiors space, and there’s a possibility that we’ll never return to what we had before. In a personal way, it’s encouraging to think of people using workspace in a different way.

“Moving forward, we’re going to need to be more multi-skilled and versatile. However, we do realise that there’s opportunity as well as challenge. If we navigate this carefully and cleverly, we’ll be in a good place. I’d almost be disappointed if we went exactly back to the way we were before!”

A full set of findings can be found here.

XpertHR provides guidance for employers that need to make furloughed employees redundant

Since it was launched in March 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected millions of jobs. However, for many employees this protection is likely to be short term. With employers expected to bear some of the cost of their furloughed employees from August, and the scheme due to be wound up at the end of October, large numbers of redundancies over the coming months are likely.

To assist employers, XpertHR has published guidance on How to carry out redundancies when employees have been furloughed. As the guide explains, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme does not directly affect the normal operation of employment law when it comes redundancies – meaning the obligation to behave reasonably in making an individual redundant and the requirement to consult collectively remain key, despite the extraordinary circumstances in which many employers find themselves.

In addition, employers will have to grapple with new challenges, including avoiding penalising furloughed employees when selecting for redundancy. They need to exercise particular care in relation to those whose return from furlough is impacted by underlying health concerns or ongoing childcare obligations. The issues of notice pay for redundant employees and calculating statutory redundancy pay are also potentially affected by employees being on furlough.

Jo Stubbs, XpertHR’s global head of product content strategy, says, “Over the coming months employers may have to make the tough decision to make staff redundant in order to survive. But, despite the extraordinary circumstances many are facing, they cannot ignore their normal obligations to act fairly and follow the necessary processes. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic and the furlough scheme have thrown up a number of complications they are unlikely to have had to consider during previous redundancy exercises. Our guide explains the issues facing employers when considering furloughed employees for redundancy and the steps they can take to protect themselves from possible tribunal claims.”

XpertHR’s guidance includes:

  • Ensure that furloughed staff are consulted as part of any redundancy exercise, using online platforms or other forms of electronic communication when appropriate.
  • Construct a pool for selection based on the future needs of the business and avoid penalising employees who have been furloughed.
  • Avoid using the fact that an employee has been furloughed as a reason for selecting them for redundancy.
  • Be aware of the potential for discrimination in selecting employees whose vulnerability to coronavirus makes it harder for them to return to work.
  • Avoid penalising employees whose difficulties with childcare affect their attendance at work.
  • Bearing in mind the potential complexity of this issue, consider if furloughed employees given notice of redundancy should have their pay topped up to normal pay for the duration of the statutory notice period.
  • Avoid dismissing furloughed employees without notice as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will not cover a payment in lieu of notice.
  • Before asking employees to return to work during the notice period, consider if the terms of their furlough indicated that they would be away from work for a set period.
  • Calculate redundancy payments on the basis of a normal week’s pay rather than employees’ pay while on furlough (unless they have no normal working hours).

To view the guidance on carrying out redundancies where employees have been furloughed click here.

XpertHR also offers guidance on running a collective redundancy consultation process with a remote workforce during the coronavirus pandemic.

XpertHR provides comprehensive information and guidance for employers on coronavirus – including model letters and the answers to frequently asked questions.

For more information on XpertHR visit:

Half of furloughed employees are concerned about their future prospects

Recent research shows that 54% of staff currently supported by the government’s furlough scheme are worried about their future and career prospects. The research, conducted by Adzuna, also found that over two fifths (44%) of those still at work are concerned that their jobs are also at risk as we face an economic downturn.

As many of us deal with the daily reality of the ongoing pandemic crisis, employee engagement expert Sodexo Engage has put together four simple strategies for employers to help their staff remain happy and motivated during the uncertainty. Sodexo Engage has highlighted some top tips that can help keep employees positive and productive whilst keeping all staff in the know and feeling supported.

1. Communication is king
It feels like this is talked about a lot, but in these unique circumstances, the importance of consistent communication can’t be overstated. It’s a busy time for employers as they try to steady the ship, but the workforce is perhaps the most important ‘tool’ for doing this successfully so it’s worth making sure they’re always up to date. This includes keeping them in the loop on business strategy as well as reassuring them on the steps being taken in accordance with government guidelines. Keeping all furloughed staff informed on these updates is vital– it goes a long way to abetting any fears that they are being forgotten about.

2. Be fully transparent
Coming hand-in-hand with the first point, employers need to be fully transparent in their communication with staff. The truth will always come out in the end, so it’s worth beating the rumour mill and being honest from the start. Employers can find this daunting as they are concerned about the impact on morale and their future prospects, but the reality is that it builds a sense of trust amongst staff and, more often than not, they appreciate the straight talking. If they know the lie of the land, it helps them to feel as though they can make plans to deal with the uncertainty personally.

3. Listen, and act accordingly
A problem shared is a problem halved – an old saying that rings true right now! Listening to your staff and giving them a platform to voice their concerns will go a long way to helping any worries feel more manageable. Whether its concerns around job security or worries about financial security, employers may be able to support their staff or steer them in the direction of a particular benefit or company initiative they didn’t know existed that would help. Encourage regular formal and informal dialogue between managers and managees to make sure that everyone feels heard.

4. Offer further support where needed
Needless to say, this is a very strange time for everyone and each staff member will have different mentalities and coping mechanisms. Not everything can be solved in the workplace, but employers can offer so much additional support. A dedicated Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can give employees access to professional mental health support in the form of accredited counsellors, who can be on hand over the phone or on virtual platforms like Zoom, or perhaps offering access to some sort of financial advice would be welcomed to help deal with the reality of the economic downturn. Any offerings that help staff deal with the cause of their concern will help enormously.

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:
“We’re experiencing unprecedented circumstances and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times while letting uncertainty and worry anxieties takeover completely. It’s hardly surprising that those on furlough feel this more; employers need to be taking proactive steps to combat these feelings for both those still working and those on furlough. Employers have little control on the current crisis, but they do have control over how their business weathers the storm, and that includes how it helps and supports its staff. Taking the above steps will help build a sense of trust, and give staff the tools needed to abate their worries which is vital for wellbeing.”