COVID-19: Global Workforce Support

Understanding Creates Confidence

This unprecedented health crisis has impacted everyone around the world. Countries and governments are working tirelessly to determine the best course of action to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Our experts are staying up-to-date on the various developing situations around the world and can provide you with country-specific business insights, as well as the latest updates. We are well-positioned to support your business during this difficult time and to help you navigate the challenges facing your global workforce and operations.

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Webinar - International Employment and Operational Considerations

Are you looking for insights into the global impact of COVID-19? Join the global experts from our sister company, Global Upside, as they cover a variety of topics relating to the current global landscape and the impact on international business. This webinar will provide specific guidance, and the latest updates, on employment law, government support, leaves and terminations, taxes, and more.
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How to Manage Remote Employees

How is your business adjusting to COVID-19? Is remote work impacting productivity? Are you able to measure and track that impact? These are just a few of the important questions to consider during these challenging times. Read the case study from our sister company, Global Upside, to recieve recommondations on how to effectively manage your remote workforce.

Employment Law Updates

View the latest legislative changes brought about to help businesses and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to provide country-specific updates to keep you informed.

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United Kingdom

Employers must provide eligible employees with Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if that employee is unable to work due to illness. SSP equates to at least £94.25 per week. Employer must make payments to employee for up to 28 weeks.  If the employee illness is COVID-19, the SSP begins on the first day of illness. If the employee has a separate illness, the SSP does not begin to be paid out until the fourth day the employee is out sick. In this case, there is a period of three “waiting days”.

To qualify for SSP, an employee must:

  • be classified as an employee and have done some work for the employer
  • earn an average of at least £120 per week
  • have been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days)

The amount of time the employee can receive SSP is dependent on the illness, or severity of the situation. The employee must notify the employer prior to going on sick leave in order to receive SSP.

An employee is not eligible to receive SSP if they:

  • have already received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks)
  • are getting Statutory Maternity Pay

Employees that are not eligible for SSP may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You can use form SSP1 to support your application.

Employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of February 28, 2020) are eligible to receive reimbursement for employee sick pay leave if sickness is linked to COVID-19. To receive reimbursement, employer must record employee absences and payments made and provide employee medical certificate. If deemed eligible, employer is entitled to receive two weeks of sick pay reimbursement for each employee of leave due to COVID-19.

Employees unable to work due to the impact of COVID-19 may receive up payment from the UK government of up to 80% of their salary. Maximum payment period is three months and maximum payment is 2,500 GBP per month.

Employers can reduce employee working hours to 80% to avoid dismissal due to redundancy. To do so, employers must consult with the employee or their trade union representatives.

Employer must provide valid reason for reduction of hours

Employer must offer employee with alternative solution to reductions of hours

If employee agrees to reduction of hours, the employer must provide written statement detailing alteration to the Terms and Conditions of the employment contract if the employee agrees to reduction of hours. If the work hour reduction is decided through a collective agreement with trade unions or staff associations, the employer must provide employee with written notification of the changes.

If employee does not consent to the reduction of working hours, the employer has the right to dismiss the employee based on redundancy.

Employers may place an employee on unpaid lead if:

  • The employer is temporarily unable to provide those employees with paid work opportunities
  • There is an provision in the employment contract that allows the employer to place that employee on unpaid leave

To avoid the possibility of discrimination, employers must conduct a consultation process with the employee when making that employee redundant. When more than 20 employees are being made redundant within a 90-day period, collective consultation rules must be followed.

Once being made redundant, employees must be allotted the statutory notice period, or payment in lieu of notice. Upon dismissal, employees with over two years of continuous service must be given statutory redundancy payment based on their age and length of employment. Employees receive:

  • 5 weeks’ pay for each year of employment after their 41st birthday
  • 1 week’s pay for each year of employment after their 22nd birthday
  • Half a week’s pay for each year of employment up to their 22nd birthday

Maximum years of employment is 20 years.  Maximum weekly pay is £525. Total statutory redundancy payment cannot exceed £15,750. Employers can give additional redundancy pay to employees.

Employees moved to short-time working for four or more consecutive weeks, or six or more weeks in a 13-week timeframe, may make a redundancy payment claim upon providing written notice to the employer. Employers can avoid redundancy payment if employee will return to normal working hours with four weeks.

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China

Employers can suspend work for an employee if the employee is has COVID-19 symptoms. Employers should request that the employee isolates themselves and visits the hospital for testing. Government mandate states that all suspected or confirmed cases must be quarantined for medical observation or treatment. Employees seen in close contact with individuals suspected, or confirmed, to have COVID-19 must follow the same procedures per government requirement

Employers have the ability to suspend work for employees returning from isolation/quarantine. In this case, employers may request that the employee work from home. If the employee is unable to work remotely, the employer must come to an agreement with the employee for them to use their annual leave.

Employers experiencing significant operational challenges, due to the effects of COVID-19, can suspend work for employees for a specified period of time. Under these circumstances, the employer can:

  • Arrange for employees to use annual leave
  • Place employees on leave by adjusting the rest days. Upon returning from period of suspension, employees will have ability to make up for the rest days by working additional hours (e.g. weekends)
  • Suspend employees from work following suspension of business operations

Employees that have taken, or been placed on, leave will receive pay depending on the circumstances. Employees that are suspected, or confirmed, of contracting COVID-19 must be placed in isolation and should visit the hospital to be tested. Employees are entitled to receive standard salary and benefits for the duration of the isolation and treatment periods. Employees will receive same paid leave if they are instructed to enter quarantine, or visit the hospital, due to close contact with individuals suspected, or confirmed, to have COVID-19.

Employers should continue to pay standard salary and benefits for employees who are unable to work in the office due to government quarantine orders or 14-day self-isolation requirements for employees entering the country. Prior to providing paid leave, the employer does have the option to attempt to reach agreement with employee for them to use their annual leave. Employers, following an employee consultation, may follow work stoppage payment guidelines for paying employees who agree to use their annual leave, but run out of annual leave during the period they cannot return to the office. Work stoppage payment guidelines stipulate that the employer will pay the full employee salary during the first payment cycle (usually a month) of the work stoppage, and then will pay minimum living allowances to the employee from the second payment cycle onwards.

Employees that have been instructed to work from home, that have been placed on leave by their employer, or who have agreed to use their annual leave, should receive their normal salary.

Employers are not required to pay the salaries of employees who refuse to attend work without a justifiable reason. This is deemed an unauthorized absences and the employer may take disciplinary action is inclined and in accordance with company policy. Barring a dismissal, the employer must still continue to make social insurance contributions for the employee, despite the unauthorized absences.

Employers that suspend their business operations must continue to pay the standard salary of all employees for the first payment period (month). Beginning in the second payment period, the employer must pay employees who have performed work local minimum wage, and employees who have not performed work a local “living fee”.

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France

Employers who do not take adequate precautions to reduce risk and protect the health and safety of their employees may be considered liable.

Employees considered high risk (those in contact with an infected individual or those recently returning from travels abroad) must go in to quarantine. Employees in quarantine can provide work cessation to employer through regional healthcare authority (ARS). Sick leave guidelines apply for quarantined employees, if the employee:

  • Is pregnant
  • Has a chronic respiratory disease or chronic breathing issues
  • Has multiple sclerosis
  • Has heart issues
  • Has diabetes
  • Suffers from hypertension
  • Has kidney failure
  • Has an immune-depression such as HIV or an auto-immune disease
  • Has liver disease
  • Suffers from obesity

Employees that believe they are in grave danger can legally exit their work station and refuse to return. If the reason for departure is deemed lawful, the employer is unable to take any action against the employee, including the withholding of pay.

Employers are able to enact partial unemployment retroactively, in cases or reductions or suspension of operations. This allows employers to temporarily reduce employee working hours. Employees on partial unemployment receive hourly allowance from the employer at 70% of the gross salary they would have received if working full-time. These allowance payments are exempt from employee and employer social security contributions but remain subject to the CSG at a rate of 6.2%, and to the CRDS at the rate of 0.50%.

Employers receive a compensatory allowance each month from the government.

  • € 7.74 per non-working hour in companies with 1 to 250 employees
  • € 7.23 per hour in companies with more than 250 employees

Employers have 30 days to fill out the Partial Unemployment Application. Once request received by Ministry of Labor, the employer is notified of response in 48 hours via dedicated website.

Employees unable to work remotely due to the demands of childcare can be placed on a leave of absence. Employers provide employees with official notification that they are being placed on leave.

Employers must request that the employee provide a certificate stating they will be the only parent requesting leave of absence benefits. The employee must also provide name, age, school name, school address and duration for which the school is closed for each of their children and inform employer once the school reopens. Employee receives leave of absence payments on a daily basis with no waiting period for the duration of the school closure.

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Germany

Employers can reduce employee working hours to avoid dismissals. Prior to reducing employee time-worked, the employer must notify the employment agency in writing or electronically. Employer must provide details on the change in hours and offer a credible explanations for the change. Employees that have had their hours cut are entitled to a short-time working allowance during the period of short-time work.

Employees can expect to receive 60-67% of the net difference in remuneration from the short-time working allowance. Short-time work compensation is currently granted for a maximum of 12 months. There are current discussions to increase the amount of the compensation due to the COVID-19.

Employers have the option to place an employee on unpaid vacation if that employee cites personal limitations for attending work, excluding illness resulting from COVID-19.

Employees tending to family members affected by COVID-19 are entitled to five days of paid leave in the case of a close relative and between 10 and 20 days per child younger than 12.

Employers are not required to pay employees who are in self-quarantine. All employee requests to work from home must be discussed and agreed upon by both the employer and the employee.

Employers are obligated to continue to pay employee salaries, but can claim reimbursements from the German government. Reimbursement applications must be submitted within three months of the employee sick leave.

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Italy

Employers instructed to grant employees maximum leave possible by COVID-19 Emergency Decree, although this is not a legal mandate. Employers are generally entitled to unilaterally determine the period during which employees may take leave. Employers are encouraged to collaborate with work councils and trade unions to outline the use of leave permits and paid time off throughout the COVID-19 emergency period. Employers can meet employee needs and grant additional leave during exceptional circumstances with the creation of an ad hoc collective agreement at a company level

Employers with reduced or suspended operations can apply directly for the Ordinary Wage Guarantee Fund, known as Cassa Integrazione Guadagni Ordinaria (CIGO), without informing and consulting works council/trade unions in advance. Employers excluded from CIGO coverage can apply for wage supplementation via the Cassa Integrazione in Deroga as of February 23rd, 2020. Coverage under this public program can only be extended to the employer for three months. Additionally, prior to receiving financial support, the employees of the company may be required to use all remaining leave entitlements.

Employers can make employees redundant based on ‘decrease of work’. Employers must provide notice periods. Redundancy payments are determined based on the duration of continuous service.

  • Employees with continuous service of under one year receive three months’ salary
  • Employees with over one year of continuous service receive an amount dependent on salary and length of service. Payment will equal 8% of the annual gross salary per each year of employment plus notice period, outstanding holidays, and 13th & 14th salaries where applicable

Employers are barred from terminating employees for the next two months, without significant cause for termination.

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Spain

Employees will be placed on paid leave during this period of mandated time-off. Employees will receive their usual salaries during this period, but will need to make up the lost hours at a later date.

Employers have the option of requesting that employees take up to 15 days of unpaid leave.

Employers have the option, on account of the circumstance caused by COVID-19, to temporarily suspend the work of their employees. Employees who have their work hours suspended will be entitled to receive unemployment payments from the government. The employer remains responsible for making payments to social security. Application for employee work suspension is a lengthy process, taking approximately three weeks to complete.

Employers do not have additional means for making employees redundant on account of the impact of COVID-19. The circumstances have no impact on the termination process.

Employers that terminate employees are required to provide the employee with 20 days’ payment for each year of continuous employment (pro-rated). The employee has the right to decline this and appeal the severance payment. Employer can be obligated to pay as much as 33 days wages for each year worked (pro-rated).

Employers are temporarily prohibited from dismissing employees without having the dismissal validated by a judge, or the dismissal being on account of disciplinary issues.

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Russia

Employers do have the ability to decrease employee wages, but only if there are substantial grounds for the decrease. Justifications for decreased pay can include reduction to working hours. For pay decreases to become official, there must be mutual consent between the employer and the employee. Employers can face severe backlash for any breach of employee rights. Any changes to the employment contract, including wage or work-time reductions, should be done with extreme caution.

Employers are required to keep employees over the age of 65 away from the work place, unless the employee hold a position that is critical to the function of the operation. All other employees over the age of 65 must work from home. Employers must provide the employee with paid leave if the employee is unable to work from home. In order to place the employee on paid leave, the employer must receive the consent of the employee.

Employers must provide temporary disability benefits to employees over the age of 65 who are in government mandated self-quarantine. Each employee is entitled to receive 2,000 RUB within the first 3 days of self-quarantine, along with an additional 2,000 RUB at the end of the self-quarantine period. Second payment will be made after April 14, 2020. Employee will not receive payments if they violate the self-quarantine instructions.

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Australia

Employers significantly impacted by COVID-19 are eligible to receive a government subsidy, referred to as the “JobKeeper Payment”, so that they can continue to pay their employees and avoid terminations during the pandemic. The subsidy can be claimed by the employer every two weeks beginning on March 30, 2020.  Each subsidy payment amounts to $1,500 AUD per employee. Employers can receive claims for a maximum of six months.

Employers are eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment if:

  • Turnover is less than $1 billion AUD and has decreased by over 30% for at least one month; OR
  • Turnover is $1 billion AUD or more and has decreased by over 50% for at least one month; AND
  • The business is not subject to the Major Bank Levy

Employers must establish that their turnover has decreased by 30% (or 50%) in the relevant month (or three month, depending on the natural activity statement reporting period) relative to their turnover in that period a year prior. For employers that have been operational for less than a year, or in cases where turnover a year earlier was not representative of the employer’s average turnover (e.g. due to large interim acquisition, employer is newly established, or employer turnover is typically highly variable) the Tax Commissioner will have discretion to consider additional information that the employer can provide to establish that they have been significantly affected by COVID-19. The Tax Commissioner also has discretion to set out alternative tests to establish eligibility in specific circumstances (e.g. eligibility may be established as soon as a business has ceased or significantly curtailed its operations). If done in good faith, employers are provided with some leeway for projecting a decrease in turnover greater than 30% (or 50%), but only experiencing a lesser turnover.

Employer can only receive JobKeeper Payments for eligible employees. An employee is considered eligible if they:

  • Are currently employed by the eligible employer (including those stood down or re-hired)
  • Were employed by the employer March 1, 2020
  • Are full-time, part-time, or long-term casuals (Casual employees must be employed on a regular basis for longer than 12 months by March 1, 2020)
  • Are at least 16 years of age
  • Are an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa, a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder
  • Are not receiving a JobKeeper Payment from another employer

Employers receiving the JobKeeper Payment of $1,500 AUD per eligible employee, must pay each eligible employee at least $1,500 AUD (pre-tax). Specific employer payment requirements, to be made every two weeks, are listed below.

  • Employees that receive bi-weekly wages greater than $1,500 AUD (pre-tax) will continue to receive their regular income according to their prevailing workplace arrangements. The JobKeeper Payment will assist employers in providing standard wage payment
  • Employees that receive bi-weekly wages less than $1,500 AUD (pre-tax) must receive at least $1,500 AUD from employer
  • Employees that have been stood down must receive a bi-weekly wage of at least $1,500 AUD (pre-tax)
  • Employees who were employed on March 1, 2020, subsequently ceased employment with their employer, and then were re-engaged by the same eligible employer, will receive a minimum bi-weekly payment of $1,500 (pre-tax).

Employer has option of paying superannuation on any additional wage paid due to JobKeeper Payment. Payments will be made to the employer monthly in arrears by the ATO.

Employers can register their interest in the JobKeeper Payment here and can submit the official application online via the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Employers with apprentice and trainee workers are eligible to receive wage subsidies. Subsidies of up to 50% of apprentice or trainee wages will be provided to the employer with a maximum subsidy of $21,000 AUD. Employers unable to retain apprentice and trainee workers will not receive subsidy.

Employers of eligible small and medium size businesses, as well as non-profits, have access to between $20,000 AUD and $100,000 AUD in tax-free cash flow boosts. To be eligible, the employer must have:

  • Held an Australian Business Number (ABN) prior to March 12, 2020 that continues to be active
  • An aggregated annual turnover under $50 million AUD (generally based on prior year turnover)
  • Made eligible payments you are required to withhold from (even if the amount you need to withhold is zero).

Eligible payments include:

  • salary and wages
  • director fees
  • eligible retirement or termination payments
  • compensation payments
  • voluntary withholding from payments to contractors

All eligible entities that received initial cash flow boosts may be entitled to additional cash flow boosts. Initial cash flow boosts will be provided on April 28, 2020.

Employers can only reduce the working hours of an employee if the employee consents for the reduction to occur. If no agreement is reached, the employer retains the right to dismiss the employee on ground of redundancy.

Employers are unable to place an employee on unpaid leave. The employer must have a discussion with the employee in which an agreement is reached between the two parties for the employee to go on unpaid leave. If an agreement is not reached, and the employee refuses to go on unpaid leave, the employer does retain the option to dismiss the employee on grounds of redundancy.

Employer must follow the below process when making dismissals on basis of redundancy.

  • Employer notifies the employee affected by the proposed changes
  • Employer provides employee with information on the changes and the expected effects
  • Employer and employee discuss steps which have been taken to avoid and minimize the redundancies
  • Employee takes the time necessary to consider employees ideas or suggestions about the changes and any alternative options

Employer must complete and document this consultation process with any employee made redundant. Employer must provide redundancy/severance pay to terminated employees with continued service of a year or great. Payment amount is dependent upon the employee’s salary and years of continuous service.

Employers of small businesses may be exempt from paying severance when making an employee redundant. This only applies to certain industries. Small businesses are classified as having 15 or fewer employees at time of dismissal.

Disclaimer

The information presented above does not constitute financial, legal, tax, HR, payroll or other professional advice. You should not consider or act upon the information provided in the sections above without obtaining a professional consultation.

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