Most employers are now either aware or availing of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. However, as the economy slowly recovers and many businesses reopen their doors, new changes to the scheme have been introduced to facilitate the transition. It’s essential that employers in particular keep up to date with these changes so that they know best how to manage their payroll as they bring employees back to work.
Here are the recent changes to the scheme that employers need to be aware of:
At BrightPay we know how important it is to keep on top of the most recent developments when it comes to COVID-19. That’s why we’re holding regular webinars to share with you all news relating to Revenue updates, what employers need to know and how you can make sure you’re complying with best practices at all times.
Click here to watch our previous webinars on-demand, where we cover everything from important COVID-19 payroll updates to return to work government advice and more.
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On the 9th of May 2020, the Government published the Return to Work Safely Protocol. This sets out a number of measures that workplaces must take in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace as we reopen our economy.
The Health Service Authority (HSA) has responsibility for ensuring that employers are following the protocol and preparing and putting systems and controls in place. They will also be carrying out workplace inspections to ensure the Protocol is being implemented. Their approach is very much supportive.
At 29 pages long, the Protocol is quite a comprehensive document and there is a lot to take in, particularly for a small employer. So, we’re breaking it down and pulling out the key points that you need to be aware of moving forward.
The Protocol sets out a number of steps for employers and workers to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Each workplace must appoint at least one lead worker representative, who along with management will have responsibility for ensuring that COVID-19 preventative measures are adhered to. The Protocol very much promotes collaboration between the employer and employees, and having a Lead Worker Representative is very much key to having everybody working off the same page. For transparency and openness, it is also recommended that you create a log of everyone in your business who has COVID-19 responsibilities – that might be for cleaning or dealing with suspected cases. Download Template: Lead Worker Representative Log
In order to create a COVID-19 Response Plan that is specific to your business, you will need to complete a risk assessment. Look at how and where the virus could be transmitted in your workplace, and from that, you’ll learn what control measures you need to take to minimise these risks. If there is a change to how work is being carried out in your workplace then you will need to review your Health & Safety policies.
The next mandatory point is that all workplaces must develop a COVID-19 Response Plan. This is best thought of as a comprehensive catch-all document that deals with all points of relevance relating to COVID-19 and the workplace in one place. The Protocol specifically sets out the information you must include in your Response Plan, and this includes:
Bright Contracts has been updated with a template COVID-19 response plan which has been written closely following HSA guidelines and checklists.
A pre-return to work form must be completed by employees at least 3 days before they return to work. There are a number of prescribed questions that must be answered. The form allows employees to self-certify that they do not have COVID-19 symptoms or have not been in close contact with any confirmed or suspected cases over the last 14 days. You can get a return to work form template from the HSA website.
In communicating with employees upon their return to work, it would also be advisable to establish whether or not they might be considered as a vulnerable worker. There is a HSE webpage that sets out who high risk groups are, you might consider sending this to employees and asking them to notify you if they fall into any of the categories. If they do fall into a vulnerable category you do have a duty of care to take extra precautions to protect that individual.
Upon returning to work all employees must be given COVID-19 induction training. At a minimum, this training should include:
The training doesn’t have to be overly complicated and you should consider giving this training yourself. If you have a well put together COVID-19 Response Plan, this could double up as your training material for staff. Be sure to keep a record that the training has taken place and note who has attended. If you have any new starters in the coming months, they also should be given the training.
You should keep a log of all close contact, group work and employee interactions that take place. The logic behind this initiative is to be able to assist with contract tracing, should it be required.
Finally, when you’ve done all of the above you may want to look at reviewing and updating some of your existing policies. For example your Sick Leave Policy should really be updated to reflect COVID-19 - the protocol specifically requires employers to review and revise their existing sick leave policies. You might also want to consider putting in place a Working from Home policy if that is the norm in your company, or updating the Annual Leave and Mental Health policies.
Interested in finding out more about Returning Staff to Work? Click here to watch our most recent webinar on-demand where we discuss the Return to Work Safely Protocol, common questions on the practicalities of bringing staff back to work and the payroll implications of returning staff to work.
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This webinar will examine key facts & updated guidance on COVID-19 payroll impacts. Understand what the lockdown easing will mean for your business as you reopen and what COVID-19 safety policies you need to introduce.
In recent months, Revenue have introduced COVID-19 Government schemes to help keep paying employees with a number of important updates being rolled out. The government has announced the first steps to ease the coronavirus restrictions with a roadmap in place for lockdown measures to be slowly lifted. Understand how to adapt your payroll processes to accommodate for the schemes and subsequent updates.
With the emergence from lockdown becoming clearer, businesses will need to start to put plans and COVID-19 policies in place for their employees to go back to the workplace safely. The Irish Government has introduced a Return to Work Safely Protocol for all businesses to follow. This introduces mandatory measures for organisations to take care of their people and safeguard their health and well-being.
All workplaces must adapt their workplace HR policies, procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE.
If you are unable to attend the webinar at the specified time, simply register for the webinar anyway and we will send you the recording afterwards. You can also click here to view more webinar dates.
Thousands of shops, businesses and construction sites have reopened as part of the first phase of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. In terms of bringing staff back to work, employers should put in place a number of measures, as set out in The Government’s ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’.
Many businesses are now able to re-engage their staff that had previously been placed on layoff. If an employee was laid off and their employment ceased as a result of COVID-19, and the employer now wishes to place this employee back on the payroll, the employee will qualify for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme if their DEASP claim is ceased. However, employees must have had a pay date in February and have been included in submissions between 1 February 2020 and 30 March 2020 under the same PPS number to qualify.
During the operational phase of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, Revenue are providing all employers with details of the maximum subsidy and maximum top-up for all their employees. This Revenue instruction is in the form of a TWSS file, which was made available to employers on ROS from 4 May 2020.
Where an employee was rehired after 1 May 2020, they were not included in the initial TWSS file, and so J9 submissions for employees rehired after 1 May were processed but rejected for refunding.
From 18 May, the TWSS file now includes rehired employees that were included in an RPN between 2 May 2020 and 17 May 2020, provided the employee was on the employer's payroll on 29 February 2020 with the same PPS number.
From 21 May, Revenue will refresh the TWSS files daily to include rehired employees that have been notified to Revenue and to update the date on the file to reflect when it was refreshed. To be included in this refresh, employers must ensure that the rehired employees are on the payroll and an RPN has been received the day before the employer calculates and submits the first payroll payment to Revenue for the rehired employees. Revenue are currently developing a notification process that will inform employers when a refreshed TWSS file is available to download.
Additional Resource: We have created a template letter that employers can use for employees who are returning from layoff or short-time working.
If your employer cannot continue to pay you and has to lay you off during the pandemic, you can claim income support from the DEASP. The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to employees and the self-employed who have lost their job on (or after) 13th March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pandemic Unemployment Payment is paid at a flat rate of €350 per week for the duration of the pandemic emergency.
You can apply for the payment if you are aged between 18 and 66 and have lost your employment due to the coronavirus restrictions. Students, non-EEA nationals and part-time workers can apply for the payment. You can also apply if you were working casually and you became fully unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
If you have voluntarily taken time off work to look after your child because of school or childcare closures and you are no longer paid by your employer, you can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
You cannot claim the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, if you are continuing to get income from your employment or if you voluntarily left your employment, except to look after your children.
If an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has been told to self-isolate by their GP, they should instead apply for Illness Benefit, which has also been increased to €350 a week in line with the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
Join us for a free COVID-19 webinar where we discuss what you need to know about remote working, putting staff on payoff, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
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The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme enters the operational phase on 4th May 2020.
In the operational phase, Revenue will provide all employers with details of the maximum subsidy and maximum top up for all employees currently on a J9 PRSI class and for any employees who might be placed on a J9 class during the remainder of the scheme.
This Revenue instruction will be in the form of a file (TWSS file) downloaded from ROS. It will not be an automatic download through the software but instead will require you to log in to your ROS account and download the file there. It will operate in much the same way as you would have downloaded P2C files in the past. The software will then import this file and update the subsidies of all J9 employees automatically.
This TWSS file will be available in ROS from 4th May and we will be releasing an upgrade to our software on the same day to cater for importing the TWSS file.
As the 4th May is a bank holiday, our support lines will be open on 5th May but we have plenty of on screen help and would ask that you only contact support if absolutely necessary.
This should be a one time download as the figures in the downloaded file will be based on payroll submissions made for January and February.
To ensure that you will be able to download the file, it is important that you know your ROS login certificate password and you should ensure that you have this to hand.
For your information, a preview of the relevant ROS screens can be viewed here.
The Government has announced measures to provide financial support to employers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. As part of these measures, Revenue is operating a Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme from 26th March 2020 and it is expected to last for 12 weeks.
The scheme applies to employers who may wish to top up employee payments and for those who are not in a position to do so. To qualify, employers:
The scheme replaces the previous Employer COVID-19 Refund Scheme and if you have already registered for the COVID-19 Refund Scheme, you do not need to re-register for the new scheme. Employers that are not registered but wish to register for this scheme can do so through myEnquiries.
The Scheme is restricted to employees who were on the employer’s payroll as at 29 February 2020, and for whom a payroll submission has already been made to Revenue in the period from 1 February 2020 and 15 March 2020. Where employers didn't fulfil their PAYE reporting obligations for February 2020 by 15 March 2020, please click here for further information.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme has been divided into two different phases, the first phase is the transitional phase which will run from 26th March to 3rd May, and the operational phase will be in place from 4th May.
During the transitional phase, employers can pay 70% of the employee’s average weekly net pay as a non-taxable payment, and in turn receive a refund from Revenue for this (Net pay = Gross less Income Tax, USC & Employee PRSI). The period for calculating an employee's average weekly pay is January & February 2020, but if you are a BrightPay customer, this calculation is automated in BrightPay.
This payment is capped at:
Employees with an average net weekly pay greater than €960 will be excluded from the subsidy scheme. From 16 April 2020, the wage subsidy is available to support employees where their pre-COVID salary was greater than €960 per week, and their salary has now fallen below €960, and this is subject to the tiered arrangements and tapering to ensure that the net pay does not exceed €960 per week.
Where the current gross pay, as reported in the payroll submission, represents a reduction from the average net weekly pay by:
These payments are liable to income tax; however, the subsidy is not taxable in real-time through the PAYE system during the period of the Subsidy scheme. Instead the employee will be liable for tax on the subsidy amount paid to them by their employer by way of review at the end of the year by Revenue.
Employers may top up this payment if they are in a position to do so. This top up amount, when added to the employee’s subsidy payment, cannot be greater than the employee's average net weekly pay. Any top-up payment made is taxable and USC-able, and the combined payment is to be processed under PRSI Class J9. If an employer tops up payments by more than the permitted amount, their subsidy will be tapered, so for every €1 extra paid to an employee, they will lose €1 on the subsidy.
During the transitional phase, employers must work out the payment that can be made to their employees i.e. the 70% tax free payment and the maximum top-up allowed. Revenue will automatically refund €410 per week per employee on the scheme as they won’t know what employees are entitled to. The refund from Revenue will, in general, be made to the employer within 2 working days after receipt of the payroll submission (PSR). At a later date, Revenue will perform a reconciliation and will look for repayment of any overpayments.
During the operational phase, from 4 May 2020, Revenue will inform employers how much they can pay tax free and the maximum top-up allowed. During this time, Revenue will refund the exact amount due as they will have instructed the employer how much can be paid. Click here to find out more about the operational phase.
Join us for a free COVID-19 webinar where we discuss what you need to know about remote working, putting staff on payoff, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
As the country tries to get to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic and companies are struggling with temporarily closing their business and laying-off staff, here are some key things you need to know about layoff.
Layoff or redundancy?
As a result of the recent business closures, many employees have been layed-off. Layoff is a temporary measure, whereby the individual is still an employee of the company but they are not receiving any remuneration for the duration of the layoff. Normally, once the situation that led to the layoff is over, the employee will return to their previous role on the same terms and conditions, their length of service will not be impacted by the layoff. In the current situation, it is hoped that many business will be able to re-engage their staff once the current emergency situation eases.
Redundancy on the other hand occurs when the employee loses their job permanently, due to a business closure or a reduction in work levels.
Other Layoff Considerations
In light of the recent Coronavirus outbreak, many employers are starting to prepare for the possibility of employees needing to work from home.
Whether you are a single employer or a bureau, you will need an internet connection for transmitting files to Revenue.
Where you are using a different computer, BrightPay will need to be installed on that computer. This is a quick download from our website. Then, simply enter the activation key that was included on your invoice. If you can’t find this key, we can resend it to you.
You will also need to ensure that you have a valid ROS digital cert installed on this computer as this will be required for retrieval of RPNs and submission of PSRs. Help on doing this is contained at the bottom of this article.
Okay, you have an internet connection and a computer with BrightPay installed on it, what about the payroll file(s)?
Alternatively, before leaving the office, simply copy the payroll file to a USB key or email it to yourself.
There are some useful help links at the bottom of this article to help with any of these options.
Alternatively, before leaving the office, staff members may wish to save their payroll file(s) to an external drive, then follow the help below on Transferring BrightPay from one PC to another.
As of 10 March, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus increased to 24 in Ireland, with cases across Europe also surging. With the number of cases bound to escalate, Leo Varakar has said that if the coronavirus outbreak worsens, between 50% and 60% of the Irish population could be affected.
With panic over coronavirus soaring, many workers are being asked to stay away from the office and do day-to-day tasks from the comfort of their home. Not going into the office is an effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus, because it minimises the risk of you coming into contact with someone carrying the disease.
The reality is, working from home is already very popular, potential pandemic or not. Flexible working is a trend that has emerged in the last decade as more people seek that ideal work-life balance instead of work-life burnout.
Nearly a quarter of Britain’s workforce now work flexibly, that is, they work part of the week in an office and part at home, highlighting how quickly this trend is growing. Flexible working brings many work-life balance benefits as employees have more time to see their family, exercise and dedicate time to themselves. Seven in 10 of those who work flexibly say they are less stressed as a result of their working arrangement.
As well as the health benefits, it often results in happier employees. They then potentially work harder and are more productive. For employers, flexible working also helps to attract and retain talented employees. Additionally, it can result in increased loyalty and reduced office space cost.
Businesses need to carefully consider which processes and tools will make flexible work as productive and positive as possible for their employees. You need to make sure that they have essentials such as laptops, a reliable internet connection and being able to connect to systems remotely. This would have been difficult a few years ago, but thanks to the cloud, you can have everything you need at all times.
Although the payroll itself cannot be processed online with BrightPay Connect, the payroll software is still very flexible. Each BrightPay licence can be installed on up to 10 PCs where users have the option to process the payroll from 10 separate locations meaning you don’t need cloud payroll to operate and process your payroll. In addition, you can log into your BrightPay Connect account to view your payroll information at any time. You no longer need to be seated at your desk in the office to access the system - all the data you need to do your job is available on any of the 10 PC’s that the BrightPay application is installed on.
If you are not using the BrightPay Connect add-on, you can still access the payroll data file through a cloud environment to process the payroll. Again, the software itself can be installed to the local C drive of up to 10 PCs, be it a home computer or a laptop. The payroll files can be stored on a secure server or cloud environment, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, where the payroll information can be accessed from multiple computers.
With BrightPay Connect’s automatic cloud backup, payroll information is stored online and can be accessed by employers anywhere, anytime. Employers can also use BrightPay Connect to remotely manage employee’s leave, upload employee documents and send communications to employees that are working remotely.
Will 2020 be the year in which office employees working more from home becomes the norm? Although many employers have implemented a mandatory ‘work from home’ policy as a precaution against coronavirus, it could also be the turning point for many businesses to recognise just how beneficial flexible working can be.