[Updated] Staff and HR advice for beauty salons and spas during coronavirus
In addition to the below advice, the Government has also announced new financial support for businesses, including grants to cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, plus an increase in Universal Credit. Find out more about this and other financial support available to salons during coronavirus here.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting all businesses, but for small companies in the service industry, particularly salons, spas and aesthetic clinics whose business model based around human contact, the impact has been severe.
As you might expect in our caring industry, the number-one concern for many salon owners is how to best support their staff. What happens now businesses have been forced to close? What if a staff member is required to self-isolate?
Kirsty Mawhinney, founder of Skin Insight Branding Agency, interviewed several salon owners to find out what the industry wants to know, and put them to Rebecca Day, founder of Day HR Consultants and former HR director at Estée Lauder, to get some specific advice for beauty businesses:
Now that I have to close my salon, what are the implications for employees?
The first thing you should do is to check employment contracts to see if there is a contractual clause that gives you the right to put people on short-term working – i.e. temporarily reduce the number of days or hours they work and pay them in line with that reduction or, to lay them off temporarily.
What is a lay-off?: The employer provides its staff with no work (and no pay aside from a nominal guaranteed payment) for a period while retaining them as employees.
If the right to invoke short-time working/lay-off is in your contracts, then meet with the team, tell them that in order to protect the long-term future of the business, you need to make some temporary changes which means evoking short-time working or a lay-off.
If there is no contractual right, you can’t enforce short-time working or a temporary lay-off and any reduced hours or lay-offs must be on that team member's contractual rate of pay.
However, you can negotiate with employees and ask them to agree with temporary measures to protect the long-term future of the business and jobs.
In this instance, invite them to give you their suggestions on how you can reduce salary costs while there is no revenue coming into the business.
If employees refuse to agree to this, there are a couple of options available to you.
1. Make redundancies
2. Consult with them and dismiss them on the basis of ‘some other substantial reason’, and then offer them re-engagement on revised terms
During temporary lay-offs, employees need to be paid a statutory guarantee payment, which is £29 per day for the maximum period of five days within a three-month period.
This is pro-rata for employees who work part-time. This is the minimum you have to pay and you may decide that you want to pay more. If you do pay more, you do not need to pay the statutory guarantee payment on top of this.
During a lay-off, all contractual rights, aside from pay, are maintained. This means that employees continue to accrue holiday.
While you can’t claw back the statutory guarantee payments, the Government is pushing through financial measures to support businesses. See current advice for businesses.
If a lay-off lasts longer than four weeks, or is more than six weeks in a 13-week period, then employees can claim that they are due a redundancy payment. See here for what to do if this happens.
Under normal circumstances, employees may not find this an agreeable option. However, given the extenuating circumstances, most employers are reporting that, on the whole, staff understand the difficulties and are willing to accept a temporary lay-off.
I'm worried my business is going to collapse. Should I make redundancies now?
It’s a good idea to avoid a knee-jerk reaction and make any long-term decisions after the Government has announced the full range of financial support they are going to provide to businesses (such as local authority grants and favourable loans).
Similarly, you need to think about what happens after the crisis is over, which means ensuring you have the right staff to ensure business continuity.
In the meantime, some sensible measures are:
● Cease any recruitment activities
● See if you can delay the start date for new joiners
How has the Government changed the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules to respond to the crisis?
Effectively immediately, the Government has temporarily relaxed the rules on SSP. These are:
● SSP will be payable from the first day of absence. Currently, it starts from the fourth day of a period of absence.
● Small employers (with fewer than 250 employees) will be reimbursed SSP paid for the first 14 days of coronavirus absence.
● A notification to self-isolate obtained via NHS 111 will be evidence of absence from work for SSP purposes, so there is no need to contact doctors for a Fit Note
What do employees get paid if they self-isolate?
If you are self-isolating in line with government requirements, you are considered to be incapacitated, irrespective of actually being unwell, and SSP is available.
As most contractual sick pay is triggered in the same way as SSP, then contractual sick pay should be available too. Typically, this would “top up” SSP to normal pay levels.
However, if, for example, the employee self-isolating has no symptoms, or is self-isolating because a member of the same household has symptoms, and is able to work from home, then they won’t receive sick pay (either SSP or contractual enhanced sick pay) and would be paid in the normal way unless they have been temporarily laid-off.
If an employee who is unable to work from home is self-isolating in line with Government requirements, they should receive SSP or Company Sickness Benefit.
Can employees be asked to take holiday?
Holiday can be agreed and may be an alternative to receiving only SSP where the employee is well but not able to work from home.
Can employers ask employees to self-isolate?
If an employee falls under Government guidance to self-isolate (i.e. they are displaying symptoms identified in that guidance or would otherwise be required to self-isolate due to recent travel or contact or for other reasons as per such guidance), then the employer should ask the employee to self-isolate.
While ordinarily this would be considered medical suspension on full pay, this is consistent with health and safety duties to other employees and Government guidance and, as such, they should self-isolate.
If they can work from home, they should do so and should receive normal pay. If they aren’t able to work from home, you should pay SSP or contractual sickness pay.
Useful references on employment law during Coronavirus:
Goverment.uk pages on:
Information for the public
Advice on "Some other Substantial Reason" rule
Advice for employers and businesses
Lay-offs and short-time working
Employment Law & HR Advice for Employers
Keystone Law articles:
Coronavirus: Can employers lay off staff or introduce short working?
Coronavirus: Pay and sick pay
This advice piece was written for Professional Beauty by Kirsty Mawhinney, founder of Skin Insight Branding Agency, in collaboration with Rebecca Day, founder of Day HR Consultants
For more advice on how to eveolve your business during these difficult times, sign up to Professional Beauty's Virtual Beauty Week, which takes place from March 29–April 3 online.