Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Changes
The UK Government has announced an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1 November 2020 until 31 March 2021, with a commitment to subsidise 80% of workers’ wages up to a monthly cap of £2,500 for scheme participants for at least the period up to 31 January 2021.
Claims from February 2021 onwards may be subject to amended rules and levels of financial support, with the government advising of changes, if any, at that time. Please note that full guidance on the specific rules associated with this extension is available here.
Employers can use the CJRS in full or flexibly, and during this extension period workers can be furloughed whether or not the worker has been furloughed before, and whether or not the employer has used the CJRS scheme at all before. The extended scheme can be used by businesses in all areas of the United Kingdom, regardless of the restrictions in place in their area at the time.
Workers enrolled in the extension of this scheme must have been on their employer’s PAYE payroll system and have had an RTI submission made to HMRC notifying a payment of earnings for that worker between 20 March 2020 and midnight on 30 October 2020.
The extension of the CJRS until 31 March 2021 means that the start of the Job Support Scheme and the initial claim date for the Job Retention Bonus have each been postponed. An alternative retention incentive may be deployed at a later date upon the closure of the CJRS in March 2021.
Payment is made in accordance with the hours not worked by the worker, and the £2,500 monthly cap on government contribution is proportional to the hours not worked.
As has been the case previously, employers must gain agreement from any worker that they intend to designate as furloughed. Having gained this agreement verbally, it should be confirmed in writing with a Notification of Furlough Status Letter, and the letter(s) and worker confirmation(s) in writing should be retained in the employer’s records for six years.
If the employer uses the CJRS on a flexible basis, workers can be furloughed more than once in this period, with separate letters advising of subsequent furlough periods issued on each occasion, and separate consents sought. The minimum reporting interval for claims is seven days.
From the worker’s perspective, their wages will still be subject to the usual Income Tax, National Insurance contributions, and any other relevant deductions. Employers’ National Insurance contributions and pension contributions are payable by the employer during this time. Employers are still able to top up wages to 100% of normal earnings if they wish, but this is not required.
Workers are free to refuse to be designated as furloughed but should bear in mind that by doing so they may place themselves at risk of redundancy, depending on the circumstances of the business and the development of the Coronavirus pandemic. If a worker has already been made redundant or otherwise stopped working for their employer, but they were employed and on the payroll on 23 September 2020, then they can be re-employed and claimed for.
Furloughed workers can undertake work for their employer within designated working hours if they are flexibly furloughed. Workers who are fully furloughed cannot undertake any work for their employer.
Furloughed workers can:
- undertake training activities if these can be done safely in accordance with public health guidance
- do volunteer work
- carry out work for another company provided that it is done with the employer’s consent
If a worker is on sick leave or is self-isolating, they cannot simultaneously be designated as furloughed, but when the sick leave or self-isolation ends, the worker can then be furloughed from that date.
If a sick worker is placed on furlough, SSP is no longer payable and the worker should receive furlough pay. An employer cannot claim for an SSP rebate and for a furlough grant for the same worker simultaneously. Where a worker falls sick while on furlough, the employer can decide whether they will move on to sick leave or remain on furlough.
Employers will receive payments at the relevant rate of SSP, currently £95.85 per week, paid to current or former workers unable to work as a result of being ill with coronavirus, self-isolating and unable to work, or shielding because they’re at ‘high risk’ of severe illness from coronavirus. The repayment will cover up to two weeks of SSP for eligible periods of sickness.
Employers, following the provisions of the SJIB National Working Rules, will be able to claim for the following payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:
- Mileage rate
- London rate
- Responsibility money
- Productivity/incentive schemes
- Site specific payments
- Shift premia
- Call out
- Travelling time for those in receipt of lodging allowance.
Employers will not be able to claim for:
- Benefits Credit
- Mileage allowance
- Lodging allowance
- Periodic return fares
Employers can submit grant claims for furloughed workers here. The information needed to claim is the same information which would be used in a normal payroll run, and employers should make their claim either shortly before, or during a payroll run.
Payments in respect of successful claims will be made six working days after claim submission.
Employers can make this claim themselves, or if they have an agent/accountant with authorisation to act on their behalf in PAYE matters online, they may submit the claim. If an agent/accountant is making the claim, the grant funds should still be paid into the employer’s account.
In order to access the system, the employer or their agent must have:
- A Government Gateway ID number and password
- An active PAYE scheme
If the employer is not already registered for ePAYE, they should do so immediately by going to Register for online HMRC services and making their registration application.
To make a claim for this grant, the employer will need to know:
- The employer ePAYE reference number
- The number of workers being furloughed
- National Insurance Number for the furloughed workers
- Names of the furloughed workers
- Payroll/employee number for the furloughed workers (optional)
- Employer’s Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number
- The claim period (start and end date)
- Amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of three consecutive weeks)
- Employer’s bank account number and sort code
- Employer’s contact name
- Employer’s phone number.
Please note that employers furloughing more than 100 workers must provide the following further details in their submission:
- Claim amount per furloughed worker
- Claim period for each furloughed worker
Employers who intend to make a CJRS grant claim in respect of more than 100 workers will need to submit the claim details in one of the following file formats:
Once an employer has submitted a claim they will see a confirmation screen where a claim reference number will be shown. The employer should print this screen or note down the claim reference number – they will not receive an email confirmation.
It is for the employer, or their agent, to check the accuracy of each claim. Employers should only begin their application when they have all of the above ready, as they will not be able to complete the application without these pieces of information.
Employers will need to calculate the amount they are claiming and should keep a record of how they calculated this value, ideally on a spreadsheet. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of an employer’s claim.
This extension is due to end on 31 March 2021, and when it ends employers must make a decision, depending on their circumstances, as to whether workers can return to their duties. If not, it may be necessary to consider termination of employment (redundancy).
Employees and workers continue to have the same rights at work during periods of furlough or flexible furlough as they would otherwise have, including:
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Maternity and other parental rights
- Rights against unfair dismissal
- Redundancy payments.
As of 25 April 2020, furloughed workers’ Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Shared Parental Pay, Parental Bereavement Pay, and Adoption Pay will be calculated based on their usual full earnings rather than their furlough pay amount.
Employers should consult the official guidance given here to clarify how to report in the correct way any payments which have been made.
If an employer had previously applied for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and had been rejected due to not being up to date with payments of tax liabilities, they may now be accepted if they apply again.
The HMRC has admitted that outstanding tax liabilities should not have been grounds to refuse an application to the scheme and will consider previously refused applicants again if a fresh application is received.
The government has announced an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1 November 2020 until at least 2 December 2020, with a commitment to subsidise 80% of workers’ wages up to a monthly cap of £2,500 for scheme participants during this period. Read the update here.
The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing from 1 July 2020, introducing more flexibility in its use, and changing the breakdown of responsibility for payment of 80% of workers’ wages.
First-time Furlough Deadline
The furlough scheme will be closed to new entrants from 1 July 2020, after which only those workers who have completed a full three-week furlough by 30 June 2020 will be eligible for furlough at any point after this date.
In effect, this means that the deadline for furloughing a worker for the first time is 10 June 2020.
Workers Returning from Family Leave (maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental)
With effect from 10 June 2020, workers returning from family leave are exempt from the deadline above as long as their employer has previously used the furlough scheme for any other employee.
gives a breakdown of the changes and obligations of employers regarding pay during furlough periods from 1 March to 31 October 2020.
Employers should note that small businesses may be eligible for the Employment Allowance, which could cover their ER NICs liability, see information and eligibility criteria here.
The scheme will be closed to new entrants on 30 June 2020, so the last date on which a valid furlough period can start for a worker who has not been furloughed before is 10 June 2020
Claim periods and limits
From 1 July 2020 a new limit to the number of staff who can be included on a claim will be introduced, based on the maximum number of staff ever included in any single pre-1 July claim. From 1 July, claim periods will no longer be able to overlap months.
Employers who previously submitted claims that overlapped calendar months will no longer be able to do so.
From 1 August 2020 a new reporting period of one week will apply – more frequent claims will not be accepted but the reporting period can be longer.
Employers must claim for any period of furlough ending on or before 30 June 2020 by 31 July at the latest.
From 1 July 2020, workers who have previously been furloughed can be brought back into the business on an agreed part time basis, and their non-working (furloughed) hours can continue to be claimed under the scheme rules in effect at that time.
Communications and records
As has previously been the case when furloughing a worker, on each occasion you must gain written agreement to the arrangement and retain this for at least six years. With effect from 1 July 2020, when moving to a part-time furlough arrangement, this can only be done after having gained written agreement from each worker to temporarily vary their hours due to coronavirus.
You can use the standard letter provided by SELECT here
to inform your workers of the proposed new arrangements, and to request their consent.
You should keep records of the usual working hours of each worker you claim for, and the hours of work they completed versus the hours you intend to claim for through the furlough grant. This information will be required when making a part-time furlough claim.
If you had previously applied for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and you had been rejected due to not being up to date with payments of tax liabilities, you may now be accepted if you apply again.
The HMRC have admitted that outstanding tax liabilities should not have been grounds to refuse an application to the scheme and will consider previously refused applicants again if a fresh application is received.