Guidance for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has now been published. CJRS will allow employers to be reimbursed for 80% of employee salaries up to a cap of of £2,500 and associated wage costs for furloughed workers. Here’s what you need to know.
- If an employee is unable to work or has no work available due to coronavirus, then an employer may place an employee on ‘furlough’. The employer must write to the employee to state that they have been furloughed and should keep a copy of the correspondence
- For the purposes of CJRS, the definition of employee would include workers and agency workers provided they are subject to PAYE
- Employees can receive 80% of their wages, up to a monthly cap of £2,500 and they will continue to pay taxes in the usual manner. They will pay income tax, national insurance contributions and employee automatic enrolment contributions (on qualifying earnings), unless they have opted out of the scheme, or choose to stop contributing
- The CJRS will be a grant and not a loan
- The grants will be backdated to 1 March 2020. This suggests that employees joining after this date cannot be designated “furloughed workers”
- The grants will apply for an initial period of 3 months but could be extended if necessary. Therefore, the grants appear to end on 31 May 2020
- Employees must not complete any work for their employer in the period in which they are on furlough, so must not provide services or generate any revenue. If employees are still working, but on, for example, reduced hours, then their employer must continue to pay them accordingly and will not be able to claim this back through the CJRS
- Employers do not have to top-up “furloughed workers” pay by 20% of the salary costs
- There is no financial limit on what employers can claim
- Employers must comply with employment law when designating employees as “furloughed workers”. This means that employers will need to consult with employees and seek their consent unless there are special circumstances
- Holiday entitlement will continue to accrue while employees are “furloughed”
- Contractual benefits appear to continue while employees are “furloughed” unless otherwise agreed
- In circumstances where employees are on sick leave or self-isolating due to COVID-19, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable for that period, but they can be furloughed after this point
- Employers need to make a claim for wage costs through this scheme
- Applications for CJRS will be through an HRMC online portal. It is hoped that this will be completed by the end of April 2020
Who can claim
Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:
- Recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE)
- Public authorities
Employees you can claim for
Any UK employers with a UK bank account can claim, but employees must have been on their employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020. Employees can be on any of the following types of contract:
- Full-time employees
- Part-time employees
- Employees on agency contracts
- Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
How do you furlough an employee?
Firstly, you must discuss the situation with all the employees you wish to furlough. You may then need to make changes to their employment contract.
Even if you have the contractual right to lay off an employee, we urge you still seek their consent to be furloughed. This is because furlough is a new concept and it’s unlikely that your lay clause will cover this. It is also good practice write a letter to all the employees you need to furlough.
The online service you’ll need to use in order to claim back the employees wages is not yet available. It is expected to be ready by the end of April 2020.
What if an employee had already agreed to go on unpaid leave?
Your employee cannot be furloughed unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February.
What if an employee is self isolating because they, or someone they live with has been showing symptoms?
Employees that are self isolating should get statutory sick pay (SSP) from day one of their absence (£94.25 per week). Note that smaller employers can claim up to two weeks of that SSP back from the government.
If an employee is on SSP for these reasons then they must remain on SSP, though they can be furloughed afterwards.
Employees that are shielding because they received the letter stating that they are high risk can be placed on furlough.
What if they have a job with another employer?
You can furlough them and they can still continue to work in that other job, so long as the roles are separate.
Can a worker still do volunteer work or training?
Yes, as long as they are not providing services or generating revenue for, or on behalf of, your organisation.
However, if workers are required to complete online training courses while they are furloughed they must be paid at least the national living/minimum wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.
What about employees on maternity or other family leave?
Unfortunately, the guidance on this still isn’t very clear. Those currently on SMP (or similar) can continue to claim this and we’d expect their leave to continue. The guidance does not prohibit women on maternity leave agreeing to return to work early and then being furloughed, or electing to change to shared parental leave and then being furloughed.
Can employees come on and off furlough?
The minimum length of time an employee can be furloughed for is three weeks.
Ben Kerry from HMRC has said it’s possible to put people on and off furlough provided the 3 week minimum period of furlough is met each time.
Does Holiday still accrue during the furlough period?
The guidance on this is lacking but HMRC’s Ben Kerry has confirmed holiday does accrue through furlough. He also confirmed that if you had placed employees on holiday while waiting to see what the guidance was and before furloughing them, that you should only claim furlough from the end of that holiday period. You cannot back date that to the date the business closed for example.
Can Directors furlough themselves?
Directors are eligible to claim on their salary but not dividends if they also follow the above guidelines.
How much can you claim?
You will receive a grant from HMRC to cover the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular wage or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.
At a minimum, employers must pay their employee the lower of 80% of their regular wage or £2,500 per month. An employer can also choose to top up an employee’s salary beyond this (say to their usual salary) but is not obliged to under this scheme.
What if an employee is on the NLW or NMW?
If an employee is paid the National Minimum/Living Wage, there is no issue with paying them 80% of their usual earnings. Note however the need to pay NLW/NMW if they are doing training for you during that time.
This page will be updated as and when announcements are made.
This blog is just a brief summary of the key points. For further details and full guidance, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme