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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: A Summary

March 2020

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.

Key points

Who can claim

Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:

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:

FAQs

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

 

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