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Updated Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance - What do employers need to know?

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On Saturday 31 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that there will be a 4 week lockdown, including the closure of pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops, from Thursday 5 November in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.  To support businesses through this time, he announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be extended, with Rishi Sunak announcing later in the week that this would be extended until the end of March 2021.  Updated guidance was released on 10 November, and here our Employment Law team review the extension, the criteria that apply and potential future changes in the weeks to come.

What does the extended furlough leave scheme include?

The extended furlough leave will be as follows:

  • The Government will return to paying 80% of wages for hours not worked for those employees on furlough leave.  The previous cap of £2,500 applies.
  • Employers will only be required to contribute pension and National Insurance contributions.
  • Employees can either be on flexible furlough or full-time furlough.
  • Employers will be required to have a UK bank account and UK PAYE scheme.
  • Employers can choose to top up employee wages above the grant if they wish.
  • There is no maximum number of employees an employer can claim for.

As the Job Support Scheme was due to commence on the 1 November, the Government was required to update the system from the Job Support Scheme, meaning that there was a small delay in between that time and lockdown starting on 5 November.  It is likely that employers will have been required to submit their wage claim and be refunded afterwards for this time period.  Once this is updated, the employer will be paid upfront.

As with all furlough leave, this must be confirmed to the employee in writing and kept on record for five years.

Which employees are eligible?

In order to be placed on the scheme, employees:

  • Must have been on the payroll by 30 October 2020.
  • They do not need to have been furloughed before.
  • Can be on any type of employment contract.

Additional considerations for employers that are confirmed within the guidance includes:

  • In the event that an employee was made redundant, they can be re-employed and placed on furlough provided they were on PAYE payroll on or before 23 September. 
  • Employers can furlough an employee retrospectively from 1 November, however this must be in place and the claim submitted by 13 November.  
  • Employees that are on sick-leave or self-isolating due to coronavirus must be paid Statutory Sick Pay and not be placed on furlough leave, according to HMRC. 
  • Employees that are currently on sickness absence can be placed on furlough for business reasons.
  • Employees wishing to return from maternity leave early to  be furloughed will be required to give the statutory eight weeks' notice and cannot be placed on furlough leave until the end of the eight weeks.
  • For claim periods starting on or after 1 December, employers cannot claim for any days between 1 December and 31 January 2021, during which the furloughed employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period, which includes people serving notice of retirement or resignation.

In light of this update, the need for the Job Retention Bonus has fallen away and so that has been removed.  An alternative retention incentive will be considered at the appropriate time.  The Job Support Scheme has also been delayed until the CJRS has come to an end.

Future changes to the CJRS

Employers should also note that from December 2020, HMRC will be publishing employer names for companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and the company registration number of those who have made claims under the scheme.

If you have any queries regarding the CJRS, furlough leave or if you are planning on making redundancies, you can contact our Employment Law team on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.  To receive regular updates from the team to keep you up to date with announcements as and when they occur, you may wish to consider Peace of Mind membership, which entitles members to regular Briefing Notes and Template Letters for use in their business.  Alternatively, to receive regular Employment Law updates from the team regarding recent tribunal cases and legislation updates, you can subscribe to our weekly Employment Law Newsletter by completing our subscription form or emailing us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.