Most of you will already be aware of the national lockdown restrictions that took effect on 5th November. What you may not know is that as a result of the lockdown, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is being extended.
The CJRS – also known as the furlough scheme – was due to close on 31st October. But the Prime Minister decided to extend the support.
Most employers will be familiar with the terms of the furlough scheme – so we won’t repeat them (but please do feel free to read our previous summary here). There are, however, some key adjustments to the extended scheme that you need to be aware of.
The new Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) was due to launch on 1st November. The Government released detailed guidance on the new scheme on the evening of 30th October. This scheme has now been postponed until the end of the extended CJRS.
The extended furlough scheme aims to provide more immediate support to employers. The CJRS is set up so that employers receive the funds ahead of making payments to employees. Had the new JSS scheme been rolled out on Sunday as planned, the funds would not have been made available to employers before they had to pay their employees.
Currently, there are minimal details available on how the extended CJRS will work. The government has stated that it will provide further guidance ‘shortly’. But many employers need to take urgent action and make immediate decisions in relation to their employees. Below, we have summarised the key points of the extended CJRS:
The government will pay 80% of an employee’s ‘usual’ wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. As with the original CJRS, employers are still able to ‘top-up’ employee wages above the scheme grant if they wish.
With regards to employee’s furlough pay, employers are only required to cover the cost of employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions. This mirrors the level of the support that was available via the CJRS in August.
Neither the employer nor employee needs to have used the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) before in order to be eligible for the extended scheme.
The above guidance is a significant change from the JRS rules in recent months. Previously, employees could only be furloughed if they had been furloughed before 30 June 2020. This update should mean that more employees will be eligible under the extended scheme.
To be eligible, employees must have been on an employer’s PAYE payroll before 30 October 2020. This means that a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying HMRC of payment for that employee must have been made on or before 30th October 2020.
Where an employee was not previously eligible for CJRS, the calculation will take account of updated reference periods.
Flexible furloughing will continue to be available, as well as full-time furloughing. The calculations for the flexible furlough will largely be the same as they were in the original CJRS. This means that they will reference ‘usual’ hours for employees. Note: We are waiting on full details of this from the government. We will update you as soon as further information is released.
Remember: Each furlough period must last at least seven days.
There will be no gap in support between 31 October, when the scheme was due to end, and the start of this extension.
As part of the claim, employers will need to report an employee’s hours worked and the usual hours an employee would be expected to work within a claim period.
The CJRS has been extended to 31 March 2021 for all parts of the UK.
Claims for the prior month have to be made by the 14th day of the following month. So, claims up to the 30th November have to be claimed by 14th December.
HMRC are publishing details of employers who make claims from December onwards under the extended scheme.
Q: Can I re-hire employees and add them to the extended furlough scheme?
A: This is currently unclear, but of critical importance. Many furloughed employees were made redundant at the end of October on the assumption that the furlough scheme was ending. The last-minute extension came too late for most employers to retract notices. The key question for the government is whether employees can now be re-hired in order to be furloughed for an extra month.
The original furlough scheme allowed employers to re-hire employees who were made redundant before it was launched, so it’s possible that the extension will work in a similar way.
Q: If an employee is serving their notice, can I place them on furlough?
A: For claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, you cannot claim for any days on or after 1 December 2020 during which an employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period for (this includes people serving notice of retirement or resignation).
If an employee subsequently starts a contractual or statutory notice period on a day covered by a previously submitted claim, you will need to make an adjustment.
Q: Do Directors qualify for this extended furlough?
A: The government have not announced in as many words that Directors will qualify. They have, however, stated that employees are eligible for the scheme providing that a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission has been made to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020 for them. This would indicate that Directors on annual payroll are included in the scheme.
Q: Do my staff need to be on a specific type of contract with me in order to be eligible for furlough?
A: No. Employees on any type of contract qualify for the extended scheme. This includes zero hour contracted employees.
Q: I had made plans for my staff as per the guidance on the JSS, and notified them of these – what should I do now?
A: Your plans will need to be revised given the extension of the CJRS and in most cases, urgent communications will be required with employees. The nature of the communication will vary depending on the plans you had already put in place. If you feel you need support in this area, we would recommend seeking HR advice.
Q: I still have staff on furlough – do I need to do anything?
A: Most existing furlough agreements will be drafted to come to an end either upon the expiry of the CJRS, or on 31st October 2020. There were previously challenges under the original CJRS as to how to obtain and document employee agreement to CJRS terms. As a result, it is recommended that you have relevant employees to return signed letters indicating their agreement to an extension or, at least, to respond by email confirming their agreement to remain on furlough until December on existing furlough terms. This will be easier if the extension to furlough is on the same terms as up to 31 October.
Q: I have previously topped up my staff’s pay in addition to the government’s contributions, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that for November as well. What should I do?
A: If you need to scale back or remove the top up, you may need employee consent to any changes, depending on the wording of their furlough agreement.