The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

COVID-19; Finance & Strategy; Leadership & Culture

Allan Wilson

27.03.2020

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ***UPDATED 17th APRIL 2020***

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. We expect the scheme to be up and running by the end of April. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Below we have given you a quick 2 minute read covering the key points and a more detailed 10 minute read. But let us start be explaining what furlough means. A furlough is a temporary leave of employees due to special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole.

As ever if you want help with any of the below or any other support for your business during the current crisis, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Don’t forget to read our action list too.

2 minute read – the key points of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

  • Do not forget to take HR advice in relation to implementing the scheme – do not put yourself in a position where a claim can be made against you. Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.
  • Furlough is from 1 March 2020, so is to be backdated. It will last for at least 3 months and will be extended if necessary. Note that while the scheme is backdated to the beginning of March as it is intended to support all those employed then, a firm will only be eligible to claim the grant once they have agreed the furlough with their staff and staff have stopped working for the employer. This will of course be subject to employment law in the usual way.
  • Employers will be able to use the HMRC portal from 20th April 2020 to claim 80% of furloughed employees usual monthly wage costs up to a maximum of £2,500 a month plus (not including) the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. This gives a maximum cap of £2,500 +£245 (employers’ NIC) + £59 (auto- enrolled pension contribution) = £2,804 of total possible grant that can be applied for per employee per month.
  • 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 but is not obliged to under this scheme.
  • To be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue.
  • If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme and you will have to continue paying the employee through your payroll and pay their salary subject to the terms of the employment contract you agreed
  • For full time and part time salaried employees, the employee’s actual salary before tax, as of 28 February should be used to calculate the 80%. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.
  • Businesses cannot furlough someone after hearing the announcement and then claim back to March 1st, even though the employee had been working that whole time. The scheme is backdated to March 1st with a view to covering those who have already been made redundant as a result of the coronavirus.
  • A worker must be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks for their employer to be eligible to claim under this scheme.
  • It is unlikely that directors/shareholders of a business will be able to furlough themselves as there will still be a company to look after, customers to maintain contact with, dealing with suppliers, collecting cash, running payroll, not to mention planning for the end of the outbreak.
  • Expect there to be stringent anti-fraud measures and we warn all business owners that in the event of abuse of the system, they should expect heavy penalties for what will be, after all, a form of illegal profiteering from a national crisis.
    Illustrative examples:
    The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme salary illustrations

10 minute read – the full detail of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

Employers can use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period.

The scheme is open to all UK employers that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 19 March 2020.

Who can claim in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:

  • businesses
  • charities
  • recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE)
  • public authorities

You must have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020 and have a UK bank account.

Employees you can claim for in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

You can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020. This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 19 March 2020.  Employees can be on any type of contract, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages from the date on which you furloughed them through the scheme. This applies to employees that were made redundant or stopped working for you after 28 February, even if you do not re-employ them until after 19 March. This applies as long as the employee was on your payroll as at 28 February and had been notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 28 February 2020. This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 28 February 2020

If an employee has had multiple employers over the past year, has only worked for one of them at any one time, and is being furloughed by their current employer, their former employer/s should not re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

If your employees are working reduced hours

If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.

If your employee is on unpaid leave

If an employee started unpaid leave after 28 February 2020, you can put them on furlough instead. If you put them on furlough then you should pay them at least 80% of their regular wages, up to the monthly cap of £2500.

If an employee went on unpaid leave on or before 28 February, you cannot furlough them until the date on which it was agreed they would return from unpaid leave.

If your employee is self-isolating or on sick leave

If your employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus, they’ll be able to get Statutory Sick Pay, subject to other eligibility conditions applying. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and there is a 3 week minimum furlough period.

Short term illness/ self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. If, however, employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.

Employers are also entitled to furlough employees who are being shielded or off on long-term sick leave. It is up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees. You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time. When an employee is on furlough, you can only reclaim expenditure through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and not the SSP rebate scheme. If a non-furloughed employee becomes ill, needs to self-isolate or be shielded, then you might qualify for the SSP rebate scheme, enabling you to claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee.

If your employee becomes sick while furloughed

Furloughed employee retain their statutory rights, including their right to Statutory Sick Pay. This means that furloughed employees who become ill must be paid at least Statutory Sick Pay. It is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto Statutory Sick Pay or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.

If a furloughed employee who becomes sick is moved onto SSP, employers can no longer claim for the furloughed salary. Employers are required to pay SSP themselves, although may qualify for a rebate for up to 2 weeks of SSP. If employers keep the sick furloughed employee on the furloughed rate, they remain eligible to claim for these costs through the furloughed scheme.

Shielding Employees

Employees who are unable to work because they are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) can be furloughed.

Employees with caring responsibilities

Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.

If your employee has more than one job

If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

Employees can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for another employer and receive their normal wages.

If your employee is on a fixed term contract

Employees on fixed term contracts can be furloughed. Their contracts can be renewed or extended before their natural conclusion during the furlough period without breaking the terms of the scheme. There is no minimum period which must be left to run on a fixed term contract to enable it to be renewed or extended, but it must not have ended. The furlough period must be for a minimum period of three consecutive weeks. Where a fixed term employee’s contract ends because it is not extended or renewed before its natural conclusion you will no longer be able claim grant for them once the contract ends. Fixed term contracts which ended, without extension or renewal, on or before 19 March 2020 will not qualify for the grant once they have ended.

Eligible individuals who are not employees

As well as employees, the grant can be claimed for any of the following groups, if they are paid via PAYE: office holders (including company directors), salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), agency workers (including those employed by umbrella companies), and limb (b) workers.

The guidance below sets out specific considerations for those individuals who are paid via PAYE, but who are not necessarily employees in employment law. Unless explicitly set out below, all other guidance is applicable to these cases, and should be followed.

Office Holders

Office holders can be furloughed and receive support through this scheme. The furlough, and any ongoing payment during furlough, will need to be agreed between the office holder and the party who operates PAYE on the income they receive for holding their office. Where the office holder is a company director or member of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), the furlough arrangements should be adopted formally as a decision of the company or LLP.

Company Directors

As office holders, salaried company directors are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme. Company directors owe duties to their company which are set out in the Companies Act 2006. Where a company (acting through its board of directors) considers that it is in compliance with the statutory duties of one or more of its individual salaried directors, the board can decide that such directors should be furloughed. Where one or more individual directors’ furlough is so decided by the board, this should be formally adopted as a decision of the company, noted in the company records and communicated in writing to the director(s) concerned.

Where furloughed directors need to carry out particular duties to fulfil the statutory obligations they owe to their company, they may do so provided they do no more than would reasonably be judged necessary for that purpose, i.e. they should not do work of a kind they would carry out in normal circumstances to generate commercial revenue or provides services to or on behalf of their company.

This also applies to salaried individuals who are directors of their own personal service company (PSC).

Salaried Members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs)

Members of LLPs who are designated as employees for tax purposes (‘salaried members’) under the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act (ITTOIA) 2005 are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme.

The rights and duties of a member of an LLP are set out in an LLP agreement and in the absence of an agreement, default provisions in the LLP Act 2000, based upon company and partnership law. Such an agreement may include separate agreement between the LLP and an individual member setting out the terms applicable to that member’s relationship with the LLP.

To furlough a member, the terms of the LLP agreement (or any such agreement between the LLP and the member) may need to be varied by a formal decision of the LLP, for example to reflect the fact that the member will perform no work in the LLP for the period of furlough, and the effect of this on their remuneration from the LLP. For an LLP member who is treated as being employed by the LLP (in accordance with s863A of ITTOIA 2005), the reference salary for this scheme is the LLP member’s profit allocation, excluding any amounts which are determined by the LLP member’s performance, or the overall performance of the LLP.

Agency Workers (including those employed by umbrella companies)

Where agency workers are paid through PAYE, they are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme, including where they are employed by umbrella companies.

Furlough should be agreed between the agency, as the deemed employer, and the worker, though it would be advised to discuss the need to furlough with any end clients involved. As with employees, agency workers should perform no work for, through or on behalf of the agency that has furloughed them while they are furloughed, including performing such work through or on behalf of the agency for the agency’s clients.

Where an agency supplies clients with workers who are employed by an umbrella company that operates the PAYE, it will be for the umbrella company and the worker to agree whether to furlough the worker or not.

If your employee does volunteer work

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work, if it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation. Your organisation can agree to find furloughed employees new work or volunteering opportunities whilst on furlough if this is in line with public health guidance.

If your employee undertakes training

Furloughed employees can engage in training, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation. Furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training.

Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient monies to cover these training hours. However, where the time spent training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages (see National Minimum Wage Section for more details).

If your employee is on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave

The normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply.

You can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

  • maternity pay
  • adoption pay
  • paternity pay
  • shared parental pay

Agreeing to furlough employees

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

To be eligible for the grant employers must confirm in writing to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed. If this is done in a way that is consistent with employment law, that consent is valid for the purposes of claiming the CJRS. There needs to be a written record, but the employee does not have to provide a written response. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you.

Minimum furlough periods

Any employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.

Work out what you can claim in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Employers need to make a claim for wage costs through this scheme.

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 but is not obliged to under this scheme.

We will issue more guidance on how employers should calculate their claims for Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions, before the scheme becomes live.

Full time and part time employees

For full time and part time salaried employees, the employee’s actual salary before tax, as of 28 February should be used to calculate the 80%. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

Employees whose pay varies

If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full twelve months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

If the employee only started in February 2020, use a pro-rata for their earnings so far to claim.

Once you’ve worked out how much of an employee’s salary you can claim for, you must then work out the amount of Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions you are entitled to claim.

Employer National Insurance and Pension Contributions

All employers remain liable for associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on behalf of their furloughed employees.

You can claim a grant from HMRC to cover wages for a furloughed employee, equal to the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular salary or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on paying those wages.

You can choose to provide top-up salary in addition to the grant. Employer National Insurance Contributions and automatic enrolment contribution on any additional top-up salary will not be funded through this scheme. Nor will any voluntary automatic enrolment contributions above the minimum mandatory employer contribution of 3% of income above the lower limit of qualifying earnings (which is £512 per month until 5th April and will be £520 per month from 6th April 2020 onwards).

National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the hours they are working.

Therefore, furloughed workers, who are not working, must be paid the lower of 80% of their salary, or £2,500 even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below NLW/NMW.

However, if workers are required to for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

What you’ll need to make a claim in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. Employers may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.

To claim, you will need:

  • your ePAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the claim period (start and end date)
  • amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 weeks)
  • your bank account number and sort code
  • your contact name
  • your phone number

You will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

Claim

You can only submit one claim at least every 3 weeks, which is the minimum length an employee can be furloughed for. Claims can be backdated until the 1 March if applicable.

What to do after you’ve claimed

Once HMRC have received your claim and you are eligible for the grant, they will pay it via BACS payment to a UK bank account.

You should make your claim in accordance with actual payroll amounts at the point at which you run your payroll or in advance of an imminent payroll.

You must pay the employee all the grant you receive for their gross pay, no fees can be charged from the money that is granted. You can choose to top up the employee’s salary, but you do not have to.

When the government ends the scheme

When the government ends the scheme, you must make a decision, depending on your circumstances, as to whether employees can return to their duties. If not, it may be necessary to consider termination of employment (redundancy).

Employees that have been furloughed

Employees that have been furloughed have the same rights as they did previously. That includes Statutory Sick Pay entitlement, maternity rights, other parental rights, rights against unfair dismissal and to redundancy payments.

Once the scheme has been closed by the government, HMRC will continue to process remaining claims before terminating the scheme.

Income tax and Employee National Insurance

Wages of furloughed employees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual. Employees will also pay automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings, unless they have chosen to opt-out or to cease saving into a workplace pension scheme.

Employers will be liable to pay Employer National Insurance contributions on wages paid, as well as automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings unless an employee has opted out or has ceased saving into a workplace pension scheme.

Tax Treatment of the Coronavirus Job Retention Grant

Payments received by a business under the scheme are made to offset these deductible revenue costs. They must therefore be included as income in the business’s calculation of its taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes, in accordance with normal principles.

Businesses can deduct employment costs as normal when calculating taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes.

This guidance is correct as of 17th April 2020.  As things are changing quickly, the most up to date guidance should always be sought.

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