The Original Furlough Scheme is back: Who can claim?
Originally introduced in March, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended beyond the original October deadline.
What has changed?
The Furlough scheme had been winding down over the last couple of months, with 70% government contribution to hours not worked in September and the employer paying 10%. In October the government paid 60% of the furloughed employees wages for their unworked hours, up to a maximum of £1,875, with employers contributing the remaining 20%.
The announcement made on 31st October in line with the second lockdown means that businesses can receive grants covering 80% of wages throughout November and the JSS implementation has been delayed to 1st December. The employer must pay for all the employer’s NIC and employer’s minimum workplace pension contributions on those wages and the grant will be for time not worked, up to £2,500 per month.
What is it?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows all UK employers to access financial support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary that would otherwise have been laid off due to the second lockdown. It prevents layoffs and redundancies.
What organisations are eligible?
All UK companies are eligible: limited companies, sole traders who employee people, LLPs, partnerships and charities.
Which employees are eligible?
Employees who were on the employer’s payroll on 30 October 2020 will qualify to be included in CJRS claim for November; they don’t have to have been included in an earlier CJRS claim. The employee must have been paid by the employer, and that payment must have been reported on an RTI return before midnight on 30 October.
Furlough Leave is available to all employees on a contract, including;
- full-time employees
• part-time employees
• employees on agency contracts
• employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
Does Flexi Furlough still run?
The flexible furlough will still run alongside full-time furlough, so staff may be brought back part-time to say, prepare the premises for the lifting of national restrictions, or to prepare for Christmas.
The same rules for flexible furlough will continue to apply as they have done since 1 July, so the employee may be furloughed for a couple of days or hours per week. No minimum time set for furloughed hours or working hours has been communicated.
However, each furlough claim must be for a period of at least seven consecutive calendar days.
How does it work?
- The employer must designate affected employees as furloughed workers.
• They should notify the employee that they have been marked as Furlough. Agreement from the employee may be required.
• HMRC must be notified of the employee designated as furloughed workers as well as details of their earnings. This is done through an online portal (not currently set up).
• HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, based on the February earnings of salaried workers, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
• Wages for those on variable hours can be calculated based on the higher of either:
o the same month’s earning from the previous year
o average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year
If the employee has been employed for less than a year, employers can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.
- Employees remain employed, their continuity of service is not impacted.
• Employer may choose to top-up the other 20% of salary. If they don’t top-up the 20% it will be a deduction in wages.
• Wages paid through the scheme are subject to the usual income tax and other deductions.
What are the employment issues?
Changing the status of employees to a furloughed worker remains subject to existing employment law. Generally, where an employee’s contract contains a layoff or short term clause employers should be able to place employees on furlough leave. Where there is no such clause, it is best advised to get agreement from the employee.
Additionally, a 20% reduction in salary will be a change in terms and conditions of employment. Where employers are not topping up the Government payment, they should also seek agreement from the employee.
Given the current situation and the alternatives for those employees should they not agree, one can expect that most employees will agree. That said, prudent employers will seek to get their employees agreement as part of their furlough leave process.