Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: key questions answered

This blog answers nearly 25 frequently asked questions about the UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Zellis

Apr 22nd 2020

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), all UK employers can claim support to continue paying a percentage of their employees’ salary for those employees (known as ‘furloughed’ employees) who would otherwise have been made redundant during this crisis.

There are a lot of specific details within the scheme which organisations and their payroll teams need to fully understand in order to comply with the rules and ensure furloughed employees are paid correctly.

We’ve put together a summary of the most important questions below, which will be updated as and when any new information becomes available.

Basic rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

1. Who can claim?

Organisations that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19th March 2020.

2. How much can you claim for full and part-time salaried workers?

You can claim for 80% of the employee’s salary, as in their last pay period prior to 19th March 2020.

However if, based on previous guidance, you have calculated your claim based on the employee’s salary as at 28th February 2020 (and this differs from their salary in their last pay period prior to 19th March 2020) you can choose to still use this calculation for your first claim.

3. What information will be required in order to make a claim?

You will be required to supply the following information:

  • Your employer PAYE reference number
  • The number of employees being furloughed
  • National Insurance numbers for the furloughed employees
  • Names of the furloughed employees
  • Payroll/employee numbers for the furloughed employees (optional)
  • Your Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number
  • The claim period (start and end date)
  • The amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 consecutive weeks)
  • Your bank account number and sort code
  • Your contact name
  • Your phone number

If you have 100 or more furloughed staff, you will be asked to upload a file with the information rather than input it directly into the HMRC portal.

  • HMRC will accept the following file types: .xls .xlsx .csv .ods
  • The file should include the following information for each furloughed employee:

    • Name
    • National Insurance number
    • Claim period
    • Claim amount
    • Payroll/employee number (optional).

You should retain all records and calculations in respect of your claims.

4. When will employers be able to start claiming?

The online service you will use to claim went live on 20th April 2020.

5. How long will the scheme last?

This is a temporary scheme, starting from 1st March 2020 and lasting until at least the end of June. However, this may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme any time during this period.

Who is eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

6. Who can employers claim for?

You can only claim for furloughed employees who were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19th March 2020 and were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19th March 2020.

This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before the 19th March 2020.

7. What about employees who were previously made redundant or stopped working?

If you made employees redundant or they stopped working for you on or after 28th February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

This includes employees who were made redundant or stopped working for you after 28th February, even if you do not re-employ them until after 19th March. However, this only applies as long as the employee was on your payroll in March and reported to HMRC in the RTI by 19th March 2020.

This also means that an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 19th March 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.

8. What about employees who went on unpaid leave?

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

9. What about employees returning from statutory leave?

Statutory leave includes maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave, sick leave and parental bereavement leave.

In-line with other employees, claims by employers under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for full-time or part-time employees returning from statutory leave after 28th February 2020 should be calculated against their salary, before tax, not the pay they received whilst on statutory leave.

Claims for those on variable pay, returning from statutory leave, should be calculated using either the:

  • Same month’s earning from the previous year.

or

  • Average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year.

10. What if an employee is only temporarily furloughed?

Grants will be prorated if your employee is only furloughed for part of a pay period.

11. What about apprentices?

Apprentices can be furloughed but must be allowed to carry on with their training whilst furloughed. You must apply the correct Apprenticeship Minimum Wage (AMW), National Living Wage (NLW), and National Minimum Wage (NMW) whilst they are training.

12. What about foreign nationals?

Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. Grants under the scheme are not counted as ‘access to public funds’ and you can furlough employees on all categories of visa.

13. What about employees who are unable to work because of caring responsibilities?

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

14. Can public sector contractors be furloughed, in scope of off-payroll working rules (IR35)?

Public sector organisations need to agree furlough arrangements with both the contractor’s personal service company (PSC) and the fee-payer, noting the following:

  • The contractor is to do no work for the public sector organisation during their period of furlough.
  • The fee-payer would be able to apply for the furlough payment of 80% of the monthly contract value, up to a maximum of £2,500, as well as the employer NICs (National Insurance contributions) on that subsidised wage.
  • The fee-payer would then pay at least the amount of wage-grant received to the PSC and report the payment via PAYE using the contractor’s details, making the usual tax and NICs deductions for contracts in scope of the off-payroll rules.
  • The PSC would then be required to report the amount it pays to the contractor as deemed employment income via PAYE using box 58A on the PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) return. (This already exists on the RTI submission).
  • Where a contractor is continuing to receive payments from a public sector client (including through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) or any other scheme, income from this client should be excluded from any calculation of the reference pay for the purposes of the CJRS if the contractor also decides to furlough themselves as an employee or director of their own company.

15. Can administrators use the scheme?

Administrators can use the scheme as before, but only if there is a reasonable likelihood they will rehire employees. For instance, this could be as a result of an administration and pursuit of a sale of the business.

Holiday allowance and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

16. Will employees continue to accrue holiday allowance while furloughed?

Since they technically remain employed, furloughed workers will continue to accrue holiday allowance while furloughed, as per the Working Time Regulations (WTR). Where applicable, organisations could choose to reduce any enhanced contractual holiday (beyond the statutory minimum) for furloughed workers, but this should be formally agreed with employees.

17. Can employees be asked or required to take holiday while furloughed?

It is possible for employees to take holiday while they are furloughed. Employees with pre-booked holidays will be able to take them as scheduled. These holidays can be rescheduled if it is permitted within your organisation’s policy. However, if you would like to require employees to take holiday while they are furloughed, you must give them twice as much notice as the length of the holiday you require them to take. This rule applies unless the contract of employment stipulates otherwise.

18. What about bank holidays?

There are currently two more bank holidays scheduled to take place during the furlough scheme period (8 May and 25 May). Whether or not employees have the right to take bank holidays off as holidays depends on the normal circumstances for individual employees. If they normally take bank holidays off, they will do so as usual. If they normally work on bank holidays, they will be counted as being on furlough leave (not holiday) unless you require them to take these days as holidays.

19. Can employers restrict employees from taking holiday?

The guidance stipulates that employers can restrict employees from taking holiday, but only if there is a clear business need and the right amount of notice is provided as per the WTR. As the UK government has amended the WTR to now allow employees to carry holiday over for the next two years, it may appease employees who have been restricted around when they can take holiday. However, this only applies if the employee has not been able to take their statutory annual leave entitlement as a direct result of coronavirus.

20. How much should staff be paid for holiday during furlough?

Staff who take holiday while furloughed need to be paid their usual statutory holiday pay rate. Employers can still agree a different rate of holiday pay over and above the statutory minimum, however they will not be able to claim back any additional top-up to full holiday pay through the furlough grant.

Other questions about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

21. Can furloughed employees receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

If your employee is on sick leave or self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), they’ll still be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and there is a three-week minimum furlough period.

If an employee is furloughed, then they should not receive SSP.

Employers are entitled to furlough employees who are being “shielded” or on long-term sick leave. It’s up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees. Employers 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.

When an employee is on furlough, employers can only reclaim expenditure through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, not the SSP rebate scheme.

If a non-furloughed employee becomes ill, needs to self-isolate or be shielded, then the employer might qualify for the SSP rebate scheme, enabling them to claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee.

Furloughed employees retain their statutory rights, including their right to SSP. This means that furloughed employees who become ill must be paid at least SSP. It's up to employers to decide whether to move such employees onto SSP 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.

22. Can businesses affected by TUPE or a change in ownership make a claim?

A new employer is eligible to claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in respect of the employees of a previous business transferred after 28th February 2020 if either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership.

Read more guidance on TUPE rules

Read more guidance on business succession

23. How are consolidated PAYE schemes affected?

Where a group of companies have multiple PAYE schemes and there is a transfer of all employees from these schemes into a new consolidated PAYE scheme after 28th February 2020, the new scheme will be eligible to furlough those employees and claim the grants available under the CJRS.

24. Can the grant be used to pay for benefits in kind and salary sacrifice schemes?

All of the grant received to cover an employee’s subsidised furlough pay must be paid to the employee in the form of money. No part of the grant should be “netted off” to pay for the provision of benefits or a salary sacrifice scheme.

Further information

The Pensions Regulator and HMRC have provided further guidance regarding calculations for claiming back the employer’s National Insurance contributions and pension contributions, as well as calculations for salary sacrifice schemes.

To learn more about how Zellis can support your organisation with emergency payroll support and advice, please visit our coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

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