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30/03/2020

Coronavirus - Job Retention Scheme

Businesses, charities, recruitment agencies (workers paid through PAYE) and public authorities can claim under the Job Retention Scheme. You must have created and started a PAYE payrolls scheme on or before 28 February 2020 and have a UK bank account. The government doesn’t envisage many public sector organisations making a claim as most of the employees will be providing essential services.

Employees you can claim for
Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and 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.

  • The employee cannot undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation.
  • Employers should discuss with their staff and make changes to the employment contract by agreement.
  • When making decisions about who to furlough equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.
  • Employers should write to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed and keep a this as a record. 
  • Employees hired after 28 February 2020 cannot be furloughed or claimed for.
  • Employees on unpaid leave cannot be furloughed, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February. 
  • Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this.
  • Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.
  • A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.

Maternity Leave, contractual adoption pay, paternity pay or shared parental pay

Individuals who are on or plan to take Maternity Leave must take at least 2 weeks off work (4 weeks if they work in a factory or workshop) immediately following the birth of their baby. This is a health and safety requirement. In practice, most women start their Maternity Leave before they give birth.

The rules around Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) are unchanged but if you offer enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay to women on Maternity Leave, this is included as wage costs that you can claim through the scheme.
The same principles apply where your employee qualifies for contractual adoption, paternity or shared parental pay.

Work out what you can claim

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.

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

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

The online service you’ll use to claim is not available yet. We expect it to be available by the end of April 2020.
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.

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. 

Our employment team is here to help you. Call Lewis Holroyd on 01484 821 415 or Irina Polyakova on 01484 821 344.

More information an be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#work-out-what-you-can-claim