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COVID-19 Information Hub

Extended Job Retention Scheme (JRS) – Changes from 1 November 2020

Originally intended to close on 31 October 2020, the CJRS has now been extended as a result of the Government’s decision to place England into more severe lockdown measures at the start of November 2020.

Announced on 5 November 2020, if an employer cannot maintain its current workforce because operations have been affected by COVID-19, it can furlough employees from 1 November and apply for a grant to cover the majority of an employees wages.

The Job Support Scheme, which was intended to replace the CJRS from 1 November 2020, has been postponed indefinitely, along with the Job Retention Bonus.

Updated 16/11/2020

From 1 November 2020

From the beginning of November, the UK Government will pay 80% of employees’ usual wages for the hours not worked, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This essentially reverts the government support levels back to that last seen in August 2020. As in August 2020, whilst the employer will need to pay Employers National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions, they will not be able to claim a grant for them.

Employers can either fully furlough their employees or flexibly furlough them, allowing employers to furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked.

The scheme is open to ‘new entrants’, an employer does not need to have previously claimed for an employee before 30 October 2020 to claim for periods from 1 November 2020. However, an employee does need to meet all the eligibility requirements.

An employee is eligible under the extended CJRS if they were employed on 30 October AND included on a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.

There is no maximum number of employees you can claim for from 1 November 2020, however, one to watch, claims from 1 November have monthly deadlines.  They must be submitted within 14 calendar days after the month they relate to.

A deadline has been imposed for claims up to and, including 31 October, these must be made on or before 30 November 2020. Claims for periods up to 31 October will not be accepted after 30 November

Reference pay periods

Reference pay periods are different if an employee has fixed pay or variable pay. The reference pay period is now also determined by ‘previous eligibility’.

If your employee has fixed pay

  • If your employee has been previously eligible, that is they were on a PAYE payroll on or before 19 March AND were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March; then the reference pay period is the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 20. They do not need to have been previously furloughed, just eligible to have been
  • If they were not previously eligible, the reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 30 October 20

If your employee has variable pay

  • If your employee has been previously eligible, you should calculate 80% of the higher of wages earned in the corresponding calendar period in the tax year 2019 to 2020 and the average wages payable in the tax year 2019 to 2020
  • If they were not previously eligible, you should calculate 80% of the average wages payable between 6 April 2020 (or if later, the date the employment started) and the day before they are furloughed on or after 1 November

If you’ve made your employee redundant

For claim periods relating to November, an employer can continue to claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory notice period. However, this changes from 1 December and from this date an employer cannot claim for any days during which a furloughed employee is serving a contractual or statutory notice period.

If an employer made employees redundant or they stopped working for the employer on or after 23 September 2020, the employer can re-employ them and put them on furlough. The Employment law implications do not appear to have been considered by the Government and any employer intending to re-employ an employee is encouraged to take legal advice before doing so.

Company directors

Directors who reported their annual payment for 2019/20 to HMRC after 19 March 2020 will now be included in the extended CJRS, having been previously excluded up until 31 October.

The rate of earnings reported in the period from 20 March to 30 October can be claimed, subject to the £2,500 monthly cap, remembering the cap is pro-rated to the number of furloughed hours as a proportion of usual hours.

This, along with the ability to flexibly furlough a director, is likely to be attractive. However, being able to evidence a furlough arrangement is especially difficult for owner managed businesses and being able to evidence a flexible furlough arrangement even more so. We continue to recommend that a company minute supports any furlough or flexible furlough arrangement.

Public information

From 1 November 2020, HMRC will publish employer names along with an indication of the value of the claim. Information may be withheld if HMRC is satisfied that publication will expose the employer or its employee or anyone living them, to serious risk of violence or intimidation.

This measure is clearly intended to combat fraud and throw a light on situations where employers have been making fraudulent claims whilst requiring employees to continue working.

All change on 31 January 2021?

The government has already confirmed the scheme will be reviewed in January 2021. This could mean a tapering system similar to that seen in September and October 2020, which would require employers to contribute to furloughed workers’ wages from February 2021. We will wait and see.

Conclusion

The extension of the CJRS is welcome news to all employers and employees of businesses struggling to cope with the effects of COVID-19.

Whilst extending a scheme already in operation may on face value, be a simpler option than a new scheme, confusion can easily prevail. The CJRS has been updated now a number of times since it was first launched and claims for past periods are subject to rules in force at the time. Treat the CJRS with caution and take professional advice if in any doubt.

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