The most up to date guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) otherwise known as furlough, which is now set to run until 31 March 2021. There have been some changes to the original scheme that employers need to be aware of.

What are the details of the extended scheme?

The scheme allows employers to claim 80% of an employee’s normal salary (up to a maximum of £2,500 a month) from 1 November 2020. Employers can still ‘top up’ to 100% salary if they wish.

It is open to all employees who were employed and on the payroll by 30 October (providing the company has made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC since the scheme started in March). This includes:

  • Full time employees
  • Part time employees
  • Employees on emergency contracts
  • Employees on flexible or zero hours contracts
  • Apprentices
  • Directors (who can claim against their PAYE salary only, not dividends).

Organisations can re-employ staff and place them on furlough who were made redundant on or after 23 September (providing they were on the payroll on or before that date).

As before, during any hours of furlough, the worker must not carry out any work or activity which provides services or earns revenue for the organisation. They can undertake training (and be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for any hours spent training) and they may volunteer or work for another organisation with permission from their employer.

Check for full eligibility criteria here.

Dates to make claims

  • The claim portal is open and can be accessed here.
  • Claims can be made in advance for a minimum 7-day window.
  • Claims made from 1 November onwards need to be submitted 14 days after the month claimed for (for example if you’re claiming for November then the claim will need to be made by 14 December).
  • 30 November is the closing date for claims up to and including the 31st.

What does the updated guidance include?

The topline points from the extended guidance, which differ from the previous scheme are:

  • You can now furlough staff who weren’t previously furloughed provided they were on the employer’s PAYE by 23.59 on 30 October and that a real time information was submitted to HMRC.
  • For claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, an employer cannot claim for any days on or after 1 December 2020 during which the employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period for the employer (this includes people serving notice of retirement or resignation).
  • For periods pre-1 December 2020 it provides that claims may be made if the employee is serving statutory notice only.
  • From December 2020, HMRC will publish employer names for companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), the company registration number of those who have made claims under the scheme for the month of December onwards.
  • There is no maximum number of employees you can claim for from 1 November (unlike the previous rules which states If you’re claiming for a period that ends on or before 31 October 2020, the amount you can claim for in any single claim period starting from 1 July 2020 cannot exceed the maximum number of employees you claimed for under any claim ending by 30 June 2020.)
  • Employers can agree to furlough someone retrospectively from 1 November. An employer must confirm in writing with the staff member that they have been furloughed and keep a record of this for five years.
  • The Job Support Scheme will not go ahead in January as planned and may be replaced with something else post March.
  • Women returning from maternity leave early must give eight weeks’ notice and cannot be furloughed earlier than eight weeks.

How to calculate your furlough claim

  • Existing workers: for workers on your payroll (and for whom you made an RTI submission by or on 19 March 2020) base calculations on their contractual pay and hours as at the last pay period before March 2020. This applies to employees you have previously claimed for, and those who are eligible but weren’t furloughed before 1 November.
  • New workers: for new employees who were not eligible for the previous scheme (due to their start date) usual pay and hours should be calculated based on contractual pay and hours as at 30 October 2020.
  • Variable hours: for those with variable hours or pay who were on the payroll on or before 19 March 2020, then usual hours calculation remains. For those employed after 19 March, the usual hours and pay will be based on the average hours worked between 6 April and the first day of furlough (on or after 1 Nov).

The gov website has a calculator you can use.

Records you must keep

You must keep a copy of all records for 6 years, including:

  • the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
  • the claim reference number for your records
  • your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
  • usual hours worked, including any calculations that were required, for employees you flexibly furloughed
  • actual hours worked for employees you flexibly furloughed.

You can read the full government guidance here.

FAQS

If I recently made someone redundant, can I bring them back and then furlough them?

The scheme will allow to re-employ anyone who was made redundant or whose contract expired on or after the 23 September (provided they meet the eligibility criteria).

You will need to exercise caution with this however. If the role is redundant and you are unable to employ them beyond the scheme then the new rule about notice period will mean that you can’t claim furlough for this period. If you think the role will be viable in future then this is a good opportunity for you to be able to re-hire them.  We would always recommend seeking professional advice if this is the route you are going to take. You will need to consider how you deal with any redundancy payments made, new terms and conditions and whether the role will be viable further down the line.

Can I furlough vulnerable employees or those who may need to shield?

The current guidance states that anyone who is medically vulnerable should work from home. The gov contacted anyone who fell into the shielding category earlier in the year, and at present is not advising shielding. You can furlough vulnerable employees as long as they need the eligibility criteria.

What are the rules around maternity leave and furlough?

We have received some questions around placing workers on maternity leave on furlough. The latest guidance states that an employee has to give 8 weeks’ notice if they want to return to work earlier than their agreed date. You can’t currently claim furlough for them if they return before the agreed date.

Do I have to get agreement from staff to furlough them?

Yes, you will need to get written agreement for full or flexible furlough. HMRC doesn’t stipulate that you need signed agreement, but we would always advise that you do. This is because you’re potentially reducing hours and salary and is therefore a change to their terms and conditions and protects you against any future claims.

What about holiday pay and furlough? How does that work?

You can’t place an employee on furlough pay to cover holiday. Staff can still request holiday in the usual way however and if it’s whilst they are on furlough then should be topped up with the usual pay.

This also includes bank holidays. If an employee would usually take this as leave, but are furloughed, employers can class this as holiday and top up to normal pay.

For any questions about furlough, contact our team and we would be delighted to help.