Coronavirus: Job Retention Scheme Portal goes live and other important updates

April 20, 2020

 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) Portal went live at 5:30am this morning, 20 April 2020.

The CJRS aims to support employers through the Coronavirus crisis by allowing them to furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of normal monthly pay, reclaiming up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee.

According to research by the Resolution Foundation, more employers than expected will be applying for the CJRS and it is estimated that eight million people could be furloughed in the next few weeks.

HMRC has said that the portal can process up to 450,000 applications an hour and employers should receive the money within six working days of submitting their claims. However, 67,000 claims were made by employers this morning in the first 30 minutes of the portal going live.

On 17 April 2020, further guidance was issued in relation to CJRS:

  • The CJRS has been extended until the end of June (and may still be extended further) following concerns that if the scheme closed at the end of May, as previously planned, then employers considering making 100 or more employees redundant at the end of the furlough period would need to have started the 45-day consultation period on 18 April 2020.

  • Employees will continue to accrue annual leave whilst they are on furlough leave and will be entitled to their usual holiday pay. This suggests that where an employee is paid 80% of their salary during their furlough leave, employers will need to make this up to 100% of their normal pre-furlough salary for any period of annual leave.

The Treasury has also informed HMRC that when placing an employee on furlough leave, employers and employees must “have agreed in writing that the employee will cease all work in relation to their employment”. This new guidance conflicts with previous advice from the Treasury which stated that an employer merely needed to write to their employee to inform them that they had been furloughed. As a result, many employers may not have obtained the necessary written agreements to furlough their employees and apply for the scheme. It has not been confirmed whether an employee’s written agreement must have been received before their furlough started in order to make a claim under CJRS. It is also not clear whether employers will be allowed to rely on earlier versions of the guidance and receive the grants despite not having the required written agreement from employees before their furlough started.  Given the thousands of business that will have heeded the earlier Government advice to simply confirm furlough in writing, our hope is that HMRC take a pragmatic view of this change when considering claims under CJRS.  In any event, our advice to such employers is to obtain written agreement now from furloughed employees covering the entire furlough period.

Another important update for employers is the government’s clarification that a person is deemed to be incapable of work, and therefore eligible for statutory sick pay, if they cannot work because they fall within the extremely vulnerable category and have been advised to shield. The relevant Regulations came into effect on 16 April 2020 and it does not appear that they will apply retrospectively.

 

 

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