The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for four months starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by COVID-19.
If you have any employees who have been placed on a leave of absence, they would be considered a furloughed employee. Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage cost, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer NI contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.
All UK companies are eligible: limited companies, sole traders who employ people, LLPs, partnerships, and charities. Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. Claims can be backdated until the 1 March if applicable, and grants will be prorated if your employee is only furloughed for part of a pay period.
Prior to now, furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, but this has now been extended to 19th March. This brings into scope a large number of people who fell outside the scheme because they had recently changed jobs.
It’s available to all employees on a contract, including:
You can claim for employees that were employed as of 19 March 2020 and were on your PAYE payroll on or before that date; this means that you will have made an RTI submission notifying HMRC of a payment to that employee on or before 19 March 2020. For employees that were employed as of 28 February 2020 and on payroll (i.e. an RTI submission was sent to HMRC) and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and before 19 March, they can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.
A business may need to furlough all employees if it has temporarily closed down, as in hospitality or non-food retail. However, you do not need to place all your employees on furlough. You can choose to furlough a group of employees, whilst key workers continue to work, or to rotate groups between furloughing and working.
However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you. This scheme is only for employees who are not working. While on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation, but if their contract of employment permits, they may take on new employment with an alternative employer whilst on furlough.
Even if an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, again, they will not be eligible for this scheme and you will have to continue paying the employee through your payroll and pay their salary subject to the terms of their employment contract.
When calculating claim values for directors of owner-managed companies you can only consider the salary that has been subject to PAYE, not any dividends paid to those directors. They are essentially furloughing themselves, and the understanding is that they do no income-generating work for their business while on furlough, but they can continue to run the business from a statutory perspective, for example preparing their accounts and returns. This also applies to salaried individuals who are directors of their own personal service company (PSC).
You 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 of time. When an employee is on furlough, you can only reclaim expenditure through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and not the SSP rebate scheme. Likewise, if a non-furloughed employee becomes ill, or needs to self-isolate or shield themselves, then you might qualify for the SSP rebate scheme, enabling you to claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee.
Furloughed employees retain their statutory rights, including their right to Statutory Sick Pay. This means that furloughed employees who become ill must be paid at least Statutory Sick Pay (subject to them meeting the eligibility criteria). It’s up to the employer to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.
If an employee has a condition which makes them extremely vulnerable and received a letter from the NHS, they are strongly advised to shield themselves. Shielding is in place to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus. Employers can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding, if they are unable to work from home and you would otherwise have to make them redundant. This also applies to those who need to stay home with someone who is shielding.
An employee can be furloughed for a minimum period of three consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.
The scheme was originally available for a maximum of three months from 1 March, but this has since been extended to four months. The individual could remain furloughed even after the scheme ends, but in this instance, the employer would not have any grant funding to cover their wages. Depending on your circumstances, it may be necessary to consider termination of employment (redundancy). Grants cannot be used to substitute redundancy payments.
Join BrightPay for a free COVID-19 webinar where we discuss what you need to know about remote working, processing SSP, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and placing employees on furlough leave. Places are limited - Click here to book your place now.