Good news! It’s the 20th April and the HMRC’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme portal has gone live today.
The scheme has been extended until June 30th – as of Friday evening. This was not a surprise, as a failure to do so would have triggered a rush to complete collective consultation exercises by the end of May in situations where the only alternative is redundancy.
On Friday evening, the Government published version 5 of the CJRS, and this morning has released version 6, along with some separate guidance about making a claim.
As per last week, it is a requirement for employers to obtain written agreement of their employees to cease work for the business during furlough leave in order to be eligible to make a claim. This is crystal clear and different from the previous guidance.
The guidance now reads ‘to be eligible for the grant, employers must confirm in writing to their employee that they have been furloughed’. If this is done in a way that is consistent with employment law, that consent is valid for the purposes of claiming the CJRS, (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) then there needs to be a written record, but the employee does not need to provide a written response.
Large pieces of guidance have been taken out of version 6 and that can be found in a separate online guidance on how to work out 80% of their employee’s salaries/wages and how much can be claimed for NI contributions and pension contributions.
There is a hotline for employees and for the public to make contact in cases of suspected fraud.
The main change is a section on annual leave and holiday pay (where there has been a huge gap until now). The points of note are:
Neither the employee or employer guidance notes are categorical on whether employers can require employees to take holiday during furlough. Therefore, this is probably an area that we will get further guidance on in due course. Our previous guidance, therefore, still stands:
The guidance for employees has been updated to say that holiday can be taken whilst on furlough, and that this must be paid ‘at your normal rate of pay’. This means that for days taken as annual leave or bank holidays, salaries must be topped up to 100%. The good news is that this will incentivise employees on 80% to take holiday now, rather than store it up for their return. There is currently no specific guidance for employers on whether employees can be required to take holiday whilst on furlough, although ACAS have taken the stance that employers have the right to ask employees to take holiday, provided they tell them at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to them to take 5 days annual leave, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.
There is a step-by-step guide for employers about how to make claims under the scheme via the online portal. Please note that employers cannot make more than one claim during a claim period and should make it shortly before or during payroll and must claim for all employees in each period at one go. Guidance now makes it clear that payment should be received within 6 days of the application.
Useful websites are below. Click on the links to go straight to the webpage.