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Coronavirus - Final details emerge as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now live - UK

  • United Kingdom
  • Coronavirus - Workforce issues
  • Employment law

20-04-2020

On Friday evening, 17 April, further revisions were made to the guidance for employers and employees regarding the operation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme). This time also, the guidance changes were accompanied by supplemental explanatory documents, in readiness for the Scheme “going live” on Monday (20th April).

The key documents related to the Scheme are:

An additional and significant announcement on Friday extended the duration of the Scheme from 31 May to 30 June 2020. Many employers will have been concerned about the imminent need to begin collective redundancy consultation as a precautionary measure, had the Scheme not been extended beyond the end of May.

See here for our updated Q and As.

Where to start?

New documents to which employers will now want to refer (and will be expected by HMRC to do so) are a Step By Step Guide to the Scheme and Guide to Claiming Wages under the Scheme (reflecting claim information previously contained in the Employer Guidance). HMRC is expecting up to 450,000 claims per hour in the first few days, so this Guide has an important role in trying to reduce the number of enquiries.

Split into five sections, the Step By Step Guide aims to clarify what information employers need and what they have to do to make a claim under the Scheme. There are several aspects to highlight:

  • the application needs to be done in one session. (There is currently no save and return option)
  • sessions will time out after 30 minutes of inactivity
  • once a claim is submitted, employers should print or make note of their allocated claim reference number – email confirmation will not be sent
  • individuals bear responsibility for the accuracy of claim information
  • claimants should retain calculations which form the basis of a claim
  • payment will be made six days following claim submission
  • payments may be withheld or need to be returned to HMRC if a claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information or found to be fraudulent.

Information needed to submit a claim

The majority of employers with full-time or part-time employees on a set salary will need to work

out for the claim period: the total amount being paid to furloughed employees; the total employer NICs; and the total employer pension contributions.

The following information will also be needed:

  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the dates employees have been furloughed to and from
  • details of employees – the name and National Insurance Number of each furloughed employee
  • employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference, Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number as appropriate for the entity
  • UK bank account details
  • the organisation’s registered name
  • the organisation’s address

Updated guidance: clarifications and outstanding uncertainties

Aside from the Step by Step Guide, the other documents updated or published for the first time on Friday have helped clarify some aspects of the Scheme. For example, these state that non-discretionary overtime and non-discretionary commission payments are included within regular pay, and provide comfort to employers confused over whether their employees are paid on a fixed rate or not. In particular, the guidance says “HMRC will not decline or seek repayment of any grant based solely on the particular choice of pay calculation, as long as a reasonable choice of approach is made.”

The employee guidance includes new information on holiday pay and clarifies, for example, that it accrues during furlough, that holiday can be taken without breaking furlough leave but for any day of holiday the employer has to top up the furlough pay to 100%.

However, contradictions continue to exist between the legally binding Treasury Direction (which instructs HMRC in how to administer the Scheme) and the guidance documents. A key issue, for example, is whether written agreement to being furloughed must be received back from the employee (the latest guidance states that this is not necessary, conflicting with the Direction). We are hoping that these outstanding uncertainties will be resolved as the Scheme is opened and claims are processed and a pragmatic, purposive approach will be adopted by HMRC.

That uncertainties remain is unsurprising, bearing in mind the speed with which a funding scheme of this nature has been pulled together. The scale of the Scheme is unprecedented in terms of Government support for businesses and its aim of helping employers to retain jobs in a period of lockdown.

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