Update following launch of coronavirus job retention scheme
The online portal for the coronavirus job retention scheme went live on Monday, along with a calculator to help employers calculate the figures they will need when making their claim. The government is also continuing to add new guidance and update existing guidance to address areas of ambiguity.
Currently employers can only use the online calculator for employees who are paid the same amount each pay period and even then, they cannot use it if the employees:
- Receive any top-up pay in the claim period
- Returned from statutory leave such as maternity leave in the last three months
- Get directors’ payments
- Have been transferred under TUPE
- Have been employed at separate times throughout the year
- Receive employer pension contributions outside of an auto-enrolment pension scheme.
HMRC are working to enhance the calculator to include these scenarios.
There are now no fewer than four pieces of employer guidance:
- Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Check if you can claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Work out 80% of your employees' wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers.This explains the process for making a claim and includes calculations of how to calculate the amount that may be claimed.
The "check if you can claim guidance" (previously the employer guidance) has been updated to:
- Warn employers HMRC will check claims and payments may be withheld or need to be repaid in full if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information or found to be fraudulent. HMRC has put in place an online portal for employees and the public to report suspected fraud.
- Try to clarify whether written agreement from the employee is needed. The HM Treasury Direction requires that the employer and employee must have agreed in writing that the employee will be furloughed. This caused confusion as the guidance only required employers to confirm this in writing to their employee, suggesting that the employee’s written agreement is not necessary. HMRC has now updated the guidance to say:
- “To be eligible for the grant employers must confirm in writing to their employee confirming 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 through the scheme. Collective agreement reached between an employer and a trade union is also acceptable for the purpose of such a claim. There needs to be a written record, but the employee does not have to provide a written response. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.”
- In response to a query from barrister Daniel Barnett, HMRC confirmed that: “The employer and the employee must reach an agreement and an auditable written record of this agreement must be retained. It does not necessarily follow that the employee will have provided written confirmation that such an agreement was reached in all cases”.
- Clarify the section on rehiring staff who have left, to make it clear employers can also re-hire staff who left after 19 March 2020 (provided an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March). There are now separate sections dealing with employees who left after 28 February and employee who left after 19 March.
- Clarify furlough for fixed-term employees.
- As with all employees, they can be re-hired and furloughed if their contract expired after 28 Feb (and an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 28 February) or if it expired after 19 March (and an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March).
- Where a fixed-term contract has not already expired, an employer can extend or renew it and claim under the scheme, provided an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020.
- However, employees that started and ended the same contract between 28 February 2020 and 19 March 2020 will not qualify for this scheme.
- Add more information about record-keeping. Employers must keep a copy of all records, including the amount claimed and claim period for each employee and their calculations. This is now contained in the claim guidance.
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