UPDATE: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ended on 30 September 2021.
On 3 March, the Chancellor used his second budget to extend the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) until September 2021 – it was due to run out at the end of April. He confirmed that the government will continue to contribute 80% towards wages until the end of June, and the eligibility criteria for the UK-wide scheme will remain unchanged.
Employers continue to be required to pay staff’s wages, National Insurance Contributions and pensions for hours worked, as well as NICS and pensions for hours not worked. From July, employer contributions towards hours not worked rises to 10%, increasing to 20% in August and September. Part-time furloughing of employees continues to be possible and employers can agree any working arrangements with their employees.
Below you will find everything your business needs to know about the Job Retention Scheme – from who’s eligible to how to claim support, here are the answers to the top questions businesses are asking.
You can find the government’s updated guidance for employers here. Updated guidance for employees can be found here. Making a claim under the Scheme is accessible here. Where the guidance does not clarify outstanding questions, the CBI is following up with the government to issue further clarification in subsequent guidance.
The HMRC has also published updated templates making it easier to add the details of multiple employees. If employers are claiming for between 16-99 employees they should use this template, if they are claiming for 100 or more employees they should use one of these templates.
Who is eligible for the extended JRS?
For periods ending on or before 30 April, employers can claim for employees who were employed on 30 October 2020, as long as they have made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between the 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee. Employers do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 30 October 2020 to claim.
For periods starting on or after 1 May, employers can claim for employees who were employed on 2 March, as long as they have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee. Employers do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 2 March 2021 to claim for periods starting on or after 1 May 2021.
Employers can claim for employees on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts. Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. Grants under the scheme are not counted as ‘access to public funds’, and employers can furlough employees on all categories of visa.
What does the current Job Retention Scheme look like?
Employers will be able to furlough employees on a part-time basis while permitting part-time work, with employers able to agree any working arrangements with employees. Employers will be required to pay the worker’s normal wages for any hours worked when not on furlough, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked.
The JRS will remain in its current form until the end of June 2021 which means that employers must continue to pay staff’s wages, National Insurance Contributions and pensions for hours worked, as well as NICS and pensions for hours not worked. Employers will also be able to claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
There will be no minimum furlough period, that is no minimum amount of time that an employee must be on temporary leave, allowing employers a high degree of flexibility to decide the hours and shift patterns employees will work on their return.
It’s important to note that there is no obligation for an employer to use “flexible furlough” – employers are free to continue full furlough for employees until the scheme ends on 30 September.
How does cost sharing between the employer and the government work?
Until 30 June 2021, the government pays 80% of wages of an employee’s salary for hours not worked up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Employers pay NICs and pension contributions for the hours their employees are furloughed.
From 1 July 2021, the government will increase employer contributions towards hours not worked to 10% in July and to 20% in August and September.
Changes to the grant contribution in 2021:
Government contribution: wages for hours not worked
Percentage of reference pay employee gets for furlough
Employer contribution to employer NICs and pension contributions
80% up to £2500
80% up to £2,500
80% up to £2,187.50
80% up to £1,875
80% up to £1,875
Will the extended JRS be closed to new entrants?
No, the extended JRS is open to all employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes. To claim for periods ending on the 30 April, companies do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 30 October 2020. To claim for periods starting on the 1 May, employers do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 2 March 2021.
Is there a maximum number of employees an employer can claim for under the extended JRS?
No, there is no maximum number of employees an employer can claim for.
Does the salary calculation take into consideration commission and bonuses that are usually paid in the reference period?
Employers can claim for regular payments they are obliged to pay their employees. This includes compulsory commission, as well as fees and past overtime. However, discretionary commission should be excluded, as well as discretionary bonuses (including tips) and non-cash payments.
Do employers have to top up the 20% of an employee’s wage and go beyond the guaranteed 80% of employee’s salary?
No. But an employer can choose to top up an employee’s salary beyond the guaranteed 80% but is not obliged to.
Is there a minimum furlough period?
No. Until the scheme ends on the 30 September, part-time furloughing of employees continues to be possible and employers are able to agree any working arrangements with their employees. This means that there is no minimum furlough period; that is, no minimum amount of time that an employee must be on temporary leave.
Is there a minimum claim period?
Yes, the period that an employer can claim for must be for a minimum claim period of seven calendar days (one week).
Can a claim period span two months?
No. Claim periods must start and end within the same calendar month and last at least 7 days.
Employers can claim for a period of less than 7 days when claiming for the first few days or the last few days in a month. Employers can only claim for a period of fewer than 7 days if the period being claimed for includes either the first or last day of the calendar month, and employers have already claimed for the period ending immediately before it.
Can an employee work while on furlough?
No. During hours in which an employee is recorded as being on furlough, an employer cannot ask them to do any work that: makes money for their organisation or any organisation linked or associated with their organisation or provides services for their organisation or any organisation linked or associated with their organisation. But employees can take part in training, volunteer for another employer or organisation, work for another employer (if contractually allowed).
Can an employee undertake training while on furlough?
Yes. Furloughed employees can engage in training during hours in which an employer records them as being on furlough, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.
Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time.
Are employers breaching the law if the 80% of an employee’s wage paid by the government (and the employer) falls below National Living Wage (NLW) or National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates?
No. Individuals are only entitled to the NLW/NMW for the hours they work. Furloughed workers are not allowed to work for you during this period, so there is no minimum wage to comply with. Employers have to pay the lower of 80% of their salary or £2,500. This is the case even if, based on their usual working hours, this falls below NLW/NMW.
Are National Insurance Contributions and auto enrolment still due on the £2,500 grant? Can the grant be used to pay non-wage costs such as employer NIC or pensions contributions?
Employers remains liable for associated Employer NIC and minimum automatic enrolment. If the employer decides to pay a top up, the employer will be responsible for paying the additional NIC and automatic enrolment.
Employers are also responsible for any voluntary automatic enrolment contributions above the minimum mandatory employer contribution of 3% of income above the lower limit of qualifying earnings.
Until the end of the scheme on 30 September, employers are required to pay NIC and minimum automatic enrolment for the hours that their employees are furloughed.
Can employees that were due a pay rise during the furlough period still receive it? If so, can employers claim for 80% of the employees’ new salary via the grant?
The guidance does not clarify this question.
How does the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme interact with Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
Employees that have been furloughed have the same rights as they did previously – this includes employees’ entitlement to SSP where they are eligible. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness.
If employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.
However, if an employee becomes sick while furloughed it is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate. If a furloughed employee who becomes sick is moved onto SSP, employers can no longer claim for the furloughed salary.
How does the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme interact with the Apprenticeship Levy?
Apprentices can be furloughed and continue to train during this period. This includes the 20% of-the-job requirement for the Apprenticeship Levy. All apprentices must be paid the appropriate minimum wage for the time they spend training – i.e. the Apprenticeship Minimum, National Living or National Minimum Wage. Employers need to pay this in full, covering any shortfall between an employee’s appropriate minimum wage and amount they can recover via grant. The grant does not cover employers’ Apprenticeship Levy obligations.
Does an employer need to demonstrate that it is otherwise planning redundancies in order to furlough individuals?
No. All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE scheme can claim the grant. To claim for periods ending on the 30 April, companies do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 30 October 2020. To claim for periods starting on the 1 May, employers do not need to have previously claimed for an employee before the 2 March 2021.
Can employers roll employees on and off furlough?
Yes. During the extended JRS employers will still be able to bring employees off furlough and re-furlough them at a later date.
Will employees accrue holiday whilst being on furlough?
Can employees take holiday (including bank holidays) whilst being on furlough? If so, do employers have to top up the government’s grant money to pay holidays at full pay?
Yes, furloughed workers can take annual leave and the JRS grant continues during this time. Holiday pay must be paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay or, where the rate of pay varies, calculated on the basis of the average pay received by the employee in the previous 52 working weeks. Employers will have the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need and the correct notice is given. In cases where an employee usually works on bank holidays the employer can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If an employee usually takes the bank holiday as leave then the employer would either have to top up the employee’s pay to their usual holiday pay or give them a day of holiday in lieu.
Can an employee on furlough with one employer start a new paid job with a second employer?
Yes, so long at is it contractually allowed by the original employer. The second employer will need to complete a starter checklist, which can be found here.
Can company directors, owner-mangers or pension trustees be furloughed?
Yes. Complying with statutory duties does not constitute ‘work’ during the period of furlough.
Can employees working on a Tier 2 visa be furloughed via the Job Retention Scheme? Do employers have to top up grant money to meet the minimum salary threshold of a Tier 2 migrant?
Employees that are Tier 2 migrants can be furloughed. The Home Office has confirmed that employers do not need to top up an employee’s salary beyond the 80% or £2,500 cap paid by the government to meet minimum Tier 2 salary thresholds.
Can the employer choose to furlough some but not other employees within a business or department?
Yes. Employers will need to ensure that their consultation and notification processes for furloughing employees is in line with relevant equalities and employment law.
Do employers have to go through a selection process, like for redundancy, when furloughing individuals?
Yes. When furloughing employees, employers are still subject to relevant employment and equalities laws. This includes proper consultation with employees and notification that they will be put on furlough.
Will furloughed employees have to sign a new employment contract?
The guidance does not specify that employees need to physically sign a new employment contract. 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.
Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once. There needs to be a written record of the agreement, but the employee does not have to provide a written response. A record of this communication must be kept for five years. If employees are furloughed part-time the employer should keep records of how many hours their employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed.
If an employee asks to be furloughed because they cannot work due to childcare responsibilities (because of nursey/school closures) can an employer agree to this?
Yes. Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. This applies to employees that cannot work because they are caring for children or a vulnerable individual in their household.
Can employers furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are following public health guidance?
Yes. Employees who are unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable in line with public health guidance can be furloughed. Employers must ensure they follow all existing employment and equalities law – the decision to furlough an employee in a vulnerable group should be an agreement between both parties.
Does an employer need to reach agreement with an employee before being ‘on furlough’, as is the usual process for any reduction in pay?
Yes. Both employees and their employer must agree before an individual can be put ‘on furlough’ – usual consultation and notification processes apply.
Is there a minimum period within which the employer cannot make a furloughed employee redundant?
No. Employers can make employees redundant while they are ‘on furlough’ or immediately after. If an employee is made redundant while on furlough, their redundancy rights are not affected – this includes rights against unfair dismissal and redundancy.
On 31 July the government introduced new legislation that ensures furloughed employees receive statutory redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate. The changes will also apply to statutory notice pay and awards for unfair dismissal cases that need to be based on full pay rather than wages under JRS. But this legislation does not impact any enhanced redundancy pay that may be stipulated in the terms and conditions of an employee’s individual employment contract.
Employers cannot claim for any days on or after 1 December 2020 during which the furloughed employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period for the employer (this includes people serving notice of retirement or resignation). If an employee subsequently starts a contractual or statutory notice period on a day covered by a previously submitted claim, you will need to make an adjustment.
What happens in cases where employees have been made redundant?
For claim periods between 1 November 2020 and 30 April 2021: if an employer made employees redundant, or they stopped working for the firm on or after 23 September 2020, employers can re-employ them and put them on furlough. This applies as long as the employee was employed by the firm on 23 September 2020 and a PAYE Real Time Information submission was made to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee.
How to calculate salary for hours worked on flexible furlough from 1 November?
To calculate the pro-rated subsidy for flexible furlough, the employer will have to calculate the employee’s usual working hours in the relevant claim period and subtract the hours actually worked during the period. This will give the number of furlough hours in the claim period. Employers should then pro-rate the grant claim, using the proportion of furlough hours against usual hours.
If the employee has fixed pay, the reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 2020 for employees who either:
- were on employers’ payroll on 19 March 2020 and a payment of earnings was made to them in the tax year 2019 to 2020 which was reported to HMRC on a Real Time Information Full Payment Submission (FPS) on or before 19 March 2020.
- employers made a valid Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim for in a claim period ending any time on or before 31 October 2020.
For all other employees who were on an employers’ payroll on 30 October 2020, the reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 30 October 2020; this will only apply for periods starting after 1 November 2020.
Employees who were first reported on employers’ payroll between 31 October 2020 and 2 March 2021 can be furloughed from 1 May 2021. Details of how you should calculate these employees’ wages will be provided in updated government guidance in due course.
If an employee has variable pay, how an employer works out their usual wages depends on when they were on the employer’s payroll.
For employees who were on payroll on 19 March 2020, the employer should calculate 80% of the higher of:
- the wages earned in the corresponding calendar period in the tax year 2019 to 2020.
- the average wages payable in the tax year 2019 to 2020.
For all other employees who were on payroll on 30 October 2020, employers should calculate 80% of the average wages payable between 6 April 2020 (or, if later, the date the employment started) and the day before they were first furloughed on or after 1 November 2020.
Employees who were first reported on your payroll between 31 October 2020 and 2 March 2021 can be furloughed from 1 May 2021. Details of how you should calculate these employees’ wages will be provided in updated government guidance in due course.
What is the process employers need to go through to apply for, and receive, the government’s grant?
To calculate a grant claim, employers will need to calculate employee’s usual working hours subtract their actual hours worked during claim period. Workers who are on full-time furlough will receive 80% of their regular wages up to the cap of £2,500 per month. Employees on flexible furlough will receive the grant proportionate to their furloughed hours – which means any hours worked will also reduce the maximum government subsidy available on a pro-rata basis. Information about how to access and apply for grants can be found here.
Can a new employer furlough the employees of a previous business in cases when a change in ownership happened?
Yes, if employers are claiming for a period between 1 November 2020 and 30 April 2021 and they employ someone who was transferred from another business, they can claim under the normal rules if workers were included on a PAYE Real Time Information submission to HMRC on or before 30 October 2020.
If employers are claiming for a period beginning on or after 1 May 2021 and they employ someone who was transferred from another business, they can claim under the normal rules if the workers were included on a PAYE Real Time Information submission to HMRC on or before 2 March 2021.
The new employer can claim for employees transferred between 1 September 2020 and 30 April 2021. The transferred employees must have been:
- employed by the old employer on or before the 30 October 2020.
- transferred from their old employer to their new employer on or after 1 September 2020.
- included on a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC, by their old employer, between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.
The new employer can claim for employees transferred on or after 1 January 2021. The transferred employees must have been:
- employed by the old employer on or before 2 March 2021.
- transferred from their old employer to their new employer on or after 1 January 2021.
- included on a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC, by their old employer, between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021.
Can an employer that has consolidated PAYE schemes make claims under the JRS?
Yes. Where a group of companies have multiple PAYE schemes and there is a transfer of all employees from these schemes into a new consolidated PAYE scheme, the new scheme will be eligible to continue to furlough and claim for employees.
Can furloughed employees continue working as union or non-union representatives?
Yes. During hours which employers record their employee as being on furlough, employees who are union or non-union representatives may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However, in doing this, they must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their employer’s organisation or a linked or associated organisation.
Will HMRC make employer claim information public?
Yes, from December 2020, HMRC will publish employer names and for companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), the company registration number of those who have made claims under the scheme for the month of December onwards.
When do firms need to submit their claims by?
Claims must be submitted by 11.59pm 14 calendar days after the month employers are claiming for. If this time falls on the weekend or a bank holiday then claims should be submitted on the next working day.
Claim for furlough days in
Claim must be submitted by
15 March 2021
14 April 2021
14 May 2021
14 June 2021
14 July 2021
16 August 2021
14 September 2021
14 October 2021