Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – there’s more this week

The pace of updates on the Furlough Scheme shows no sign of slowing down and with the claims portal now open, new questions are coming in thick and fast. Here’s another round-up.

 

How long is the Scheme going to last?

Initially the Scheme was put in place for 3 months starting from 1 March 2020 (and so was due to end on 31 May 2020. The Government has increased its duration from 3 months to 4 months and is now due to end on 30 June 2020. The guidance still states that the Scheme may still be extended if necessary and that employers can use the Scheme anytime during this period.

 

Do we have any guidance yet on how to treat holiday leave and holiday pay?

You’ll remember that the guidance for the Job Retention Scheme has remained silent on holiday leave and holiday pay to date. However, late on Friday (17 April 2020) HMRC provided (some) clarity on the now widely debated issue of taking annual leave while on furlough. They have done it by updating the Employees’ Guidance, but (at the time of writing) not the Employer’s Guidance. This guidance states that it is possible to take annual leave whilst on furlough but that the employer must top up pay to 100%. Interestingly however, and not at all confusingly, the guidance concludes this section by saying: “During this unprecedented time, we are keeping the policy on holiday pay during furlough under review.”

It remains our view that the safest approach is to pay in full but in the absence of clarification in the guidance you may remain at liberty, especially if you are currently suffering financially, to pay at 80% having the option to rectify at a later date.

 

What about Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

1.  HMRC has updated its statutory payments manual to provide that employees do not qualify for SSP if they are on furlough.

2. The Government has made the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020. They provide that a person is deemed to be incapable of work if they are unable to work because they fall within the extremely vulnerable category and have been advised to shield. The Regulations came into force on 16 April and, on first reading, it does not appear they have retrospective effect (unlike some of the other changes to SSP).

You’ll recall that employers can choose whether to keep employees on furlough if they are sick or shielding.

 

What about the HMRC Portal? Is it open?

Yes, the portal opened on Monday (20 April 2020). Early reports have said that claims covering 67,000 employees had been made in the first 30 minutes of the portal opening. Whilst there have been some glitches, the portal does appear to be working reasonably well and claims for the March & April payrolls appear to be accepted.

 

When will we receive the grant?

If all goes to plan, the Government has stated that the money should be in your account within six working days.

Hence, if you apply anytime on Wednesday 22 April we are being told that you can get the money in time for a pay day of April 30.

If you would like further advice tailored to your particular circumstances, please contact us.