Please Note: All information was correct at time of writing on 23 October 2020, however, since 31 October the furlough scheme has been extended, in-line with government guidance. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check the government website for updates as they happen.
Following the announcement yesterday (Thursday 22 October) of changes to the Job Support Scheme, HMRC has now published a policy paper on the scheme. We’ve summarised the main points below. This is not the full guidance – we’re expecting this to be published next week.
The policy paper covers both support available to businesses legally required to close by COVID restrictions – Job Support Scheme Closed (JSS Closed) and businesses permitted to open but experiencing decreased demand – Job Support Scheme Open (JSS Open).
Employees will need to work a minimum of 20% of their usual working hours and will be paid as normal for the work they actually carry out.
The employee will receive 66.67% of their normal pay for the hours they do not work which will be made up as follows:
The employer can choose to top up wage payments if they wish.
The employer will be responsible for Employer NICs and pension contributions.
This is a more generous provision than the current furlough scheme under which employers currently have to pay a 20% contribution to wages (although there is no requirement for employees to work a minimum number of hours under that scheme).
This can be used by employers who have been legally required to close their premises as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions set by one or more of the four governments of the UK. This includes premises restricted to delivery or take- away only services and those restricted to the provision of food and/or drinks outdoors.
Claims can only be made for the period during which the business is required to close, and businesses required to close by local public health authorities as a result of specific workplace outbreaks are specifically excluded from the scheme.
Employees will receive 66.67% of their normal pay which will be fully funded by the government, subject to a cap of £2,083.33 per month. Again, this can be topped up by the employer if they wish.
The scheme starts on 1 November 2020 and will run for 6 months, ending on 30 April 2021. The government will review the terms of the scheme in January.
The policy paper offers little information on this but says that full guidance on this and other aspects of the scheme will be available next week. It does clarify that claims can be made from 8 December 2020, covering wages for pay periods ending and paid in November. Claims must be made in arrears i.e. the employer will be claiming reimbursement of wages already paid to the employee. Agents who are authorised to do PAYE online for employers will be able to claim on their behalf.
‘Employee’ for the purposes of the scheme includes anyone who is treated as an employee for tax purposes. This will therefore cover agency workers and other workers. Employees must have been employed on 23 September and an RTI Full Payment Submission notifying payment in respect of that employee must have been made to HMRC at some point from 6 April 2019 up to 11:59pm on 23 September 2020. If an employee was employed on 23 September, subsequently dismissed and then rehired, the employer can claim for them under the scheme (which will cover cases where employers have reconsidered redundancies in light of the more generous nature of the scheme). An employer can claim for different employees under the JJS Open and JSS Closed for the same period but can’t claim for the same employee under both schemes at the same time. For example, if a waiter is unable to work because a restaurant has been forced by COVID restrictions to operate only a take-away service, his lost wages can be claimed under JSS Closed and colleagues who are working reduced hours in the takeaway operation, can be claimed for under JSS Open.
The scheme is potentially open to all employers who have enrolled for PAYE online and have a UK, Channel Island, or Isle of Man bank account.
The policy paper states that where employers have staff costs which are fully funded by public funds (even if they are not in the public sector) they should use that money to continue paying staff and not access the scheme. If they are only partially funded by public funds, they can access the scheme “for the proportion of their revenue disrupted due to coronavirus”. The paper makes it clear that in these situations, employers should contact their “sponsor department or respective administration” for further guidance.
Both the JSS Open and JSS Closed require the employer to enter into a written agreement with the employee to enter into this temporary working arrangement. This agreement must cover at least 7 consecutive days. A copy of the agreement must be retained for at least 5 years and should be made available to HMRC upon request. Unhelpfully the paper states that HMRC will publish further guidance on what to include in the agreement by the end of October which does not give employers a lot of time to get agreements signed in readiness for the start of the scheme on 1 November. We have a number of template letters available to clients based on what we know of the scheme to date.
The paper warns that when determining who should be offered reduced hours (or who is told to cease work in the case of JSS Closed claims), the employer must comply with equality and discrimination laws in the usual way.
Voluntary training is permitted in non-working hours (remember that additional monies will need to be paid if the JSS grant does not cover the NMW entitlement for time spent training). Employees can do training at the request of their employer in working hours while being claimed for under the Job Support Scheme, but this will be treated as working hours (for which no claim can be made). These hours should be paid at their full rate of pay and will count towards the 20% of their usual hours.
New regulations will be introduced shortly to avoid employees losing out on their entitlement to parental pay (covering maternity allowance, statutory maternity/paternity, shared parental, adoption and parental bereavement pay) as a result of being put on the scheme.
The scheme is designed to support employers facing decreased demand and employees claimed for must be working at least 20% of their normal working hours.
Small and medium-sized businesses do not need to demonstrate the adverse impact of coronavirus on their business. However, large employers (being defined as employers with 250 or more employees as at 23 September 2020) are required to undertake a Financial Impact Test demonstrating that their turnover has “remained equal or fallen” compared to the previous year, to show they have been adversely affected by the pandemic. This test only needs to be taken once, before their first claim under the scheme.
The policy paper gives detailed guidance on how this can be demonstrated by referencing VAT returns. Any charity with 250 or more employees registered with a UK charity regulator (or exempt from such registration) will not be required to carry out this test. Further guidance will be given next week for other large businesses who are not VAT registered.
If a large employer is part of a VAT group, they should use the turnover figures for the VAT group for this calculation.
Employers can claim the JSS Closed grant for employees:
In the event that a claim is found to be fraudulent, in addition to repaying the full amount, penalties of up to 100% of the amount overclaimed may be applied. HMRC will consider publishing the details of employers who were charged a penalty because of deliberately incorrect claims. HMRC intends to publish a list of all employers who have used the scheme and is encouraging employees to report abuses of the scheme.
Employers can claim the Job Retention Bonus for employees covered by the JSS scheme and grants paid can be included in calculating the Lower Earnings Limit of the Bonus scheme. If an employee’s pay period cuts across both the furlough scheme and the JSS, the amounts claimed from each scheme should be calculated separately in accordance with the relevant guidance which will take into account the number of days that fall within each of the scheme’s timelines. Care should be taken that no amount of gross pay should be included in more than one scheme.
This will be made up of payments the employer is obliged to make, including:
Employees who work fixed hours
For employees contracted for a fixed number of hours and whose pay does not vary according to the number of hours they work, their usual hours will be the greater of:
This should include hours paid as annual leave and statutory leave.
Employees who work variable hours
The variable hours calculation applies if either:
For employees whose number of hours varies and/or whose pay depends on the number of hours they work, the number of usual hours is calculated based on the higher of:
This should include hours paid as annual leave and statutory leave.
The paper states that the calculation of usual hours is not and cannot be altered if the employee is expecting to work more or fewer hours than this in the future.
For employees who are part of a flexible work time arrangement, employers should:
For employees who are paid per task or per piece of work done whose hours cannot be calculated in this way, hours can be estimated based on the number of ‘pieces’ produced and the average rate of work per hour, as per National Minimum Wage rules.
The policy paper states that further clarification will be given in the full guidance next week but in the meantime, it sets out a number of example calculations for ascertaining usual working hours.
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