The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was launched in March 2020 and designed to support employers whose operations have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The scheme was available from March 2020 and was due to end in October 2020.
Over the past few months there have been a number of changes including the launch and postponement of the Job Support Scheme, the delay of the Job Retention Bonus and the extension of CJRS. The Scheme has been extended from 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021.
Under the extended Scheme all employers with a UK, Isle of Man or Channel Island bank account are eligible and importantly neither employer nor employee needs to have previously used CJRS. However, to be eligible employees must be on an employer’s PAYE payroll and RTI submission on or before 30th October 2020.
Claims made under CJRS will cover 80% of employees’ wages up to a cap of £2,500 per calendar month for their “usual hours” not worked and employers will pay National Insurance (NIC) and Auto Enrolment pension contributions. Employers are still able to top up employees’ wages above 80% if they wish.
Flexible furlough will continue to be an option in addition to full-time furlough.
To make a claim for employees under the extension employers must have a written agreement in place in advance of the employee being placed on furlough. There must be a new agreement if the employee was previously furloughed.
Unlike the original CJRS, the extended Scheme has hard deadlines for submitting claims, within 14 calendar days following the month end of the period the claim relates to. This is extended to the next weekday where the 14th is on a weekend.
Late claims may only be permitted where the employer has “a reasonable excuse” although HMRC won’t consider this in advance of the deadline.
For periods after 1 November 2020, an employer is only able to increase the amount of a claim if it is amended within 28 calendar days, after the month the claim relates to (unless this falls on a weekend and then it is the next working day).
Requirement to pay employees a minimum of 80% of reference pay for furlough time
HMRC have reiterated that employers need to ensure that all employees who are included in CJRS claims are paid a minimum of 80% of reference pay for periods of furlough. Where this requirement is not met then the grant entitlement for each employee that has not received this minimum is not valid and is not payable to the employer. This can lead to employers inadvertently over claiming.
While HMRC recognise that technical errors may have arisen, such as calculation errors or the exclusion of qualifying pay elements, and resulted in the underpayment of employees, such errors need to be corrected and additional payments made to employees. Where a non-deliberate error has been made, HMRC will treat the requirement as being met if the position is put right without delay and before any assessments or self-assessments are made.
It is therefore important that employers now review all the claims made to date carefully, to ensure they have not overclaimed, that they have made the minimum payments to employees and can demonstrate this and that they have processes in place to ensure employees receive the correct amount under CJRS3.
Disclosure of employer claim information - HMRC have confirmed the names of employers, with an indication of the claim quantum on a banded basis, will be published each month after the deadline for making amendments to claims. The first publication is expected after 28 January 2021 for December claim periods.