Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
In March 2020, the UK Government announced the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) as an economic stimulus to shore up the UK economy. This unprecedented initiative by the Government has been designed to support UK employers and mitigate against mass job losses and high unemployment against a backdrop of widespread business downturn in response to the current economic conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- CJRS gives UK employers the option to apply for a grant to enable them to furlough staff to reduce costs and encourage employers to retain staff.
- The technical term for furlough is that the staff member is “laid off” i.e. they are not required to work for the duration of the furlough period. In other words, furlough is simply a temporary leave of absence due to the business requirements of your employer.
- The Government will cover up to 80% of pay for any workers furloughed, up to a monthly cap of £2, 500 per month for each retained employee (whichever is the lower) plus the associated employer's National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions based on the reduced salary.
How will furlough affect me?
- The option to furlough employees is open to any business experiencing a downturn in their activities (unable to operate or have no available work). Details about the scheme for employees can be found here.
- Employers can choose to “top up” employee pay to 100%. All UK businesses are eligible including partnerships, limited companies, LLPs, sole traders, charities and so on.
- Staff – including company directors – on all types of contract, including zero-hour contracts or temporary contracts can be furloughed. Employees will need to have been on PAYE since 20th March 2020 to qualify.
- The scheme is currently open until 30th June 2020, though the Government may extend it again.
What about sickness and other leave entitlements during furlough?
- Where an employee falls sick during furlough, the usual Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or company ‘sick leave’ entitlements will apply. An employee may only be furloughed after their sickness absence ends.
- Staff will continue to accrue statutory and contractual annual leave, which the employer will need to top up to 100% if any annual leave is taken.
- Staff off on Maternity/Adoption or Paternity leave will continue to receive the pay associated with those absences.
- All other staff terms & conditions and policies will remain the same during their furlough period.
What about volunteer work or training?
- A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as they do not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation. Staff on apprenticeships can continue even though this generates income for the organisation.
- However, if workers are required to, for example, complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, they must be paid at least the national living wage/national minimum wage for any time-spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.
- Any apprentices that are furloughed will be expected to continue with their off the job training during their furloughed period.
- Those with irregular earnings (such as on zero hours contracts/agency) will need to work out their average earnings in the 2019/2020 tax year.
- Employees can start a new job while on furlough leave.
- Employees can be furloughed multiple times if necessary (each furlough period must be for at least three weeks).
- Notification of furlough must be in writing.
- Since the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force, employees can carry over up to four weeks (out of 5.6 weeks) holiday into the next year if it is not reasonably practicable to take because of COVID-19.
- Those with certain work visas will not be regarded as breaching their visa conditions if they receive funds under the furlough scheme. Grants under the scheme are not counted as ‘access to public funds’ and employers can furlough employees under all categories of visa (see the GOV.UK guidance for more information.
- Employees TUPE’d on or after 20th March 2020 can also be furloughed.
- Reimbursements to employers are expected to be paid from 30th April 2020.
Should you have any questions or queries about furlough or any other COVID-19 related matter that is affecting your employment, you can contact the Get Back on Track team to speak about it email@example.com,
Please note that at the time of producing this FAQ, the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was implemented just a short time ago due to the unprecedented crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. As such, it is an emerging area and its provisions have been subject to numerous changes. We would anticipate further changes are yet to come. At the time of drafting this FAQ, the information is up to date but any subsequent changes may mean that the information provided here should be subject to revision.
For further information about COVID-19 and best practice, please review the COVID-19 guide.