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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme / Furlough Scheme

Detailed guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, commonly known as the furlough scheme, can be found here. The Government has updated its guidance on the scheme. The changes include:

  • Extending the eligibility cut‐off date so that employers can now claim for furloughed employees that were on their PAYE payroll and notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020 (rather than 28 February 2020)
  • If an employee went on unpaid leave on or before 28 February 2020, a company cannot furlough them until the date on which it was agreed they would return from unpaid leave
  • Companies will need to submit the following information for each furloughed employee:
    • Name
    • National Insurance number
    • Payroll/employee number (optional)
  • Claims should be submitted via the online portal which is now live:
    • Fewer than 100 furloughed employees ‐ enter details of each employee individually
    • 100 or more furloughed employees ‐ upload a file (.xls .xlsx .csv .ods) with the details for all employees
  • Companies should retain all records and calculations in respect of their claims.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed that the three‐week minimum period for furloughing an employee will remain in place. Furloughed employees can not undertake any work for the company which includes providing services or generating revenue.

A useful guide outlining the process from an employer’s point of view can be found here.

This document gives advice about how to make sure companies are set up to receive payments as soon as possible once the portal is open. Payments are expected to be made within SIX DAYS of submitting a claim.

The information needed to make a claim is quite short. Details of individual employees and their periods of furlough must be kept by the employer, but the claim will only need the following:

  • your employee PAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the claim period (start and end date)
  • amount claimed
  • your bank account number and sort code
  • your contact name and phone number
  • National Insurance Numbers for the employees you want to furlough
  • Names of the employees you want to furlough
  • Payroll/works number for the employees you want to furlough
  • your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number

 

After you’ve made a claim:

  • keep a note or a print-out of your claim reference number – you won’t receive a confirmation SMS or email
  • retain all records and calculations for your claims, in case we need to contact you about them
  • expect to receive the funds six working days after you apply, provided your claim matches records that we hold for your PAYE scheme – please do not contact HMRC before this time
  • to receive payment by 30‌‌ April, you will need to complete an application by 22‌‌ April
  • please ask your furloughed employees not to contact us directly – we will not be able to provide them with any information on individual claims.

 

Key points about the scheme are:

  • The scheme is intended to support employers to keep employees on the payroll who would otherwise need to be made redundant because there is no work for them.
  • The scheme should not be used where there is work available, except for staff who are shielding under guidance from Public Health England.  For further information on shielding see here
  • The scheme is not to be used for employees who are sick or self-isolating, see guidance on sick pay here.
  • The earliest start date for a furlough is 1 March 2020.
  • Employers should discuss the furlough with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. See below for further details and for a sample letter which can be used. While the employee is on furlough employment continues with all other associated terms and conditions of service.
  • Furloughed employees must go home and not work throughout the period of furlough.
  • Employees can be furloughed and returned to work as many times as needed but the minimum period of furlough is 3 weeks.

 

Placing Employees on Furlough – Keeping a Record – Varying Terms of Service

The terms of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme include that to be eligible for subsidy an employer should write to every employee to be placed on furlough, confirming that they have been furloughed, and keep a record of the communication.

For most employees this change will be a variation to their terms of service, which due to the emergency circumstances and no other beneficial alternative, it is very likely that an employee would agree to. It will be prudent for employers to obtain a record of the an employee’s agreement.

When furlough ceases the employee’s terms of service will be varied again, perhaps returning to the pre furlough position, perhaps to something different, even to the start of a redundancy procedure. It will be helpful later if this uncertainty is understood by employees at the time of furlough.

An example letter to employees is available here.

This letter is generic and attempts to give a reasonable start point for a communication to employees which meets the above objectives. Users should adapt the draft letter to their particular circumstances.

The reference to not undertaking work for any other employer whilst on furlough is not strictly correct. However, within our industry sub sector a number of employees have undertaken regular additional work away from their primary employer, this reference is intended to bring any instances to light to their main employer to avoid problems at the time of notification/submission to HMRC when claims are made.

This information is intended only as ‘general’ information, it does not constitute advice for the purposes of any individual case and cannot be a substitute for specific professional advice based on the circumstances of any such case. The NASC/author cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage, however arising, to any person or organisation using this information/document.

If you have further queries please email enquiries@nasc.org.uk including your telephone number.

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