Accounting News

Furlough (CJRS) and SEISS extended for November to March

COVID support extended until March 2021

Monday 16 November, 2020

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will now continue until 31 March 2021 with grants covering 80% of wages, while implementation of the JSS has been delayed. 

No sooner had further details been released of the new Job Support Scheme (JSS) then a new national lockdown was announced with the JSS temporarily delayed and the CJRS extended for another month. JSS will not now take effect until next year after the extended CJRS finishes on 31 March 2021.

The new national restrictions will apply from 5 November to 2 December 2020, but the CJRS financial support for employers applies from 1 November 2020 to 31 March 2021, as the furlough scheme operates on full calendar months. The government has said it will be reviewed in January 2020 so this could change.

What support is given?

The furlough scheme has been reinstated with the similar conditions as applied in August 2020.

If you cannot maintain your workforce because your operations have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), you can furlough employees and apply for a grant to cover a portion of their usual monthly wage costs where you record them as being on furlough.

The CJRS grant will pay for 80% of an employee’s current wages for time not worked, up to £2,500 per month. The employer must pay for all of the employer’s NIC and employer’s minimum workplace pension contributions on those wages.

The employer is not obliged to top-up the employee’s furlough pay but may do at their own expense if they wish.

Business grants paid by local authorities for closed businesses premises will apply in England, the devolved administrations will set their own level of business support (see below).

Tena Wallace, HR & Payroll Director, Visonary Accountants, St Albans said:

"Having just published guidance around the new Job Support Scheme (JSS) we were suddenly told this is now on hold until next year; which is incredibly frustrating for employers and their agents alike. The good news is that we are all familiar with the processing of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the framework is already in place. It should also give employers a bit more time to get to grips with the JSS details and to make more measured decisions around their human resource planning. It's really important that employers understand what they can and can't do to take advantage of the schemes and the level of detail they will need to understand to correctly pay staff and make claims. Proper records of communications should be kept to support claims and defend against any future HMRC enquiries. The calculations of claims under the JSS are even more complex than before and advice should be sought." 

Which employees qualify?

Employees who were on the employer’s payroll as at 30 October 2020 will qualify to be included in CJRS claim for November onwards; they don’t have to have been included in an earlier CJRS claim. You can claim for employees who were employed on 30 October 2020, as long as you have made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between the 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee. This may differ where you have made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 23 September 2020 and you have subsequently re-employed them.

Employees on any type of contract can qualify, including zero hours, although more detail on whether contractors or directors are included is expected in the next few days.  

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

To be eligible for the grant, employers must have confirmed to their employee (or reached collective agreement with a trade union) in writing that they have been furloughed. You must:

  • make sure that the agreement is consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws
  • keep a written record of the agreement for five years
  • keep records of how many hours your employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed (i.e. not working)

The employee does not have to provide a written response and you do not need to place all your employees on furlough.

You can:

  • fully furlough employees - they cannot undertake any work for you while furloughed full time
  • flexibly furlough employees - they can work for any amount of time, and any work pattern but they cannot do any work for you during hours that you record them as being on furlough

If you flexibly furlough employees, you’ll need to agree this with the employee (or reach collective agreement with a trade union) and keep a new written agreement that confirms the new furlough arrangement. You’ll need to:

  • make sure that the agreement is consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws
  • keep a written record of the agreement for five years
  • keep records of how many hours your employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed (i.e. not working).

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough and you can continue to fully furlough employees if you wish. Employees cannot undertake any work for you during time that you record them as being on furlough.

Where consistent with employment law, any flexible furlough or furlough agreement made retrospectively that has effect from 1 November 2020 will be valid for the purposes of a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim as long as it is made according to the conditions above. Only retrospective agreements put in place up to and including the 13 November 2020 may be relied on for the purposes of a claim.

Flexi furlough for part-time workers

Flexible furlough will be permitted alongside full-time furlough, so staff may be brought back part-time to say, set up the premises for the lifting of national restrictions, or to prepare for Brexit.

The same rules for flexible furlough will continue to apply as they have done since 1 July, so the employee may be furloughed for a few days or hours per week. There is no minimum time set for furloughed hours or working hours.  

However, each furlough claim must be for a period of at least seven consecutive calendar days. 

Which employers qualify?

All employers with a UK bank account can claim support under the extended CJRS, there is no financial test to pass for larger employers as applies for the (now postponed) JSS.

Charities and not-for-profit organisations can also claim in respect of their employees. However, public sector bodies and publicly funded organisations are not expected to use the scheme.

HMRC now intend to publish the details of employers who use the scheme for claim periods from December onwards and employees will be able to find out if their employer has claimed for them under the scheme. This is presumably to combat fraud.

How to claim?

The claim process will be very similar to that which has applied so far under the first two variants of the CJRS. The portal for November claims onwards opened on 11th November but the deadline for November claims submission is 14 December which is much stricter than previously. This will apply monthly for all future claims; i.e. the claims window will close 14 days after the month end.

Employers or their agents must submit any claims for periods up to 31 October on or before 30‌ ‌November. Claims for periods up to 31 October will not be accepted after 30‌ ‌November

For employees on fixed pay you will need to identify the reference period that you will use to work out your employee’s usual wages.

The reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 2020 for employees who either:

  • were on your payroll on 19 March 2020, that is you made a payment of earnings to them in the tax year 2019 to 2020 which was reported to HMRC on a Real Time Information (RTI) Full Payment Submission (FPS) on or before 19 March 2020
  • you made a valid CJRS claim for in a claim period ending any time on or before 31 October 2020

For all other employees, the reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 30 October 2020; this will only apply for periods starting after 1 November 2020.

The flexi-furlough claim rules remain very similar; the employer or their agent will have to report the hours the employee has not worked in a claim period, and the usual hours.

You can claim before, during or after you process your payroll as long as your claim is submitted by the relevant claim deadline. You cannot submit your claim more than 14 days before your claim period end date.

Self-employed

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant extension provides support to the self-employed in the form of 2 further grants, each available for 3 month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

To be eligible for the grant extension self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, must:

  • have been previously eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme first and second grant (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
  • declare that they intend to continue to trade and either:
    • are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
    • were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus

The extension will last for 6 months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in 2 lump sum instalments each covering a 3 month period.

The third grant will cover a 3 month period from 1 November 2020 until 31 January 2021. The Government will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of 3 months average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500 in total. This is an increase from the previously announced amount of 55%.

The Government has already announced that there will be a fourth grant covering February 2021 to April 2021. Further details, including the level, of the fourth grant will be set out in due course.

The grants are taxable income and also subject to National Insurance contributions.

The online service for the next grant will be available from 30 November 2020. HMRC will provide full details about claiming and applications in guidance on GOV.UK in due course.

Local grants

Where businesses have been required by law to close, they will be able to apply for a support grant from their English local authority, based on the rateable value of their business premises:

Rateable value of premises 

Grant payable per two weeks

Up to £15,000

£667

£15,001 to £50,999

£1000

£51,000 or more

£1500

Different local business grants will be available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Mortgage holidays

Applications for mortgage holidays for up to six months were due to close on 31 October, but this facility will now remain open for borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus. The FCA will announce details of who can qualify in the next few days.

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