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25 Oct 20
Flexible furlough and the Job Support Scheme

Flexibility under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

Our Lisa Guscott, Head of Employment Law and HR Services, has provided a helpful Q & A on the flexible furlough scheme rules and the changes ahead.

• When did the flexibility element of the scheme begin?

From 1 July 2020, employers were be able to bring furloughed workers back to work on a part time basis, if appropriate, whilst still being able to claim under the CJRS for hours they have not worked.

• Does it apply to all employees?

No, it is only available  in respect of those workers whom the employer has successfully claimed for under the CJRS previously i.e. workers who have been furloughed or at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020.

• How much or little work can the employees carry out?

They can  work as much or as little as required, with no minimum time to be on furlough, however claims under the CJRS must be for a minimum of seven calendar days. You can also do this on more than one occasion.

• What if we have no work for employees?

If employees are unable to return to work or employers do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and you can continue to claim the grant (on a reduced staged basis) for their full hours under the existing rules.

• What do I need to do to put the flexible scheme in place?

Employers need to agree with employees (either directly or via a collective agreement with a trade union) what hours and shift patterns they will return to work on and the arrangement will need to be set out in a new written agreement between both parties. Employers will need to keep a copy of this written agreement, together with all other records relating to the furlough claim and how it has been calculated, for six years.

• How is this all calculated?

Employers will need to work out the employee’s usual working hours, record the hours they work and the remaining furloughed hours for each claim period. The guidance on this link sets out different calculation methods depending on whether the individual has fixed or variable hours.

• Can you use the flexi scheme right away?

In short, no. Where a previously or currently furloughed employee starts a new furlough period before 1 July, this period must last for a minimum of 3 weeks (as per the current rules) even if this means it will end after 1 July. For employers that have a rotational furlough system in place, if one group is furloughed on 21 June, that group would have to stay fully furloughed until 11 July before they can then be put onto a flexible furlough arrangement.

• What are the upcoming changes to the scheme?

From 1 August

The level of government grant provided through the CJRS will be slowly tapered, with employers being required to contribute towards furlough pay.
Any individuals who are furloughed continue to receive 80% of their wages up to £2,500 during the time they are on furlough. However, from 1 August, whilst the government will continue to contribute 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month, employers must pay the employer NICs and pensions contributions on the furlough pay.

From 1 September

The government’s contribution will reduce to 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 per month. Employers will, for the first time, have to pay the additional 10% along with the employer NICs and pension contributions.

From 1 October

The government’s contribution will reduce to 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 with employers paying the additional 20% along with the employer NICs and pension contributions.
The scheme is currently set to close entirely, on 31 October 2020 and will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme.

• What periods can be claimed and when are the deadlines?

Employers have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period on or before 30 June. Therefore, claims for furlough pay up to 30 June must be made separately to claims for furlough pay from 1 July.
Employers will only be able to make claims under the CJRS for days in July after 1 July 2020. Claims starting on or after 1 July must start and end within the same calendar month.
Employers can still only make one claim for any period, so it needs to include all furloughed workers in the claim even if they are paid at different times. The number of workers an employer can claim for in any single claim from 1 July cannot exceed the maximum number of workers the employer has claimed for up to 30 June. This means that employers who are operating rotating furloughs will not be able to put all previously furloughed employees on flexible furlough at the same time.

• What are the reporting requirements?

When claiming the grant, employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of 1 week for grants to be calculated accurately across working patterns (although employers can choose to make claims for longer periods such as on monthly or two weekly cycles if preferred).
Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and the actual hours worked.

• What if the calculation is incorrect?

If an employer makes an error in a claim resulting in overpayment, they must pay this back to HMRC. Employers can tell HMRC about any overclaimed amount as part of their next claim and should keep a record of the adjustment for six years. HMRC are looking at a process for paying back overpayments where no future claim is to be made. If there was an underpayment, the employer has to contact HMRC to amend the claim and they will carry out further checks.

What support will follow the Furlough scheme?

The Job Support Scheme

The Job Support Scheme will be open from 1 November 2020 and run for 6 months, until 30 April 2021.The UK Government have said they will review the terms of the scheme in January 2021.

Employers facing decreased demand (JSS Open)

This is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to Covid-19, to help keep their employees attached to the workforce. . The employee will need to work a minimum of 20% of their usual hours and the employer will continue to pay them as normal for the hours worked. Alongside this, the employee will receive 66.67% of their normal pay for the hours not worked – this will be made up of contributions from the employer and from the government. The employer will pay 5% of salary for the hours not worked, up to a maximum of £125 per month, with the discretion to pay more if they wish. The government will pay the remainder of 61.67%, of reference salary for the hours not worked, up to a maximum of £1,541.75 per month. This will ensure employees continue to receive at least 73% of their normal wages, where they earn £3,125 a month or less.

Employers who are legally required to close their premises (JSS Closed)

This is intended to support 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. For these businesses, the Job Support Scheme, will help them during the period that they are directly affected by these restrictions by supporting the wage costs of employees who have been instructed to cease work. Each employee who cannot work due to these restrictions will receive two thirds of their normal pay, paid by their employer and fully funded by the government, to a maximum of £2,083.33 per month, although their employer has discretion to pay more if they wish.

Employees may also be entitled to additional financial support, including Universal Credit.

See the government fact sheet for more information, including the eligibility criteria Employers using the Job Support Scheme will also be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus if they meet the eligibility criteria.

 

If you have any queries, Lisa can be contacted by emailing – lguscott@watkinsandgunn.co.uk or calling 01495533135

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