This page will be used to update clients on the ever changing advice and assistance provided by HM Government.
The changed JRS from 1st July 2020 – flexible working and tapering in Govt Support On 29 May,
the government cast light on the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS), and in particular flexible furloughing, with the promise that further details would follow. New technical guidance has now been published, and yes, it was released at 9pm on a Friday. No change there, but what has been updated potentially represents some quite significant changes for employers.
The principle of what the government is trying to achieve is relatively simple – from July, employees will be allowed to work part-time while being furloughed for hours they don’t work and employers will have to pay normal pay for the hours they “use”; from August, employers will need to start contributing to wage costs (to a maximum of 20 per cent by October), whether or not the employees are working. However, the calculations required to make a claim under the new arrangements are potentially complex. The majority of the government’s guidance on the JRS (and there is a lot) has also been updated and several new guidance documents published, meaning there is a lot for employers to take on board.
Here we answer the main questions about flexible furlough and the extended furlough scheme to help employers navigate what is involved:
• No new employees can now be furloughed, unless they are returning from statutory parental leave.
• From 1 July, there is no minimum furlough period and employees can be brought back part-time for any hours or shift patterns agreed between employers and employees. Full furlough will still be possible.
• Employers will bear the cost in full for any hours worked by furloughed employees and can claim a furlough grant to cover the balance between hours worked and employee’s “usual hours”.
• The minimum HMRC claim period is seven calendar days. Employers will not be able to make claims that cross calendar months.
• The new rules on claim periods and the calculations for flexible furlough are potentially complicated, so it is worth employers spending time now planning staff working arrangements for July onwards and getting their heads around how to claim.
• From August onwards, employers will need to start contributing to the cost of furlough payments. The JRS will end on 31 October 2020.
Details of the changes
1. What is “flexible furlough”?
• From 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the JRS grant for any hours not worked.
• It will continue to be possible to fully furlough employees or to rotate employees on and off furlough.
• When fully furloughed, employees will not be able to do any work for an employer (in the same way as currently).
2. What guidance is there?
• There are no less than thirteen government webpages on the JRS (and that’s just the ones we’ve managed to find!). Thankfully, the government has published a summary page, setting out all the guidance under relevant headings, which roughly mirror the steps which employers should take to make a claim.
• A new guidance document: “Steps to take before calculating your claim” is likely to be particularly useful for employers in understanding what is needed to implement and claim for flexible furloughing. We mention some others below.
3. Who is eligible to be furloughed under the extended furlough scheme?
• Only employees who have been furloughed previously (and for whom employers have successfully claimed a grant) will be eligible to be furloughed after 1 July. This will cover anyone who has been on furlough for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020. There is no requirement for the employee to be on furlough on 30 June itself to be eligible (ie they could have been furloughed previously but subsequently brought back to work).
• All other eligibility criteria remain unchanged.
• It is no longer possible to furlough new employees who have not previously been furloughed – the last date for that was 10 June.
• The exception to this are any employees returning from statutory parental leave after 10 June. This includes maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption or parental bereavement leave. These employees will be eligible to be furloughed after 10 June, even if they are being furloughed for the first time, provided that their employer has submitted a furlough claim for any other employee for at least 3 consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June. The employee must also meet the normal eligibility criteria for furlough.
• The government’s “Check which employees you can furlough” guidance also contains information about employees who have transferred under TUPE or where an employer has consolidated its payroll.
4. What deadlines are there for making a claim?
• The deadline for submitting claims for the period ending on or before 30 June, is 31 July.
• Claims for July can only be made from 1 July onwards.
• If a period of furlough crosses from June into July, separate claims will need to be submitted to cover the days in June and the days in July.
5. What changes are being made to the minimum length of furlough and to claim periods?
• Changes to the minimum length of furlough and the way claim periods are calculated are some of the most significant changes introduced by the amended guidance. A claim period is the number of days for which an employer is claiming a grant under the JRS; it is not necessarily the same as a furlough period, which is the length of time for which an employee is furloughed.
• Until 1 July, the minimum length of time for which an employee can be furloughed is 3 consecutive weeks. This will be the case for all furlough periods which started in June, even if they end after 1 July.
• From 1 July, furlough periods can last any amount of time; there is no minimum period.
• Although there is no minimum furlough period after 1 July, the minimum HMRC claim period that employers can claim for is seven calendar days. The only exception to this is when the period claimed for includes either the first or last day of the calendar month, and an employer is claiming for the period ending immediately before it. In these cases, the claim can be for fewer than seven days.
• After 1 July, employers cannot make claims that cross calendar months. So, although periods of furlough can span more than one month, any claim period must start and end within the same calendar month. Where periods of furlough span two months, the days in different months must be claimed for separately, as part of a claim for the month in which they fall. This is to reflect the fact that the JRS rules on employer contributions are changing each month. It is understandable why the government is making this change, but it has the potential to make calculations complicated for employers, especially those with large
numbers of staff.
• Employers can only make one claim for any period, so must include all furloughed or flexibly furloughed employees in one claim, even if they are paid at different times. Overlapping claims are not permitted. The government has produced several flow diagrams to illustrate this.
• Where possible, claim periods should be matched to the dates which employers process payroll. When claiming for flexible furlough periods, it is advisable to wait until there is certainty over the actual hours which employees work during a claim period before submitting a claim. • Government guidance on deciding the length of your claim period can be found here.
6. What furlough grant can employers claim for flexible furlough and how should it be calculated?
• The rules for calculating the JRS grant for employees on flexible furlough are not altogether easy, particularly when combined with the new rules about claim periods (see above) and changing employer contributions (see below). Details of how to calculate the amount to pay furloughed employees, including when they are flexibly furloughed, can be found in the guidance document: “Calculate how much you can claim”.
• Under the flexible furlough scheme, employees will be able to work as many hours as is agreed with their employer. Employers will need to pay employees their normal pay in full (ie their pre-furlough rate of pay) for any hours they work when flexibly furloughed.
• Employers will then be able to claim a pro-rated furlough grant for any hours which flexibly furloughed employees do not work. This is calculated based on an employee’s “usual hours” when not on furlough, minus the hours they actually work.
• If an employer wishes to flexibly furlough employees, for every claim period they will need to work out and submit for each employee:
- the employee’s usual working hours;
- the actual hours they work; and
- their furloughed hours.
• Wage will be proportional to the hours not worked.
• The government’s JRS calculator has been updated to include flexible furlough calculations.
7. How should employers calculate employees’ “usual hours”?
• The guidance on “Steps to take before calculating your claim” includes details on how to work out employees’ usual hours and furloughed hours, needed to calculate the amount of grant to claim. This varies depending on whether employees work fixed or variable hours (rules on piece workers are also available): - For employees on fixed hours, their usual hours will be calculated based on the hours they were contracted to work at the end of the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 2020. - For employees on variable hours, usual hours will be based on the higher of the average number of hours worked in the tax year 2019 to 2020, or the corresponding calendar period in the tax year 2019 to 2020 (including periods of paid annual leave or non-discretionary overtime).
• There is a new document which sets out an example of how to calculate the amount to claim for a flexibly furloughed employee, and the previous worked examples have been updated to include a calculation on working our usual and furloughed hours.
8. How many employees can be furloughed at any one time?
• The amended guidance has introduced a new maximum number of employees for which employers can claim: after 1 July the number of employees an employer can claim for in any claim period cannot exceed the maximum number of employees on furlough at the same time in any period prior to 30 June. The exception to this cap is in relation to employees returning from statutory parental leave (see above).
• This could potentially create issues for employers who previously rotated employees on and off furlough, but who might now wish to have everyone working part-time. Employers are advised to check the maximum number of employees for which they have previously claimed to ensure they do not exceed this limit.
9. What type of agreement is needed to furlough employees?
• You may remember there was some confusion about whether employees need to sign to confirm their agreement to be furloughed. The guidance is now clear that, although employees must agree to be furloughed, that agreement only needs to be confirmed in writing and employees do not need to provide a written response.
• In relation to agreeing to flexible furloughing, the guidance states that a “written agreement” confirming the new furlough arrangement is needed. It is not clear whether this requires something more from employees, or whether the difference in wording is in fact unintentional. Nevertheless, where possible, it is likely to be sensible for employers to ask employees to sign to confirm what hours and shifts they will be working when flexibly furloughed, to avoid the risk of confusion or potential disputes in the future.
10. Are there any alternatives to flexibly furloughing employees?
• There is no denying that the calculations for flexible furlough are likely to be complex and administratively burdensome, and that may put off some employers.
• One possible alternative, now that there is no longer a minimum furlough period (see above), is for employers to put in place a more frequent rotation of staff, for example, one week on furlough and one week off, which means employees are on “standard” furlough arrangements. This would mean the employees remain on the “standard" furlough arrangements while giving some flexibility and the employer would not need to use the official flexible furlough scheme and the calculations that go with it.
11. When are employer contributions increasing and by what amount?
• From August 2020, the level of the furlough grant being paid by the government will be tapered, as we get nearer to the end of the scheme. In brief, from August, employers will need to start paying employer pension contributions and National Insurance Contributions again; in September and October, employers will also need to start contributing to employees’ wage costs.
• The government has also produced a summary document of the changes being introduced. For ease, we have reproduced a copy of the government’s table summarising the changes in employer contributions:
• Information on how this will affect calculations can be found here.
12. What happens if you make a mistake?
• The government has recognised that mistakes do happen; no bad thing given the complexity of the flexible furlough calculations. The government’s guidance on claiming for wages now includes a section on what employers should do if they make an error when claiming, which includes notifying HMRC if there has been an overpayment so that a reduction can be made in a subsequent claim amount.
The furlough scheme will finish on 31 October 2020 and this latest suite of guidance documents sees us through to the end. It is strange to think this might our last substantive post on the JRS – although since the last lot of guidance went through at least five different iterations (we lost count in the end), and a Treasury Direction is still due extending the scheme from the end of June, you may not want to hold your breath on this.
Although the latest changes to the guidance may feel a lot, in the main they focus on changes to the claim period and the introduction of flexible furlough. The bigger issue for employers, however, may be the considerations that fall outside the guidance – what staffing requirement will they have after 1 July; do they want to use the flexible furlough scheme; is their payroll set up to manage the calculations; are the increases to employer contributions affordable? For some, it is possible that the increased cost of furlough, combined with the increasing complexity of the calculations involved, may force them to start considering alternative options sooner than they might have hoped.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is current as of 18th June 2020.
Additional Financial Support for Business - up to £50K 100% Government secured loans
Apply for a coronavirus Bounce Back Loan
This scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to access loans of up to £50,000.
The Bounce Back Loan scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.
The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.
Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.
The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.
You can apply for a loan if your business:
is based in the UK
has been negatively affected by coronavirus
Who cannot apply
The following businesses are not eligible to apply:
banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
state-funded primary and secondary schools
If you’re already claiming funding
You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
If you’ve already received a loan of up to £50,000 under CBILS and would like to transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.
How to apply
The full rules of the scheme and guidance on how to apply is available on the British Business Bank website. Apply now
Covid-19: business interruption loan scheme amended - Banks forced to relax rules for lending
Official figures from UK Finance show while there have been over 130,000 enquiries from businesses across the country for business interruption loans, just 983 businesses have had finance approved with £90m paid out.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the CBILS programme is being extended so that all viable small businesses affected by Covid-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.
The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.
For loans over £250,000, personal guarantees will be limited to just 20% of any amount outstanding on the CBILS lending after any other recoveries from business assets. Lenders were already prohibited from asking business owners to put their house on the line, but the changes are design to allay concerns regarding personal assets.
The new rule will apply to finance already offered under the scheme, to ensure that all business owners receive the same level of government protection.
In addition, there is a new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) which will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25m to firms with an annual turnover of between £45m and £500m. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month.
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: ‘We are making great progress on getting much-needed support out to businesses to help manage their cashflows during this difficult time – with millions of pounds of loans and finance being provided to hundreds of firms across the country.
‘And now I am taking further action by extending our generous loan scheme so even more businesses can benefit. We have also listened to the concerns of some larger businesses affected by Covid-19 and are announcing new support so they can benefit too.’
Sunak said he will be speaking to bank chief executives next week to discuss how the schemes are working.
The government-backed scheme to provide financing to larger companies, being operated by the Bank of England, has also provided almost £1.9bn of support to firms and a further £1.6bn has been committed.
Adam Marshall, director-general, BCC (British Chambers of Commerce) said: ‘Improvements to the CBILS will help firms get access to cash more quickly, and the announcement of a new loan scheme for mid-sized companies closes a significant gap in existing support.’
Mike Cherry, National Chair, FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) said: ‘Time is of the essence and therefore we welcome government action in ensuring that any viable small business that has been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus can now directly access CBILS rather first being offered a bank’s own standard commercial lending product.
‘Removing personal guarantees for all commercial loans below £250,000 is also very welcome. Taking on debt at the current time is a daunting prospect for many small businesses and the self-employed.’
Covid-19: Government furlough scheme to pay employer NICs and basic Workplace pensions amounts
In a further update to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance, the government has announced that it will now cover the employer national insurance (NI) and employer auto enrolment costs for furloughed staff
In addition to employer NICs, the government will also pay the minimum auto-enrolment (AE) pension scheme contributions employers have to pay on staff wages for furloughed staff. The employer minimum contribution rate is 3%, while employees have to pay 5%.
Most employers use pension schemes that from April 2019 require a total minimum of 8% contribution to be paid. The calculation for this type of scheme is based on a specific range of earnings.
For the 2019/20 tax year this range is between £6,136 and £50,000 a year (£512 and £4,167 a month, or £118 and £962 a week). These figures are reviewed each year by the government.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers can claim a grant covering 80% of the wages for a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2,500 a month.
Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.
This gives a maximum cap of £2,500 +£245 (employers’ NIC) + £59 (auto-enrolment pension contribution) = £2,804 of total possible grant that can be applied for per employee per month.
Employees pay income tax, NICs and any other deductions from their wages, HMRC confirmed.
The Treasury says the latest move could save businesses an extra £300 a month for each employee under the scheme.
New guidance has also confirmed that those made redundant after 28 February 2020 can be re-employed and placed on furlough.
Those on furlough will also be permitted to volunteer without risking their pay - and will be able to join the 500,000 members of the public who have signed up so far to help the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.
Auto enrolment pension rates
This table shows the minimum contributions employers must pay:
DateEmployer minimum contributionStaff contributionTotal minimum contribution
Rate: 6 April 2019 onwards3%5%8%
Source: The Pensions Regulatorour latest news and analysis at Accountancy Daily Coronavirus: essential updates for accountants and sign up to our free 4pm and weekly newsletters
HMRC technical guidance
HMRC Guidance for employee
Correct as at 16:25 30/03/2020
Updated detailed advice on the Self Employed Income Assistance from our partners at Croner Taxwise (27th March 2020 13:00):
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) SELF-EMPLOYMENT INCOME SUPPORT SCHEME
THIS SUMMARY IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT SHORT NOTICE AS THE GOVERNMENT RELEASES ITS OWN UPDATES – THIS SUMMARY WAS LAST UPDATED FRIDAY 27th MARCH 2020 @ 10.08am
Companies to receive 3-month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19
Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.... but you must apply in advance
VAT QUESTION OF THE WEEK - DETAIL FROM OUR PARTNERS CRONER TAXWISE ON VAT DEFERRALS:
Following Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s announcement on 20th March 2020 that VAT payments are set to be deferred to help businesses through the COVID19 pandemic, we take a look at the most commonly asked questions our Advice Line has received so far.....
NEWS: CHANCELLOR ANNOUNCES SUPPORT PACKAGE FOR SELF EMPLOYED WITH AVERAGE TAXABLE INCOME OF UP TO £50,000 PER ANNUM 26/03/2020 17:50HRS
EXCERPT FROM SKY NEWS:
The chancellor has announced that self-employed people will be able to claim a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits - up to £2,500 a month.
Rishi Sunak said the support for those affected by the coronavirus crisis would be in place for at least three months and amounted to "one of the most generous packages in the world".
Unveiling the measures at a Downing Street news conference, the chancellor said the scheme was open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000.
But it will only be available to those who make the majority of their income from self-employment and who filed a tax return for 2019.
This would ensure only the "genuinely self-employed" benefit from the scheme and minimise the risk of fradusters applying for help, Mr Sunak added.
The chancellor said the support would help 95% of people who are majority self-employed, with Mr Sunak saying those who were not eligible had average earnings of more than £200,000.
But the government's action was criticised after the chancellor suggested the self-employed may have to wait until the beginning of June to access the scheme.
Some excellent detail by our partners Croner Taxwise on employee assistance.
Self Employed Individuals - A Ray of Hope for COVID-19 affected Self-employed people (updated 25/03/2020 20:20hrs)
Although we are all awaiting news on support for the self- employed there is some ray of hope - the Chancellor is expected to announce guidance on this point tomorrow. Our regulatory body the ACCA has shared the following document which is from the HoC order of business papers:
Measures to support businesses experiencing increases in costs or financial disruptions
Financial Assistance Business Rates holiday
Current information from HMRC:
Employers Assistance re Covid19
It appears that the government will bank roll employers and pay up to 80% of the gross wages for employees furloughed (layed off) – this will cover you somewhat for some of the team should you be unable to open. Detail is not available as yet but it will be based on payroll costs. Here’s the link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
Advice from our partners at Croner Taxwise as at 23/03/2020 :
Support for Businesses
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
HMRC will set up a new online portal so that ALL UK employers, regardless of size, will be eligible for assistance where an employee has been designated as a ‘furloughed worker.’ HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The current plan is that this will be in place for 3 months, at which point it will be reviewed. This will be backdated to 1 March 2020.
Employers must set out which of their employees are ‘furloughed workers’ and inform particular employees.
Furlough is the equivalent of lay off. So you can lay off staff, continue to pay them and recover 80% of that cost up to £30k per annum.
The current guidance states ‘You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to’
Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation. Our HR support line can help (0844 892 2807).
Deferment of VAT payments
VAT payments can be deferred for up to 3 months. Again, all UK businesses will be eligible and the scheme will run between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. There is no need to apply for this scheme. Businesses will be given until the end of 2020/2021 to settle outstanding VAT liabilities that have accumulated as a result of the 3-month deferral.
Time to Pay
Any business that pays tax to the UK government and has outstanding tax liabilities will be able to apply for their case to be reviewed by HMRC with a view to arranging a bespoke time to pay agreement. This applies to all businesses including the self-employed. HMRC has set up a dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.
Statutory Sick Pay
Employers will be able to reclaim up to 2 weeks of SSP payments per employee where those SSP payments related to Coronavirus. This applies to all UK employers with 250 employees or less as at 28 February 2020. The reclaim will not be via RTI, instead, HMRC will set up a new portal to facilitate this.
IR35 for the Private Sector
Changes to the IR35 off-payroll working rules in the private sector have been delayed by 12 months to April 2021.
HMRC will introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020/2021 tax year. No action is required and this will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020 meaning that there would be no rates payable for those businesses for 2020/2021.
The retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England can also apply for a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. For rateable values of under £15,000, they will receive £10,000. Between £15,001 and £51,000, they will receive a grant of £25,000. No action is required as local authorities will write to eligible businesses. Smaller businesses within the Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief will of £10,000.
Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The British Business Bank will launch a scheme from the week commencing 23 March 2020 to support businesses with a turnover of no more than £45 million per year. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan. This applies to loans of up to £5m. No interest will be charged for the first 12 months.
Corporate Financing Facility
The Bank of England will shortly announce plans to buy short term debt from larger companies that are ‘fundamentally strong’. We are currently waiting for a definition of ‘fundamentally strong’.
If a company’s accounts are unlikely to be filed on time owing to being affected by Coronavirus then an application can be made to extend the period allowed for filing. Here is a link. If an application is not made and there is a late filing then the normal penalty regime would apply, so it is important to make the application ahead of the deadline.
Support for individuals
The 2nd payment on account of tax that is due by 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021. Self-employed taxpayers are eligible for this deferment. There is no need to apply for this offer to apply. No penalties or interest for late payment will apply during this deferral period.
Statutory Sick Pay
Individuals will be eligible for SSP for the first day of absence if the absence is Covid-19 related. The individual will need to visit https://111.nhs.uk/ in order to obtain an isolation note in line with advice issued from Friday 20 March. They will still be entitled to the normal maximum of 28 weeks in any 3-year period with the same employer, however, there is no need to wait for 3 working days before they would be eligible where Covid-19 applies.
The self-employed will be eligible to make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance. Self-employed people will receive a rate equivalent to SSP.
Mortgage and rent holiday
Tenants, as well as mortgage borrowers, can apply for a 3 month payment holiday. Interest will continue to be charged on any amount that they owe. The government has announced that they intention is that no one can be evicted from their home over the next 3 months where this applies.