There have been two important developments for businesses. Firstly, and importantly HMRC have from today started accepting applications for payments under the Job Retention Scheme (JRS). HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the BBC’s Today programme that employers had made 67,000 job claims in the first 30 minutes of the scheme operating. The portal can be accessed via this link.
It sets out how to claim and the information that needs to be provided including the details of employees furloughed, names, NI numbers and furlough periods, as well as the UTR and business bank details. You will also need to have to hand your Government Gateway ID and password and an active PAYE enrolment. If not it is possible to register for them at:
The application needs to be done in one session. There is currently no save and return option. Sessions will automatically timed out after 30 minutes of inactivity.
It is predicted that the system can process up to 450,000 applications an hour and anticipated that employers will receive payment six working days after making an application, which is rather impressive given the number involved. Therefore if you wish to receive payment by the end of the month to meet your payroll commitments it is important that the claim is submitted at least six working days in advance for the money to clear into your bank account.
As well as extending the scheme to the end of June, HMRC has also issued new and updated guidance on the JRS. The original cut off date for employees to be on the payroll by 28 February has now been extended to 19 March so that claims for employees on the payroll up to 19 March can now be covered and claimed for. A word of caution though, as the requirement seems to be for employers to have made a ‘Real Time Information’ submission to HMRC by 19 March. So where employers had a policy of submitting notifications at month end, it may still be the case that employees recruited after 28 February will not be covered by the JRS.
More details have also now been provided on how an employer can place an employee on furlough. The fact of being placed on furlough must be confirmed in writing. The guidance makes reference to it being “done in a way that is consistent with employment law” for there to be valid consent for the purpose of the scheme. The employee does not have to provide a written response or agreement according to the guidance. Unfortunately, this appears to conflict with the Treasury Direction to HMRC, published on 15 April. Paragraphs 6.1 and 6.7 of the Direction state that an employee can only be furloughed for the purpose of the JRS if the employer and employee ‘have agreed in writing (which may be in an electronic form such as an email) that the employee will cease all work in relation to their employment’. It is therefore unclear whether employers can claim under the JRS for employees who have not specifically agreed in writing to being furloughed. The better advice is to be thorough and ensure the employee signs and returns an acknowledgement of the furlough letter or agreement.
There is also a guide to calculating 80% of an employee’s wages for the purpose of claiming under the JRS, including which payments can be taken into account (regular wages, non-discretionary overtime and non-discretionary commission payments) and which cannot ( tips, discretionary bonuses, discretionary commission payments and non-monetary benefits).
There is separate updated guidance on the subject of annual leave during furlough (HMRC guidance for employees) which confirms that workers continue to accrue annual leave and are also entitled to take leave while on furlough. Holiday pay should be calculated by the usual holiday pay in accordance with the Working Time Regulations 1998, and that ’employers will be obliged to pay the additional amounts over the grant’. This suggests that an employee exercising the right to annual leave whilst on furlough will be entitled to 100% of normal (i.e. pre-furlough) wages. Therefore the employer will be required to make this up to 100% of normal (i.e. pre-furlough) wages where the furlough pay has been reduced to the 80% furlough grant by agreement.
Finally, the guidance goes on to note that employers have the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need.