News article

Coronavirus: Check if you can claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

3 August 2020


Find out if you’re eligible and how much you can claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave ('furlough') due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The rules for the scheme have changed.

Unless you’re making a new claim for an employee who is a military reservist or is returning from statutory parental leave, you can only continue to claim through the scheme if:

 
  • you have previously furloughed the employee for 3 consecutive weeks between March 1 and 30 June
  • you submitted your claim before 31 July
Information about the Job Retention Bonus was published on 31 July.

To use the scheme, the steps you’ll need to take are:

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.

Employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked. Only employees that you have successfully claimed a previous grant for will be eligible for more grants under the scheme.

From 1 August 2020, you will be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees’ wages. Find out more information on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing.

If you’ve already worked out how much you can claim, you can claim for wages online through the Coronavirus Job Retention Schem

You should use the online support and do not contact HMRC unless it is absolutely necessary - any questions should be directed at your agent, representative or the web chat service.

HMRC will check claims. Payments may be withheld or need to be paid back if a claim is found to be fraudulent or based on incorrect information. You can report suspected fraud in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants are not classed as state aid.

Who can claim

You can now only claim if you have previously furloughed your employee before 30 June and you have submitted a claim for this by 31 July. This may differ if you have an employee returning from statutory parental leave.

Maximum number of employees you can claim for
The amount you can claim for in any single claim period starting from 1 July cannot exceed the maximum number of employees you claimed for under any claim ending by 30 June.

For example, an employer had previously submitted 3 separate claims between 1 March 2020 and 30 June, one for 30 employees, one for 20 employees and one for 50 employees. Then the maximum number of employees that employer could furlough in any single claim starting on or after 1 July would be 50.

In another example, an employer has 100 employees and previously submitted claims between 1 March 2020 and 30 June for all of these employees but not all at the same time. Instead of putting all 100 employees on furlough, this employer put 50 employees on furlough and rotated them every three weeks, with a maximum of 50 employees on furlough at any one time. The maximum number of employees that this employer could furlough in any single claim starting on or after 1 July would be 50, although all 100 employees are eligible for furlough.

There are some exceptions explained in this guidance for employees returning from parental leave and military reservists, where this cap may not apply.

If you receive public funding

If you have staff costs that are publicly funded (even if you’re not in the public sector), you should use that money to continue paying your staff, and not furlough your staff.

Organisations can use the scheme if they are not fully funded by public grants and they should contact their sponsor department or respective administration for further guidance.

If you're an administrator

Where a company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator can furlough and claim for employees who have been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June by their previous employer.

Administrators should only use the scheme if there is a reasonable likelihood of rehiring the workers. For instance, this could be as a result of an administration and pursuit of a sale of the business.

Employees you can claim for

See check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Agreeing to furlough employees

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 5 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.

From 1 July, you will:

  • only be able to claim for employees who have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020
  • be able to flexibly furlough employees – this means you can bring your employees back to work for any amount of time, and any work pattern
  • still be able to claim the furlough grant for the hours your flexibly furloughed employees do not work, compared to the hours they would normally have worked in that period

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.

Flexible furlough agreements

There is no minimum furlough period, agreed flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time. Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once.

Although flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time, unless otherwise specified the period that you claim for must be for a minimum claim period of 7 calendar days.

When your employees are on furlough

During hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, you cannot ask them to do any work for you that:

  • makes money for your organisation or any organisation linked or associated with your organisation
  • provides services for your organisation or any organisation linked or associated with your organisation

Your employee can:

  • take part in training
  • volunteer for another employer or organisation
  • work for another employer (if contractually allowed)

Paying employee taxes and pension contributions
Your employees will still pay the taxes they normally pay out of their wages.

You must deduct and pay to HMRC income tax and employee National Insurance contributions on the full amount that you pay the employee, including any scheme grant.

You must also pay to HMRC the employer National Insurance contributions on the full amount that you pay the employee, including any scheme grant.

You must report these payments via a Full Payment Submission to HMRC on or before the pay date.

Your employee will also still pay pension contributions (both employer and automatic contributions from the employee), unless the employee has opted out or stopped saving into their pension. Until 31 July 2020 you can continue to claim for these costs for the hours the employee is on furlough. From 1 August employers will not be able to claim for employer NICs and pension contributions.

Keeping employee rights
Employees still have the same rights at work, including:

  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • annual leave
  • maternity and other parental rights
  • rights against unfair dismissal
  • redundancy payments

You can continue to claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory notice period, however grants cannot be used to substitute redundancy payments. HMRC will continue to monitor businesses after the scheme has closed.

Holiday pay
Furloughed employees continue to accrue leave as per their employment contract. The employer and employee can agree to vary holiday entitlement as part of the furlough agreement, however almost all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks of statutory paid annual leave each year which they cannot go below.

Employees can take holiday whilst on furlough. If an employee is flexibly furloughed then any hours taken as holiday during the claim period should be counted as furloughed hours rather than working hours.

Employees should not be placed on furlough for a period simply because they are on holiday for that period. Working Time Regulations require holiday pay to be paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay or, where the rate of pay varies, calculated on the basis of the average pay received by the employee in the last 52 working weeks. Therefore, if a furloughed employee takes holiday, the employer should pay their usual holiday pay in accordance with the Working Time Regulations.

Employers will be obliged to pay employees who are on holiday additional amounts over the grant, though will have the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need and the correct notice is given. This applies for both the furlough period and the recovery period.

If an employee usually works bank holidays then the employer can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If the employee usually takes the bank holiday as leave then the employer would either have to top up their usual holiday pay, or give the employee a day of holiday in lieu.

Read Coronavirus: FAQs - employer and business questions answered.

Employees working for a different employer
If contractually allowed, your employees are permitted to work for another employer whilst you have placed them on furlough.

For any employer that takes on a new employee, the new employer should ensure they complete the starter checklist form correctly. If the employee is furloughed from another employment, they should complete Statement C.

If your employee does volunteer work

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough as long as it is for another employer or organisation.

If your employee does training

Furloughed employees can engage in training during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation. Furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training.

Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient monies to cover these training hours. However, where the time spent training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages (see National Minimum Wage Section for more details).

Furloughed employees working as union or non-union representatives or as pension trustees

During hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, employees who are union or non-union representatives may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However in doing this, they must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

During hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, employees who are pension scheme trustees or trustee directors of a corporate trustee may undertake trustee duties in relation to the pension scheme. However, a professional, independent pension scheme trustee who has been furloughed by the independent trustee company cannot undertake trustee work that would provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, the independent trustee company or any organisation linked or associated with that independent trustee company during hours which you record them as being on furlough.

Before you claim

You will need to work out how much you can claim through the scheme. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement.

Employers may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.

HMRC cannot provide your employees with details of claims that you make on their behalf. Please help them by keeping your employees informed, answering any questions that they might have. Please ask them not to contact HMRC.

Further employer guidance and furlough templates

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has produced guidance and a sample templates to help employers with agreeing, extending and ending furlough - see the LRA's COVID-19 practical guidance - the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

If you have specific questions on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - see our FAQs on COVID-19: Managing staff health, pay, leave and absence.

Contacting HMRC

HMRC is receiving very high numbers of calls. Contacting HMRC unnecessarily puts their essential public services at risk during these challenging times.

If you think that there have been mistakes or unreasonable delays caused by HMRC, you can use their complaints process.

Use HMRC's digital assistant to find more information about the coronavirus support schemes.

You can also contact HMRC about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if you cannot get the help you need online.


First published 27 March 2020