31st Mar 2020

Advice on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) offers unprecedented support for people, jobs and businesses during these uncertain times. In his latest Harrogate Advertiser aricle, Head of Employment Mike Patterson shares what you need to know about the scheme.

What is the JRS ?

In a nutshell, the JRS offers any employer a grant to cover 80% of the salary of employees who would otherwise have been laid off, up to a total of £2,500 a month for each retained employee - referred to as “furloughed”.

Claims are made through HMRC online and it’s hoped that their portal will be up and running by end of April 2020 – these can be backdated to 1 March 2020.

Which staff are covered?

Furloughed staff must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020. The employees/workers can be on any type of contract, including full and part time, agency, flexible and zero hours. The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are re-employed by their employer.

Are there any exceptions?

You cannot furlough anyone who is currently sick or self-isolating in accordance with government advice and being paid statutory sick pay; taking unpaid leave, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February 2020 or still working for you - even if they are only doing a few hours.

What steps should employers take?

Employers will first need to decide which employees to designate as furloughed. Then, notify those employees of the intended change.Their agreement to be furloughed and the change in pay arrangements should  be agreed with the employee – we recommend consultation on the change and agreement confirmed in writing.  Ideally, businesses should advise how long it expects furlough leave to continue, however, this may be difficult in the current climate, though three weeks is the minimum period an employee can be furloughed for.

What if employees refuse?

It’s expected that the majority of employees should consent to being furloughed, because it’s a better alternative than the potential of unpaid leave, lay off, or redundancy should they refuse.  Ultimately the JRS is there to help financially support employers through this very difficult and uncertain time, in the hope that staff can be retained as and when this pandemic eventually ends.

If you have any questions on how this affects you or your business, or need advice on the furloughing process and how to claim, please get in touch. In the meantime, look after yourself and each other – stay safe and healthy!

Mike Patterson is Head of Employment at Berwins Solicitors   

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