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HMRC updates its furlough guidance

HMRC has published revised guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) scheme which applies from 1 November.

We’ve updated our Q&A document but these are the highlights:

  • 30 November 2020 is the last day to make claims under the old scheme which applied until 31 October 2020.
  • To use the new scheme employers do not have to have used it before and neither do their employees have to have been furloughed before. Employers can only use it if their operations are affected by COVID-19 and employees who are claimed for must have been on the payroll by 30 October 2020 and an RTI submission made for them between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020. Employers can take back those that left their employment from 23 September 2020, including those whose fixed-term contracts expired after that date.
  • Employees (widely drafted as under previous scheme) can be furloughed for any period of time with no minimum period. There is no requirement to set out their actual hours in the furlough letter. The employer can only claim on a weekly basis.
  • The scheme will be reviewed from 31 January 2021 and is subject to further amendment from 1 December 2020, specifically in respect of employees made redundant and serving notice.
  • The guidance specifically says that employers can claim for those employees made redundant who are serving statutory notice. HMRC makes no reference to contractual notice and goes further to say that it will issue further guidance at the end of November as it may change its approach to claim periods from 1 December 2020 - and particularly whether employers can claim under the CJRS for those working statutory or contractual notice periods. The implication being that employees made redundant and currently serving notice which is above statutory cannot be claimed for from 1 November. It would seem likely that no employee made redundant and serving statutory or contractual notice from 1 December can be claimed for. No reference is made to employees serving notice for any other reason.
  • Employers should have agreed with and notified their employees in writing by 13 November in order to backdate their claim to 1 November. Although HMRC does not require this to be signed by employees, if you are reducing their salary and do not have a short time/layoff clause in their contract it is important to get them to sign the agreement to ensure you do not face a claim for unlawful deduction from wages.
  • Claims from 1 November 2020 must be submitted by 11.59pm 14 calendar days after the month being claimed for. If this time falls on the weekend then claims should be submitted on the next working day. Employers may be able to submit a claim late if they have a reasonable excuse.
  • HMRC will publish details of employers who claim under the scheme from 1 December 2020.
  • If employees are on flexi-furlough then hours taken on holiday count as furloughed hours and not working hours.
  • Supply teachers can be claimed for and continued to be claimed for during school holidays.
  • Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at high risk who cannot work from home can be furloughed but there is no reference to those who live in the same household – in line with the new ‘shielding’ guidance issued.
  • Those with caring responsibilities for children unable to go to school or the vulnerable can be furloughed.
  • Women returning from maternity leave early must give eight weeks’ notice and cannot be furloughed earlier than 8 weeks.