Following the announcement that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) would be extended to 31 March 2021, HMRC has now published guidance on the key points and how it will work.

Below are some FAQs for employers, based on the currently available information about the extended CJRS, including the recent update around claiming for notice pay.

Who is eligible?

For any claim period after 1 November 2020, all employers can claim for any employee that was on the payroll as of 30 October 2020. There is no maximum number of employees that an employer can claim for from 1 November 2020 and employees do not need to have been furloughed prior to this date.

Do you have to have used the furlough scheme before?

No. An employer does not need to have used the CJRS before, in order to furlough employees and claim under it now.

Does this extend to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Yes, the extended CJRS applies to employers across the UK despite lockdown currently only applying to England.

How much can be claimed?

Employers can currently claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, also proportional to the hours not worked. Employers can choose whether to ‘top-up’ an employee to 100% of their wages but are not obliged to do so.

However, the amount which can be claimed will be reviewed in January 2021 and may be reduced at that time.

What do employers need to contribute?

Until 31 January 2021, the CJRS will cover the full 80% of wages, up to the cap of £2,500 per month, for any hours not worked by the employee. Employers will still need to pay employer’s National Insurance contributions and employer pension contributions.

The scheme is due to be reviewed in January 2021 to decide whether employers will be required to make a contribution to hours not worked by employees.

What if an employee is currently working their notice period and/or due to be made redundant?

The current position in November 2020 is that an employer can claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory or contractual notice period.

However, from December 2020, the furlough scheme will not be available for employees who have been served their notice on or after 1 December 2020. This also includes employees who are serving notice for reasons other than redundancy.

As was the case previously, redundancy payments cannot be claimed for under the CJRS.

What if an employer has made an employee redundant before November 2020?

If an employee was on the payroll on 23 September 2020 and has since stopped working or been made redundant, they can be re-employed and placed on furlough leave. A PAYE RT1 submission must have been made for that employee between 20 March and 30 October 2020.

There is no legal obligation on an employer to re-employ such employees.

If you do want to consider re-employing staff to put them on furlough, this does give rise to a number of issues, including what to do about any redundancy payments which have already been paid. We strongly suggest that you take legal advice in order to work out the best way to approach any re-hiring of staff in these circumstances.

Do I need a written agreement in place?

Yes. Employers must get employees’ consent to being furloughed and confirm the arrangements in writing. If you already have a furlough agreement in place, you will need to check whether the wording covers any extension to the scheme or whether you need a further written agreement.

What is the minimum furlough/claim period?

There is no minimum period that an employee must be furloughed. However, the claim period must start and end in the same calendar month and claims must cover a period of at least 7 days.

The only exception to the 7 day period is if you have already claimed for the same employee in the period immediately before and if your claim includes the first or last day of the calendar month.

Is ‘flexible furloughing’ still an option?

Yes, both flexible and full-time furlough is available to employers and, as before, these arrangements should be agreed with the employees in writing.  An employee does not need to work a minimum number of hours or a particular work pattern, but the employer will need to report to HMRC for a minimum period of seven consecutive days.

When must claims be submitted?

For claims in the period on or up to 31 October 2020, these must be made by 30 November 2020.

For claims under the CJRS in November 2020, these must be submitted by 14 December 2020.

Will furlough claims be made public?

From December 2020, HMRC will publish the names of companies who have made claims under the CJRS for the month of December onwards. Employers should therefore consider whether furloughing employees risks reputational damage.

For any other queries on the extended CJRS or for help with effecting furlough agreements or changes, please contact our Employment Team on 0161 941 4000 or via email.