In order to maintain their workforce, employers can claim a grant from HMRC to pay 80% of the salaries of employees who are furloughed, ie still on payroll but temporarily not working during the coronavirus outbreak. Here, we address some of your pressing concerns about the scheme.
What is covered by the scheme?
“Employers can reclaim up to 80% of wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month, plus (not including) employer National Insurance contributions and minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions,” says Edwina Redhead, HR consultant at NatWest Mentor. Commissions, discretionary bonuses and benefit-in-kind payments, such as private health insurance or company car payments, are not included; however, compulsory commission payments and fees are included.
Will employers need to top this up, ie pay the other 20% to the employee?
“Under the terms of their employment contract, the employer should be paying them 100% of wages, with 80% made up by the government,” says Redhead. “Employers who can’t afford to do that need to consult with staff to try to agree to a temporary reduction of pay to 80%. Where larger numbers of staff are involved, ie more than 20, employers should be aware of any collective consultation requirement, and take some legal advice to ensure they meet those requirements.”
How long will the scheme last?
Launched in March, the scheme has now been extended until the end of October. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has pledged that furloughed staff will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500 a month, and the scheme will continue in its present form until the end of July.
From August, the government plans to introduce more flexibility, to support the transition back to work, and furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time. Employers will be asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff – full details on this are due to be announced by the government at the end of this month (May).
How can employers afford to pay staff in the meantime?
“A lot of the questions we are being asked are around cash flow and what options employers have to pay people until they receive the CJRS grant,” notes Redhead. “These include looking at zero-interest loans that are available through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, as well as overdraft options. Failing that, employers could speak to staff and seek written agreement from them to defer payment until the grant comes through.”
Which employees will be eligible for furlough leave?
All staff who are PAYE (pay as you earn) and have been on company payroll since at least 19 March 2020 are eligible, so long as their employer has notified HMRC and made a real time information (RTI) submission on or before that date. Full-time, part-time, temporary, zero hours, apprentices and fixed-term staff can all be included as long as they are PAYE. Office holders, including directors, salaried members of LLPs (limited liability partnerships), agency workers and those who fall into the employment status category of ‘worker’ can also be included.