HR and employment law

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers are able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. In addition, the government will now cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrollment pension scheme contributions employers pay on the wages they must pay their furloughed staff – on top of the wages covered under the scheme. 

The deadline for furloughing an employee for the first time has now passed. From 1st July the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will only be available to employers that have previously used the scheme in respect of employees they have previously furloughed. However, employees on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme even after the 10th June cut-off date. This will only apply where they work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees. 

Making a claim

You can now make a claim via HMRC’s online claim service, which is live on GOV.UK . After a claim has been submitted it will take six working days for it to be paid.

You can claim for employees that were:

  • employed as of 19 March 2020 and were on your PAYE payroll on or before that date; this means that you will have made an RTI submission notifying us of payment of that employee on or before 19 March 2020
  • employed as of 28 February 2020 and on payroll (i.e. notified to us on an RTI submission on or before 28 February) and were made redundant or stopped working for you after that, and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them and put them on furlough.

You will need to have the following information to make a claim:

  • a Government Gateway (GG) ID and password – if you don’t already have a GG account, you can apply for one online, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for ‘HMRC services: sign in or register’ 
  • be enrolled for PAYE online – if you aren’t registered yet, you can do so now, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for ‘PAYE Online for employers’
  • the following information for each furloughed employee you will be claiming for: Name, National Insurance number, Claim period and claim amount, and PAYE/employee number (optional).
  • if you have fewer than 100 furloughed staff – you will need to input information directly into the system for each employee
  • if you have 100 or more furloughed staff – you will need to upload a file with information for each employee; they will accept the following file types: .xls .xlsx .csv .ods.

HMRC have produced this step by step guidance on how to make a claim. There is also a calculator to help you work out your claim. In addition, HMRC has produced a useful video on how to make a claim. You can view it here.

Flexible furlough: Bringing back employees from furlough

From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work part-time. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them – and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.

From August 2020, the level of UK Government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. The updates mean that the following will apply:

  • June and July: The Government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions.
  • August: Government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • September: Government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,190. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 14% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • October: Government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.

Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked. HMRC will take action against those found to be abusing the scheme.

Furloughed workers to receive full parental leave entitlement:
Furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate. Find out more here.

Statutory Sick Pay Refund

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the Government in full. The repayment will cover up to two weeks of the applicable rate of SSP. For more information on eligibility and how to make a claim please find more information here

Employee return-to-work tool

The government has developed a tool to help employees in England easily assess if they can return to work. The tool guides employees through questions that may influence their ability to go back to work safely. Employers can share this tool with employees to aid discussion on how employees can return to work safely. Please find out more here

Reopening your business safely – guidance tool

Employers in England that want to reopen their business have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site. Use this guidance to help you carry out a risk assessment and make sensible adjustments to the site and workforce. If you do not carry out a risk assessment, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local council can issue an enforcement notice. Employees can use this guidance to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe. This guidance is only for businesses that are allowed to reopen in England.

Useful sources of HR information and FAQs

  • The HR Dept have put together a useful set of FAQs relating to all things HR. You can view it here
  • ACAS has also published advice, including information on sick pay, absences and shut downs, here.
  • CIPD – Advice for employers can also be found on the CIPD website 

Leadership and management 

CMI has produced a Better Managers Briefing webinar on managing the mental health effects of prolonged isolation.

Communicating with employees

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has published advice on communicating with employees in times of crisis here.

Providing apprenticeships during the coronavirus outbreak

Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations about changes to apprenticeships due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Updated information on furloughed apprentices, end-point assessment, functional skills apprentices and qualification certification.

New free online learning platform to boost workplace skills

A new online learning platform to help boost the nation’s skills while people are staying at home has been launched by the Education Secretary. Free courses are available through The Skills Toolkit. The new platform gives people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects.

With more people expected to be working and studying remotely in the coming months, the platform offers a great opportunity to learn new skills to help to get ahead online. The platform also offers employees who have been furloughed an opportunity to keep up their skills development while they are at home. Courses on offer cover a range of levels, from everyday maths and tools for using email and social media more effectively at work to more advanced training. Individuals will be able to access courses helping them to create great online content developed by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Coding, to understand the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing from Google Digital Garage and to learn how to code for data analysis from the Open University. All courses are online and flexible, so people can work through them at their own pace. Find out more information here.