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Update on Coronavirus support for employers

Coronavirus – Job Support Scheme expansion for closed business premises

On 9 October the government announced an extension to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) due to start from 1 November 2020 for 6 months when the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ends on 31 October 2020. The expansion will apply to any business legally required to close by one of the four governments of the UK as a result of coronavirus restrictions and includes premises who are restricted to delivery or collection only services. 

Overview and key points: 
  • The government will support eligible businesses by paying two thirds of each eligible employees’ salary (or 67%) up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
  • Employers will not be required to contribute towards wages and only asked to cover NICs and pension contributions. Employers can top up employee pay if they wish.
  • This is available to all employers with a UK bank account, a UK PAYE scheme registered on or before 23 September 2020 and who have made a real time information submission notifying payment to that employee to HMRC on or before that date.
  • Businesses will only be able to claim the grant while they are subject to the restrictions and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.
  • Employers will only be able to use the expanded scheme for employees who cannot work (paid or unpaid) for that employer.
  • Payments will be made in arrears via a HMRC claims service to be made available in early December.
  • Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the CJRS.
  • Employers will be able to claim for the Job Retention Bonus, subject to eligibility, and as detailed below.
  • Employees cannot be made redundant or put on notice of redundancy during the period within which their employer is claiming the grant in respect of them.
  • Employers must agree the new scheme with relevant staff and make changes to the employment contract by agreement. The agreement must be available to HMRC on request.
  • The government has published a Factsheet setting out details of who is eligible, information for employees, what the grant covers, how claims will be made and HMRC checks.
  • HMRC intends to publish the names of employers who have used the scheme.

Further detailed guidance on the expanded scheme will be published by HMRC and we will update you when this is available.

Coronavirus Scheme Job Retention Bonus

The government has also recently published Guidance and a Fourth Treasury Direction on claiming the Job Retention Bonus (JRB) from 15 February 2021.

The bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment made to the employer for each eligible employee who was furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021. The purpose of the JRB set out in the Treasury Direction is to enhance and consolidate the purpose of the CJRS, which is to continue the employment of employees in respect of whom the CRJS claim is made. The guidance does not refer to the purpose or how it should be interpreted. It states that the bonus is for the employer and does not need to be paid to the employee. 

Overview and key points:
  • The employer must have furloughed employees and made an eligible claim for them through the CJRS.
  • In addition, an eligible employer must have a PAYE scheme registered on HMRC’s real time information system and have delivered the required PAYE information to HMRC.
  • The employer can still claim the bonus if they make a claim for that employee through the JSS.
  • Employers cannot claim the bonus for any employee in respect of which it has either repaid the CJRS regardless of the reason for that repayment or made an incorrect claim.
  • The employee must have been employed from the end of the claim period for the last CJRS claim until 31 January 2021 and not be serving contractual or statutory notice on that date (including those serving notice of retirement).
  • The employer must have paid enough in each relevant tax month to meet the minimum income threshold. There are also examples to help employer to decide which employees meet the minimum income threshold for the bonus.
  • Employees who have transferred under TUPE before 31 October 2020 can be claimed for if they have been furloughed and successfully claimed for under the CJRS by the new employer. Therefore it is not possible to claim for the bonus for employees transferred after the CJRS closes on 31 October 2020.
  • Employees must have been paid a total of £1,560 gross during the three relevant tax months 6 November 2020 to 5 December 2020, 6 December to 5 January 2021 and 6 January 2021 to 5 February 2021 with at least one payment of taxable earnings during each month.
  • A claim for the bonus can only be made between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021.

Employers should also note that the last date for making a claim under the CJRS is 30 November 2020. They should also be aware that if they have made any errors in relation to CJRS claims, these should be notified to HMRC by 20 October 2020, otherwise they may be liable to pay a penalty. 

Self-isolation and fines

New legislation sets out mandatory periods of self-isolation for an individual who has tested positive for Covid-19, or who has been officially notified by NHS Test and Trace that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.  Workers are under an obligation to inform their employer they’re required to self-isolate.

It is an offence for an employer to knowingly allow a self-isolating worker to come into work without reasonable excuse. This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive.  Employers are therefore responsible for stopping a worker coming into work and if they fail to do so, will face a fine starting at £1,000 and increasing up to £10,000 for repeated offences and serious breaches. 

For more information, please contact Michael Powner or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact.

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