What a tumultuous couple of weeks it has been. As the UK imposes strict measures to try to slow the spread of covid-19, the effect on businesses and jobs has been devestating.
This time last week, all of our discussions with clients were around lay-offs without pay and reducing hours of work in an effort to make necessary savings as a result of a massive slow down or complete halt to business activity.
Then last Friday evening, the Chancellor announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and everything shifted towards thinking about what it will mean to place an employee on “furlough”.
At the time of writing, there are still some things we can’t be sure of but here are the main things we do know after further information was released on Thursday evening:-
1. All UK employers are eligible. There had been some concern expressed by some of our charity clients that the gov.uk page said “all UK businesses” were eligible but this has been updated to say that all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support.
2. The government will reimburse 80% of wage costs (up to £2,500) of employees who would otherwise have been laid off because of the crisis plus employer national insurance and legal minimum employer pension contributions (3%).
3. The government contribution to wage costs can be backdated to 1st March and the scheme will be in operation for at least 3 months.
4. A furloughed worker must do no work while on furlough but may volunteer if this doesn’t amount to making money for or providing services to the employer. This is likely to be useful for charities if employees are willing to volunteer while on furlough.
5. The support will be accessed through a new portal currently being set up by HMRC.
6. The minimum period of furlough will be 3 weeks.
The grants may not be available for several weeks but employers should look into the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. It effectively offers an interest free loan for the first 12 months as the government will cover the interest payments. So, an employer with a cashflow issue can take a loan to cover wages and then, when the Job Retention Scheme goes live, repay the loan with no interest payable by the employer. This scheme should ensure that employees do not have to go without their wages until the Job Retention Scheme can pay out.
I recorded a Facebook live session on Monday, addressing many of the questions we had been receiving about the Job Retention Scheme and what it will mean to put an employee on furlough. You can view the Facebook live session here. I will broadcast another session at 4pm on Friday to comment on the new details released on Thursday evening. Search for Mark Mason Employment Law on Facebook to watch live or catch up later.
This evening, the Chancellor announced the support that will be made available to the self-employed, More information on that can be found here.
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