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At this time of unprecedented challenge, employers will have many concerns, from issues around health and safety in the workplace (where this remains open), to how best to facilitate homeworking. Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice on these or any of the areas outlined below.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS)

JRS allows employers to claim up to 80% of furloughed workers' wages, to a maximum of £2,500 per worker per month. The scheme now runs for four months from 1 March 2020, rather than the three months initially proposed. The government says it will be extended again if necessary.

HMRC's online application portal for JRS claims opened on 20 April 2020, with new information to be used to make a claim: the employer step by step guide bit.ly/2zllhjf and guidance  bit.ly/3eFhSvK. This online calculator can be used to work out how much can be claimed bit.ly/2VolMl2. Generally, guidance has been evolving since the scheme was first announced, and it is possible that there will be further updates.

Keep the calculations used as the basis of your claim. You are also advised to print the final confirmation screen, or note the claim reference number, because HMRC will not send an email confirmation. HMRC will check claims and has the right to audit claims retrospectively. It advises that payments may be withheld, or need to be repaid in full, if claims are found to be based on dishonest or inaccurate information, or found to be fraudulent. An online portal for employees and the public to report suspected cases of fraud has been set up.

Making best use of the JRS

Although many employers will now have used the JRS for the first time, there are still points to consider going forward. These include how best to staff any work needed to keep your business going, and planning for the post-lockdown future of your business.

Furlough is designed with some flexibility. It must be for a minimum of three consecutive weeks, but there is the option to take staff off furlough, have them return to work and then refurlough them. This can be done multiple times, but the three-week minimum applies to any furlough period. Judicious use of the scheme could provide the potential to start gearing up again for business. Whilst on furlough, staff are debarred from carrying out work that generates revenue for your business, but timely switching between furlough and work, or even rotating staff on furlough, may prove useful.

To recap, furlough is a formal process, bringing employment law issues to consider. To be eligible, staff must have been on your payroll on or before 19 March 2020, and have been notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before that date. There are also some provisions for staff made redundant early in the pandemic, who are re-employed and furloughed. A claim under JRS can only be made from the date at which an individual's furlough begins.

We are happy to advise further, to support you through an application, or  to submit your claim if authorised to act on your behalf for PAYE matters.

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate

Businesses based in the UK, with fewer than 250 employees at 28 February 2020, with a PAYE payroll scheme created and started on or before that date, can reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for staff absence due to coronavirus. This will cover up to two weeks' SSP per eligible employee. The government is currently creating a system to deliver this, with further guidance expected. Find out more here bit.ly/2XkS2XI.

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