New guidance on the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been published by the government. Travlaw partner and head of employment Ami Naru assesses the key changes

Last night the long-awaited guidance for the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was published, and further amendments to this guidance are expected (see below)

This guidance is available on the government’s website, and while there is lots of similarity to the previous furlough schemes, there are some new quirks which should be drawn to employers’ attention.

Notice periods

Alarmingly new wording has been introduced: “The government is reviewing whether employers should be eligible to claim for employees serving contractual or statutory notice periods and will change the approach for claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, with further guidance to be published in late November.”

In short, this means the scheme will yet again change from December 1, and be more akin to the Job Support Scheme (now withdrawn), where employees on notice were not eligible for the scheme.

This has a massive implication for employers, who were considering putting employees back on to the more generous extended CJRS, because if they were thinking of dismissing an employee on grounds of redundancy or otherwise, they must give them notice before December 1.

After December 1 it will likely mean that if an employer is serving notice, then the employee in question must be taken off the CJRS.

Publication of employer names

In addition, another new quirk and one that not many employers will be aware of is the introduction of a list of participating companies.

The guidance states: “From December 2020, HMRC will publish employer names for companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP’s), the company registration number of those who have made the claims under the scheme, for the month of December onwards.”

Rather than being a name and shame tactic, I presume this is intended as a further means of auditing as unfortunately there were some instances of employers (not in the travel industry as far as I am aware!) having employees work as normal and yet still claiming CJRS for these employees.

Retrospective agreement deadline

If employers have agreed to retrospectively furlough an employee with effect from November 1, they must have in place an agreement in place to retrospectively claim furlough by November 13 (this Friday).

No cap

Unlike under the previous CJRS that expired on October 31, where the number of employees an employer could claim for was capped to the number of employees they had claimed for previous to June 2020, there is now no maximum number of employees an employer can claim for.

And a recap of what we already knew:

  • Extended CJRS will run from November 1 until March 31, 2021
  • For claim periods up to January 2021 the government will pay up to 80% (£2,500 per month) for hours not worked. The percentage contribution from the government will be reviewed for February and March 2021 and may change.
  • Employers can claim for employees who were employed on October 30, 2020 and the employer had made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC by 23:59 on October 30, 2020.
  • Employers don’t have to have claimed furlough before.
  • Flexi furlough will continue to operate. Hours worked are paid as normal by the employer and furloughed hours are subject to the cap above.
  • Employees can be furloughed (but don’t have to be) if they are shielding or need to stay at home with someone who is shielding.
  • Employees that were on the payroll on September 23, 2020 and who were made redundant or stopped working for their employer after that date can be re-employed and claimed for.

All in all the extended CJRS is greatly welcomed and is obviously more generous than the scheme ending on October 31.

However, the scheme is likely to taper down in government contribution as previously and moreover it may be too late for employers who have had to make difficult decisions having been told quite categorically by the chancellor in the summer that the furlough scheme would not be extended.