On 10 November 2020, the Government made important updates to its numerous guidance documents covering the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”). As we reported last week, the CJRS, which was originally planned to end on 31 October 2020, has now been extended until 31 March 2020. Between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021, the Government will pay 80% of wages for hours not worked (capped at £2,500 per month). The contribution levels will be reviewed in January 2021.
The updated guidance documents are detailed and complex. We would urge any employers who may need advice on them to get in touch.
We have summarised the most significant new points below:
1. The extended CJRS is available for employees who were employed on 30 October 2020 as well as those who were made redundant or stopped working for you on or after 23 September 2020 but whom you then rehired.
2. Employers do not need to have claimed previously for employees in order to claim for periods from 1 November 2020.
3. Flexible furlough is still permitted – employees can work for different hours and under a different pattern with employers still claiming for the hours not worked.
4. There is no maximum number of employees that an employer can claim for from 1 November 2020 (under the existing scheme, employers could only claim for the number of employees they had claimed for before June 2020).
5. Employers will still need to obtain employees’ consent in the usual way before putting them on furlough. However, employers can agree retrospectively to furlough employees from 1 November 2020. Note that any such retrospective agreement needs to have been made by Friday 13 November 2020.
6. In relation to claims for employees whose roles have been made redundant, the “Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the CJRS” guidance states that: “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 published in late November.” This implies that the rules around use of the CJRS to contribute to the costs of employees’ notice periods are about to change. Employers will need to bear this in mind if they are about to make dismissals as it is likely that notice will need to be served before 1 December 2020 for there to be any prospect of those costs being covered under the CJRS.
7. Finally, the Job Retention Bonus (“JRB”) will no longer be paid in February 2021. The Government has said that the purpose of the JRB was “to encourage employers to keep people in work until the end of January…as the CJRS is now being extended to 31 March 2021, the policy intent of the JRB no longer applies” and that “a retention incentive will be deployed at the appropriate time”. We do not yet know what that retention incentive will look like.