Q. I want to Furlough some of my employees under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the “Scheme”). Is there a process I need to follow to furlough employees?
A. You should initially discuss with employees your intention to offer Furlough to them. As you are seeking a temporary variation to their existing terms of employment you need their express agreement. When making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way so you should have sound business reasons for who you select to be furloughed.
To be eligible for the grant you should then write to the selected employees confirming that they have been furloughed and keep a record of this communication.
Q. What information do I need to have to make a Furlough pay claim via the HMRC portal?
A. To claim, you will need:
- your ePAYE reference number;
- the number of employees being furloughed;
- the claim period (start and end date);
- amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 weeks);
- your bank account number and sort code;
- your contact name; and
- your phone number.You will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.The government will be issuing more guidance on how you should calculate your claims for Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions, before the scheme becomes live.
Q. When can we expect the HMRC portal to go live?
A. The portal is under construction currently, but it is proposed that it will be live before the end of April 2020.
Q. Once I have made an application via the portal what happens next?
A. Once HMRC have received your claim and you are eligible for the grant, HMRC will pay it via BACS payment to a UK bank account.
You should make your claim in accordance with actual payroll amounts at the point at which you run your payroll or in advance of an imminent payroll.
You must pay the employee all the grant you receive for their gross pay, no fees can be charged from the money that is granted. You can choose to top up the employee’s salary, but you do not have to.\
Q. I have employees employed on a variety of contracts, will they all be entitled to be furloughed?
A. The following types of contract will be included in the Scheme:
- full-time employees;
- part-time employees;
- employees on agency contracts; and
- employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.
Q. How do I calculate salaries of employees whose pay varies?
A. If the employee has been employed for a full twelve months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either:
- the same month’s earning from the previous year; or
- average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.
If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.
If the employee only started in February 2020, use a pro-rata for their earnings so far to claim. Q. What about staff that are on or near minimum wage?
A. Furloughed employees are only entitled to the minimum wage for the hours they work. So if they are furloughed and do not work, and 80% of their normal earnings would take them below the minimum wage based on their normal working hours, they still only receive 80% as they are not working. However, they are entitled to be paid NMW for any time spent training.
Q. So my employees can still undertake training?
A. The employee must not be working at all. However, they are able to undertake training and do volunteer work, provided they do not provide services to or make any money for you. If they were to work for as little as an hour in an entire three-week furlough period, for example they are not eligible.
Q. What is the minimum and maximum periods of time I can Furlough employees for?
A. Furlough leave must be taken in minimum blocks of three weeks to be eligible for funding under the Scheme. There is nothing in the guidance which prohibits rotating furlough leave amongst employees, provided each employee is off for a period of at least three weeks. This could help you if you have a reduction in work (e.g. professional services) and not a situation where there is no work at all (e.g. hospitality). You could rotate furlough leave on a 3-week cycle between employees to ensure fairness of salary reduction. There is no maximum period for furlough; the initial 3-month period envisaged runs from 1st March 2020 but will likely be extended if required.
- Please note – this guidance is not intended to be taken as legal advice – for individual situations you will need to take specific legal advice.
- The information in this guide is correct as of 27th March 2020.
- All advice given should be read alongside the Government Guidance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme We are all ready and able to help you if you have a query.Marie WalshDirector, Employment Solicitor and Mediator
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