How does Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme operate?
- Certain workers will become “furloughed workers”.
- Furloughed workers cannot carry out any work for their employer while designated as furloughed, or a linked or associated organisation but they can do voluntary work as long as they are not providing services for or generating revenue for the employer or a linked or associated organisation.
- A furloughed worker can be furloughed part time and work the rest of the time.
- The furlough period begins when the employee stops work, not when agreement is reached.
- If furloughed employees are expected to do online training while furloughed they must receive the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage for the time spent training.
- Workers must be told of and agree to this change in writing. This written agreement must be kept for five years as part of the scheme. The guidance has confirmed that collective agreement reached between an employer and a trade union on furloughing staff is acceptable for the purposes of making a claim under the scheme.
- However it should also be noted that this is a change in status and pay (if pay is not being topped up) and therefore subject to the usual employment law rules on changing terms and conditions.
- Changes to the contract must be made by agreement with the worker and the government guidance is clear that to be eligible for the subsidy employers must document their communication with the employee on being furloughed.
- You must confirm in writing that an employee has been furloughed, but that the employee does not need to provide a written response. Please note that this is for the purposes of making a claim under the scheme. Any reduction in pay must be agreed in writing under normal employment law principles and failure to do so may result in Employment Tribunal claims. You should not rely on a term in the employment contract to effect this change. We can advise you on how to document this properly.
- Employers must also keep a record of the agreement for at least 5 years.
- If employers have collective bargaining arrangements in place, they must agree this change with the union in the usual way.
- Collective consultation obligations may be triggered if there are 20 or more employees that are proposed to be dismissed and re-engaged in order to effect the change to terms to be furloughed. You should take advice if you think this may apply.
Where an employer is proposing to dismiss:
- 100 or more employees at one establishment within a 90-day period, consultation must begin at least 45 days before the first dismissal takes effect
- Between 20 and 99 employees within a 90-day period, consultation must begin at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes effect
- If you are proposing to dismiss less than 20 employees then there are no minimum time limits but you must adhere to a fair process which will involve individual consultation and providing the employee with a right of an appeal
CMA guidance suggests that it will not take enforcement action in respect of agreements which:
- Are appropriate and necessary to avoid a shortage, or ensure security, of supply
- Are clearly in the public interest
- Contribute to the benefit or wellbeing of consumers
- Deal with critical issues that arise as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic
- Last no longer than is necessary to deal with these critical issues
The Government published guidelines on 23 March 2020 concerning house sales.
Estate Agents have been required to close their offices and although staff are allowed to work from home they must not attend properties for any reason.
Therefore, if the property has not yet been put onto the market you will be unable to obtain a proper valuation at present. Also, restrictions on movement means that people must not view properties in person. Therefore you ought to delay marketing.
If you have found a buyer and the property is empty then the transaction can go ahead but you may experience delays in the transaction. For example, if your buyer needs a mortgage there will be a delay in getting a mortgage offer and even if it’s a cash purchase there are likely to be delays with Local Authority Searches.
You should discuss with your conveyancer whether to include special contract conditions. These could take into account what happens if the buyer or someone in the chain falls ill between exchange and completion and cannot move on the anticipated completion date.
If you have exchanged contracts the Government guidelines indicate that the sale of an empty property can go ahead to completion. However, if the contents of the property have not been removed you may have difficulty getting it cleared. Similarly, your buyer or someone else in the conveyancing chain may find that their removers are unable to move them. If this happens, you ought to discuss this with your conveyancer and your buyer as soon as possible to see if completion can be delayed to a later date.
During the Covid 19 crisis lawyers and the courts have had to adapt with hearings being heard remotely and with more electronic communication. It is clear that going forward, some of these changes will become more permanent.
The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, has spoken last week regarding changes to the justice system following the COVID-19 pandemic and we know that there is a significant backlog of work that needs to be processed.
Firstly, 10 sites have been identified for ‘Nightingale courts’ which will allow for better social distancing. The authorities have suggested that it is a possibility that courts will need to stay open for a longer time or at weekends, to increase the number of cases that can be heard safely on any given day. This will enable more cases to be heard in a day and therefore a swifter outcome for your case. The standard of video technology will also continue to improve, with plans for new technology being rolled out across all courts form July onwards. The enhanced use of technology may result in matters being heard more efficiently, decreasing the time spent during each hearing.
HMCTS is working to expand access to audio and video technology to support more and new types of hearings. There has been an increase in the use of new and varying equipment over the lock-down period. With the appropriate systems in place, many more hearings could take place on platforms such as the Cloud Video Platform (CVP). Throughout July, the CVP will be more readily available to Country courts. There will be further hardware rolled out to improve the quality of video hearings, and there will be more efficient methods used to organise video lists.
The increased use and training of CVP means that witnesses and advocates may not need to attend court and could attend the hearing remotely. This will give you increased flexibility, enabling you to attend from your office or home. The CVP is efficient and simple to use, with no complex functions; making it user-friendly. This should make litigation more time and cost effective (albeit that there will be the cultural challenge of having less contact with your legal team or the court experience).
The scheme is being administered by HMRC under a new online portal that has been set up. It applies to businesses, charities, recruitment agencies, individuals who employ a nanny, administrators (where there is a reasonable likelihood of re-hiring the workers) and public authorities.
All employers with a UK payroll can apply as long as you have:
- Created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February 2020
- Enrolled for PAYE online (which can take up to 10 days)
- A UK bank account.
To make a claim you will need:
- The number of employees being furloughed
- The start and end date of the claim
- The name and National Insurance Numbers for each furloughed employee
- Your employer PAYE reference number
- To be registered for PAYE online
- The Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference, Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number as appropriate for your entity
- Your UK bank account details and sort code
- Your name and contact number
- Your organisation’s registered name
- Your organisation’s billing address
- The full amounts you are claiming for including:
- Employee wages
- Employer national insurance contributions
- Employer minimum pension contributions
For claims for those who are flexibly furloughed you will also need:
- the number of usual hours the employee would work during the claim period
- the hours the employee has worked or will work during this period
- you will also need to keep a record of the number of furloughed hours that the employee has or will be furloughed for.
You will need the above information ready before you access the system to make a claim. You will also need to have calculated the amounts claimed in advance as the application needs to be completed in one session. You can currently save one draft of the application and it must be completed within 7 days of starting it.
The Government has issued a step-by-step guide for employers who wish to make a claim under the scheme which can be found using the link below. It contains useful information about calculating the payments claimed. You will need to register for a Government Gateway ID and password if you do not yet have one in order to access the portal.
If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf. If you use a file only agent (who files your RTI return but doesn’t act for you on any other matters) they won’t be authorised to make a claim for you and you will need to make the claim yourself. A file only agent can assist you in obtaining the information required to make a claim (listed above). If an agent makes a claim on your behalf you will need to tell them which bank account you would like the grant to be paid into.
For claims for fewer than 100 employees you will need to input the details separately for each employee. If claiming for more than 100 employees you can upload a file with the information instead. The file should include the following information for each furloughed employee: name, National Insurance number, claim period and claim amount, payroll/employee number (optional). You will also need to include details of hours normally worked, actual hours worked and hours furloughed for those who are flexibly furloughed.
The need to demonstrate the impact of coronavirus on your business is not one of the criteria listed above about who can make a claim, so the government does not appear to intend to set a specific test to determine if a business is “severely impacted by coronavirus”. You are not required to explain the impact of Coronavirus on your business when submitting your claim.
HMRC will retain the right to audit any claim retrospectively. You must keep records for 6 years including:
- the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
- the claim reference number
- you calculations for each claim
- details of hours usually worked and hours actually worked for flexibly furloughed employees.
You must tell your employees that you have made a claim under the scheme, and you must continue to pay their wages during this time.