Job retention scheme portal open for business
HMRC has now opened its portal that allows employers to claim grants covering (some) wage costs of employees who have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Initial demand was unsurprisingly high, with an estimated 67,000 claims in the first 30 minutes. Guidance on how to access and use the portal has also been published.
The Government has also continued to update its own guidance on how the CJRS works, with the latest updates having been made late on Friday night, 17 April 2020. However, the guidance is increasingly splintering into different locations, which can make it a challenge to access the most up-to-date information.
For employees, relevant information all remains in one location. Employers, however, should be aware that they need to look at both the main guidance page, but also the separate notes that describe the process of calculating 80% of wages.
HMRC has now provided (for the first time) some guidance on the complex issue of annual leave for employees who have been placed on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Recent updates include:
- Clarification that furloughed employees can take annual leave, with the employer being required to ‘top up’ reduced salary under furlough arrangements to 100% of normal pay for the period of annual leave.However, the guidance still does not cover whether an employer can compel a furloughed employee to take annual leave (by providing the appropriate notice as set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996). The overall principle of furlough seems to be that all other aspects of the employment relationship remain in place while an employee has been placed on furlough, and so it might seem counter-intuitive if an employer could not still require an employee to take leave in the usual way. Legal arguments aside, it will be appreciated that forcing an employee to take leave while the country remains under lockdown is potentially damaging from an employee relations perspective;
- Additional guidance on how and when fixed-term workers can be placed onto a furlough arrangement; and
- A statement that, while there needs to be a written record that an employee has consented to a furlough arrangement, it is not necessarily the case that the employee actually needs to have provided a written response themselves. In practice, though, we would recommend that this is obtained wherever possible.
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