The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) enables employers who are unable to maintain their workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic to furlough their staff and claim a grant of 80% of the employee’s wages to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Employers are also able to claim the associated employer’s National Insurance contributions on the amount claimed, and also the minimum pension contributions that they are required to make under auto-enrolment. The full amount of the grant must be paid over to the furloughed employee, and the employee pays PAYE tax and National Insurance in the usual way. Employers can choose to top up the amount paid to employees to maintain their usual salary but are under no obligation to do so. The money received by the employer is taxable income and is taken into account computing their taxable profits.
Claims can be made by employers who have furloughed staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as they: • created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020; • are enrolled for PAYE online; and • have a UK bank account.
Claims can only be made in respect of furloughed employees. The scheme does not apply to staff who have had their hours and pay reduced. Furloughed employees cannot do any work for the employer while furloughed, although they may be able to work for a different unconnected employer if their contract permits this or work in a self-employed capacity. Only furloughed employees who were on the payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and in respect of whom a PAYE submission had been made by this date are within the scope of the scheme. Employees who were on the payroll as at 28 February 2020 and who were made redundant after that date and before 19 March 2020 can be included in the scheme if the employer re-employs them and furloughs them. The employee does not need to be re-employed by 19 March to be eligible for furlough. The option to furlough an employee is available regardless of what type of contract an employee is on. Thus the scheme can be used to furlough employees on full or part-time contacts and also those on flexible or zero-hours contracts.
Amount of the claim
Employers can claim 80% of a furloughed employee’s wages to a maximum of £2,500 a month. The calculation of the amount which can be claimed will depend on how the employee is paid and whether their pay varies. The claim will be based on the employee’s ‘wages’, which are the regular payments which the employer makes to the employee. It will include non-discretionary overtime, fees and commission, but no discretionary payments. Payments in kind are also excluded. The employer can also claim the associated employer’s National Insurance and minimum pension contributions on the amount of the grant. HMRC have produced a calculator which can be used to work out the amount which can be claimed in respect of a furloughed employee. Claims should be made online via the online portal. Employers should receive the money within six working days.