Key policy objectives of the scheme
Overall objective is to keep people at home while enabling employers to retain staff who will be needed when they begin to rebuild their businesses in the future. This will enable work to begin again with a critical core who have the necessary knowledge.
Rules as outlined in official statements released as at 26 March 2020
- Furloughed members of staff must not work for the employer during the period of furlough.
- Furlough is from 1 March 2020, so is to be backdated. It will last for at least 3 months and will be extended if necessary. Note that while the scheme is backdated to the beginning of March as it is intended to support all those employed then, a firm will only be eligible to claim the grant once they have agreed the furlough with their staff and staff have stopped working for the employer. This will of course be subject to employment law in the usual way.
- The scheme is available for employees on the payroll at 28 February 2020.
- All UK businesses are eligible, ‘any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit’ to use the Chancellor’s words.
- The scheme pays a grant (not a loan) to the employer.
- The grant will be paid to the employer through a new online system which is being built for this purpose. There is no detail about the application process at the moment.
- The employer will pay the employee through payroll, and report payments to HMRC using the Real Time Information (RTI) system as usual, as required by the employment contract. This contract may be re-negotiated, but that is a matter for employment law.
- The scheme will be administered by HMRC:
• Relevant employees must be designated as furloughed employees.
• Employers will submit claims to HMRC through a new online portal.
• As the system will take time to build, businesses should look to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support cash flow in the meantime. The narrative used in the information released so far says ‘if your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19 they may be able to access support…’. This is a conditional phrase which may relate to existing funds available to the employer. We do not yet know how these might be determined, nor whether there is a bar of some description.
- The maximum grant will be calculated per employee and is the lower of:
• 80% of ‘an employee’s regular wage’ and.
• £2,500 per month.
Plus the associated employers’ national insurance contributions (NIC) on this amount and the minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.
Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.
This gives a maximum cap of £2,500 +£245 (employers’ NIC) + £59 (auto- enrolled pension contribution) = £2,804 of total possible grant that can be applied for per employee per month.