Updated 3 and 4 November 2020
The Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday 31 October of a planned new national lockdown from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December (subject to parliamentary approval) was accompanied by a decision to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for a month to cover the lockdown period, and a consequent delay to the start of the less generous Job Support Schemes originally scheduled to apply from today. The legal framework and guidance have yet to be put in place.
The Treasury’s announcement confirms that the scheme extension is to be based on the August version of the CJRS:
- Flexible furlough is permitted – employees can be fully or partially furloughed and will be paid 80% of their salary for hours not worked (up to a maximum of £2,500).
- Employers will only be required to cover employers’ pension contributions and National Insurance Contributions for hours not worked (and also pay for any hours actually worked); employers can choose to top up pay if they wish.
- All employers with a UK bank account and PAYE scheme will be eligible and they do not need to have used the CJRS previously.
- All employees for whom an RTI submission has been made on or before 30 October will be eligible – there is no need for an employee to have been previously furloughed. Update: HMRC have now stated that employees included on an RTI submission on or before 23 September who subsequently stopped working for their employer can also qualify for the scheme if the employer re-employs them.
- Payment will be upfront as before (although payment for the next few days, while the legal terms of the scheme and the administrative systems are updated, will be in arrears).
- There will be no gap in eligibility for support between the previously announced end-date of CJRS and this extension.
Employers who have taken steps to place employees on the Job Support Scheme, including switching furloughed employees onto that scheme, will need to contact those individuals as soon as possible to ensure that they are covered by the extended CJRS instead. Please do get in touch with your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact for assistance with this.
The new restrictions note that:
- Everyone who can work effectively from home must do so. Where people cannot do so (for instance people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing) they should continue to travel to work/attend their workplace. Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
- The clinically vulnerable and those over the age of 60 are urged to be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise contacts with others. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not only minimise their contacts with others, but also not go to work if they are unable to work from home and may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance. New guidance for these individuals was published on 4 November here with the changes highlighted here and the Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice. Individuals with chronic kidney disease (stage 5), those undergoing dialysis, and adults with Down’s Syndrome have also been added to the list of clinically extremely vulnerable.
The definition of “clinically vulnerable” used in the guidance on the national restrictions originally included all those over 60, rather than 70, for the first time – the tiered restrictions referred to those over 70 as clinically vulnerable. This definition was subsequently amended to revert to 70, but with those over 60 still encouraged to take similar precautions on the basis that they could also be at higher risk of severe illness. This reflects the World Health Organisation’s guidance that COVID-19 is often more severe in people who are older than 60 years. The extension of the advice to those aged 60 and over obviously increases the proportion of the workforce who may have heightened concerns about attending their workplace.