In the Budget the government clarified the regulations for hopefully the final phase of the furlough scheme
The Government’s contribution to employees’ wages remains at 80% for hours not worked up to a cap of £2,500 a month but only to the end of June 2021. Employers will be required to contribute to wages for hours not worked, specifically, 10% from July 2021 and 20% in August and September 2021.
The Budget announcement has not been the only recent development in relation to the furlough scheme.
There has been long standing concern about furlough fraud. HMRC says that over 1,900 reports have been made to its fraud hotline and the first arrests for furlough fraud have already been made. Furlough fraud is described by Protect, the whistleblowing charity previously known as Public Concern at Work, as the fastest emerging issue it has dealt with in its history. Key fraudulent activity includes organisations telling furloughed staff to continue to work or claiming for working members of staff without their knowledge.
There have been two recent developments to increase transparency and to deter fraudulent claims. Firstly, employers’ furlough claim information, for claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, is now made public and published by HMRC.
Initially, a list of employer names were published (on 26 January 2021) but on 25 February 2021, HMRC published employer names, company number and the value of the claim within a banded range (there are 14 bands). The information will be published monthly. Claim details will not be published where employers are able to provide evidence to HMRC that publishing would result in a serious risk of violence or intimidation.
Secondly, HMRC has improved the information available to furloughed employees by including details of claims made for them in their Personal Tax Account for claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020.
On 5 January 2021, updated Government Guidance was published. It confirmed that employers can furlough employees if they are unable to work or are working reduced hours because of caring responsibilities due to COVID-19. Caring responsibilities include caring for children who are at home because of the closure of schools or childcare facilities and caring for a vulnerable individual in the household.
KEY POINTS covering the latest regulations
- The furlough scheme is extended to 30 September 2021 and continues to apply across the UK. Flexible furlough is permitted and employers can furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern.
- The Government will continue to pay employees 80% of their salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month to the end of June 2021. Employers will be required to contribute to wages for hours not worked, specifically, 10% from July 2021 and 20% in August and September 2021 essentially the same rules as summer 2020.
- Employers cannot claim for furlough pay for individuals serving notice periods between 1 December 2020 and 30 April 2021 and this includes contractual and statutory notice periods. This provision covers notice periods as a result of retirement or resignation, not just redundancies. Notice pay must be at 100% of pre-furlough pay. A new Treasury Direction in due course will extend the date to 30 September 2021.
- All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes can claim the grant. Employers need to fund NICs and pension contributions.
- An employer can claim for employees who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020 provided they have made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee. This may differ where an employer has re-employed an employee after 23 September 2020.
- Employees that were employed, and on the payroll on 23 September 2020 who were made redundant or stopped working afterwards can be re-employed and claimed for. However, there are significant legal and practical implications of re-hiring (as well as cost implications) and employers should obtain advice before making any decision to re-hire.
- Where consistent with employment law, any flexible furlough or furlough agreement made retrospectively that has effect from 1 November 2020 will be valid for the purposes of making a claim. Only retrospective agreements put in place up to and including the 13 November 2020 may be relied on for the purposes of a claim. Updated Guidance reiterates that the agreement must be consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws and employers should keep a written record of the agreement for five years. Remember it is vital to get written consent from an employee to agree to go on furlough.
- Claims for furlough days in February 2021 must be made by 15 March 2021.
For further help and guidance on furlough issues or any other HR issues please contact me at https://www.ukemploymentlawadvice.co.uk/contact