In his Spring 2021 Budget, the Chancellor announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will be extended for a further five months from May until the end of September 2021.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the scheme – which pays 80% of employees’ wages for the hours they cannot work in the pandemic – would help millions through “the challenging months ahead”.
Key Highlights Announced by the Chancellor
- Employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.
- There will be no employer contributions beyond National Insurance contributions (NICs) and pensions required in April, May and June.
- From July, the government will introduce an employer contribution towards the cost of unworked hours. This will be 10% in July and 20% in August and September.
- For periods ending on or before 30 April 2021, employers can claim for employees if they were employed on or before 30 October 2020, as long as they have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020. This may differ if employees were made redundant, or they stopped working for the employer on or after 23 September 2020 and were then re-employed by the employer.
- For periods on or after 1 May 2021, employers can claim for employees if they were employed on 2 March 2021, as long as they have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021.
Do employers need to enter into fresh furlough agreements with employees from 1 May 2021?
As a result of the CJRS being extended to 30 September 2021, there will be several potential scenarios for Employers to consider, including:
- An employee who was already furloughed before 30 April 2021 under an agreement without an end date.
- An employee who was not already furloughed under the CJRS.
An employee who was already furloughed before 30 April 2021 under an agreement without an end date
Where an employee was furloughed under a written furlough agreement entered into before 31 October 2020 which remains in force, it may be possible for the previous furlough arrangement to simply continue after that date.
The requirements of a valid furlough agreement under the fifth Treasury direction are the same as previously under the third Treasury direction (see paragraph 7.1, fifth Treasury direction) and at this time there is no requirement for the agreement to be entered into on or after 1 November 2020. The only requirement is that it is entered into before the period to which the claim relates (paragraph 7(c)(i)). Assuming the eligible employer and qualifying employee requirements continue to be met (which also remain substantially the same under the fifth Treasury direction, see paragraphs 4 and 6), it may be possible for furlough to continue under a previous furlough agreement.
However, it is likely that some amendment will be required to most furlough agreements in order for the arrangement to continue after 30 April 2021.
An employee who was not already furloughed under the CJRS
As the employee was not furloughed previously, the employer should enter into a detailed furlough agreement with the employee and the employee should be asked to sign and return the agreement to confirm their agreement to be furloughed in accordance with the terms of the CJRS. This could be done electronically.
The agreement should be made before the CJRS period to which it relates starts.
What About Self-Employed Workers?
The Chancellor announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is also being extended with a fourth grant covering the period February to April 2021 and a fifth and final grant covering May to September 2021.
There will be temporary continuation of tax exemptions for COVID-19 tests and home office expenses, and of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme while sickness levels remain high.
Advice & Guidance for Employers & Employees
The COVID-19 restrictions continue to present numerous and complex challenges for Employers and Employees alike. If you are experiencing challenges and require specialists advice, book a free consultation with our team of employment law specialists.