03 Dec 2020

On 31 October the Prime Minister announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme) will be extended until December and the Chancellor announced on 5 November that it will be extended until 31 March 2021. This FAQ deals with the changes to the Scheme that apply from 1 November.

A number of guidance documents have been published by HMRC and BEIS to explain the Scheme and how to make a claim. They include:

We are receiving a number of enquiries from clients and have put this document together to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

When will the Scheme end?

It has been extended until 31 March 2021 and will be reviewed in January.

What can employers claim?

From 1 November employers can claim 80% of an employee's usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. It looks like this will apply until 31 January and the employer's contribution may increase for February and March, depending on the economic circumstances at the time.

What will employers have to pay?

Employers will have to pay the cost of employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions, together with holiday pay for any holiday that the employee takes (ie the difference between 80% and 100% of pay).

Can employers top up wages to 100% if they want to?

Employers can continue to top up wages if they wish.

Can employers part furlough employees?

Employers can furlough employees for any amount of time and any work pattern and claim the grant for the hours not worked. This means they can fully or flexibly furlough employees.

Who can employers claim for?

Employers can claim for employees who were employed on 30 October as long as they made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between 20 March and 30 October notifying a payment of earnings for that employee.

Note that employers can only place employees on furlough if COVID-19 is affecting their operations. An employer should not furlough an employee just because they are going to be on paid leave or the employer usually does less business over the festive period. This means that employers will have to be very careful if they are furloughing employees during a Christmas/New Year shutdown.

Can employers re-employ employees they have made redundant and furlough them?

If an employer made an employee redundant or they stopped working for the employer on or after 23 September, the employer can re-employ them and put them on furlough. An RTI submission notifying a payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made between 20 March and 30 October 2020. The employer does not need to have previously claimed for the employee in order to claim for periods from 1 November.

Does the employer have to have previously claimed under the Scheme in order to use it from 1 November?

No, there is no requirement to have previously made a claim under the Scheme.

Do employees have to have been furloughed previously in order to be included in a claim after 1 November?

No. You can furlough an employee for the first time on or after 1 November, provided they were on the payroll at the correct time.

Is there a cap on the number of employees you can claim for from November?

No, the previous cap does not apply.

When can claims be made?

The last day employers can submit or amend claims for periods ending on or before 31 October is 30 November. Employers can claim from 11 November for claim periods starting on or after 1 November. From 1 November claims must be submitted by midnight on the 14th day after the month being claimed for. If this day falls on a weekend or a bank holiday, the claim has to be submitted on the next working day. 

The deadlines for submitting claims relating to days in November 2020 to March 2021 are as below:

Claim for furlough days in

Claim submission deadline

November 2020

14 December 2020

December 2020

14 January 2021

January 2021

15 February 2021

February 2021

15 March 2021

March 2021

14 April 2021

HMRC may accept a claim after the deadline if the employer has a reasonable excuse that prevented them claiming on time, and then claimed without delay after the excuse no longer applied. Reasonable excuses might include, but are not limited to, the following: -

  • Death of a partner or a close relative
  • Unexpected hospital stays
  • Serious illnesses, including COVID-19
  • Self-isolation
  • Computer or software failure, either on the part of the claimant or HMRC's online services
  • Unexpected postal delays
  • Delays related to a disability
  • Fire, flood or theft; and/or
  • HMRC error.

Can claims be amended?

After 1 November, employers will have 28 days after the month the claim relates to in which to amend their claim.

Do you need to agree furlough with employees?

The rules on agreeing furlough are the same as pre-1 November. Furlough agreements need to be put in place before the start of the relevant claim period but an employer should be able to update an earlier furlough agreement. An agreement can be backdated to 1 November if it is made on or before 13 November. This may be useful where an employer re-employs an employee.

What anti-fraud measures is HMRC putting in place?

In February 2021, HMRC will publish on GOV.UK the names of employers that make claims for December, together with the company or LLP registered number and an indication of the amount claimed, unless there is a serious risk of violence or intimidation to individuals. Details of claims will then be published monthly. The value of the claim will be published in bands, starting at £1 to £10,000 and rising to £100,000,001 and above.

Employees will also be able to find out if their employer has claimed a furlough grant for them, as details of any claims starting on or after 1 December 2020 will be made available via their Personal Tax Account on GOV.UK

What about fixed term contracts?

For claim periods from 1 November, if the fixed term contract has not already expired it can be extended or renewed. If the fixed term contract expired on or after 23 September, the employee can be re-employed and furloughed as long as they were employed on 23 September and an RTI submission was made notifying a payment of earnings to them between 20 March and 30 October 2020.

What happens if there's a TUPE transfer?

For claim periods after 1 November, a new employer can claim in respect of employees who transfer to it under TUPE as long as the employees transferred on or after 1 September, were employed by the transferor or transferee on 30 October and were included in an RTI submission made to HMRC by the transferor or transferee between 20 March and 30 October 2020.

Can you make furloughed employees redundant?

You can claim for a furloughed employee who is serving notice up to the end of November. However, from 1 December employers cannot claim for any day that an employee is serving contractual or statutory notice, including for retirement and resignation. This means that if employers need to make redundancies and want to be able to claim for the notice period, it will have to expire before 1 December, which may not be practical.

Can employers furlough clinically extremely vulnerable people?

An employer can furlough someone after 1 November if they are unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or on long term sick leave. They do not need to have been furloughed before in order for the employer to claim.

Can an employer furlough a woman on maternity leave?

An employee can end her maternity leave early by giving her employer at least eight weeks' notice of her return to work. A shorter period of notice can be agreed with the employer. She can be furloughed when the notice ends and she returns to work.

What about the Job Support Scheme and the Job Retention Bonus?

The Job Support Scheme has been postponed, as the Scheme has been extended. The Job Retention Bonus has been deferred as a result of the extension of the Scheme and a new retention incentive scheme will be deployed at a later date.

Government guidance

Employers have many questions about how the extension to the Scheme will work in practice. We will continue to update this document when additional or updated guidance is published.

In the meantime, if you have any queries please get in touch with your usual Womble Bond Dickinson contact.