Covid 19 – Employment Law Update – 20 April 2020

Furlough online application system launched today

HMRC launched its online application system for employers who have furloughed or plan to furlough employees during the Coronavirus crisis.  HMRC’s Chief Executive Jim Harra told the BBC more than 60,000 businesses applied for relief under the scheme within the first half an hour of the launch of the online system.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said of the scheme this morning, “the clear principle is: you should only be using it if you have to”, although acknowledged again that the scheme was open to all employers. 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Update (CJRS)

HMRC has updated its guidance for employers on the CJRS again. The latest key changes are:

  • Confirmation of extension of CJRS – it is now in place for 4 months starting from 1 March 2020 and may be extended if necessary;
  • HMRC to check for fraudulent claims – HMRC will be conducting fraud checks for claims made through the scheme and payments may be withheld or may need to be repaid in full to HMRC if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information or found to be fraudulent;
  • Expanded guidance on agreeing furlough arrangements with employees – to be eligible for the grant, employers must confirm agreement with the employee in writing;
  • Calculating the amount of the grant to be claimed – the majority of the information relating to calculating the amount that can be claimed has been removed from the previous version of the guidance and is now found in a separate guidance document: ‘Work out 80% of your employees’ wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’;
  • Guidance on holidays and bank holidays – HMRC addresses the issue of taking holidays while being furloughed and confirms employees can take holiday while on furlough and should be paid at the normal rate of pay: Work out 80% of your employees’ wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’;
  • Details needed to make a claim – employers will need to claim via the Government Gateway portal and need the user ID and password they received when they registered for PAYE online: Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’; and
  • Retaining all records and calculations in respect of claims – employers must retain all records and calculations in respect of claims, including records of the amount claimed for each furloughed employee and the period for which each employee is furloughed.

Treasury announces 1.25 billion in relief for start-ups

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the government will create a £500 million investment fund called the Future Fund for firms driving innovation in the UK.  Under the fund, the Government will provide convertible loans of up to £250m for businesses which will be matched by another £250m from private investors.

Data protection and WFH

The Information Commissioner’s Office has provided employers with advice on how to safely use video conferencing technology given many people are working from home for the first time and adapting to new ways of doing their jobs:

New forecast suggests 11 million Britons could be out of work

According to the think tank Resolution Foundation, as many as 11.7 million people could be furloughed or unemployed in the months ahead.