Extension to the CJRS

On 31 October 2020, HM Treasury announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ("CJRS"), which was due to come to an end that day, would be extended until December in order to provide support to businesses and employees during the new national lockdown due to begin on Thursday 5 November.

The level of support available under the extended scheme mirrors that available under the CJRS in August: for hours not worked by an employee, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a maximum of £2,500, with employers paying employer NICs and minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Flexible furloughing is still allowed, as well as full-time furloughing.

The Job Support Scheme, which was scheduled to come into effect on 1 November, has been postponed until the CJRS ends.

An HM Treasury press release outlines the eligibility rules governing the extended CJRS. It states that neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the CJRS, and that the scheme is available in respect of employees who were on the employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 on 30 October 2020.

Employers can claim the grant for the hours that their employees are not working, calculated by reference to their usual hours worked in a claim period. When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, employers need to report and claim for a minimum period of seven consecutive calendar days.

The press release states that employers are still “able to choose” to top up wages above the scheme grant at their own expense if they wish. Employers should remember, however, that without a valid contractual agreement (whether pre-existing or newly agreed) allowing them to reduce pay, it will be their obligation, and not a matter of choice, to continue to pay furloughed employees in full.

The government will confirm shortly when claims can first be made in respect of employee wage costs during November, but states that there will be no gap in eligibility for support between the previously announced end date of CJRS and the extension.