Guidance on the Job Retention BonusPublished on: 16 October 2020
On 8 July 2020, the Chancellor announced that employers will be paid a £1,000 Job Retention Bonus (“JRB”) for each employee they bring back from furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) and continuously employ through to January 2021. The Chancellor advised that, for businesses to be eligible for the bonus, the employee must be paid at least £520 on average in each month from November 2020 to the end of January 2021 (equivalent to the national insurance lower earnings limit).
The government published a policy paper on the JRB on 31 July 2020 that provided further detail on the JRB and advised that further guidance would be published by the end of September 2020. In fact, the guidance was published on 2 October, in the form of claim guidance and minimum income threshold guidance.
On the same day, the Treasury published its fourth direction on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) (dated 1 October 2020). Treasury directions set out formal, legally binding rules as to how the CJRS operates. The fourth direction modifies the CJRS to establish the JRB. It also confirms that all CJRS claims must be made no later than 30 November 2020.
The claim guidance advises that employers are eligible to claim a JRB in respect of an employee if they have furloughed the employee and made an eligible claim under the CJRS.
The fourth Treasury direction states that a qualifying employer for the purposes of the JRB is one who has:
- A PAYE scheme registered on HMRC’s real time information (RTI) system for PAYE.
- Made a CJRS claim in respect of an employee.
- Delivered the required information to HMRC.
The required information is the PAYE information for relevant payments made by the employer in the period beginning on 6 April 2020 and ending on 5 February 2021.
Employers can still claim if they have made a claim for the employee through the [Job Support Scheme] (JSS).
However, the claim guidance states that employers cannot claim the JRB where they:
- Have repaid the full CJRS grant to HMRC, regardless of the reason.
- Made an incorrect CJRS claim in respect of the employee and they were not eligible under that scheme.
Further, no JRB claim may be made “if it is abusive or is otherwise contrary to the exceptional purposes” of the CJRS or the JRB.
Employers can claim the JRB in respect of employees who:
- Were previously furloughed and an eligible claim under the CJRS was made in respect of them.
- Were continuously employed from the end of the last CJRS claim period the employer made in respect of them until 31 January 2021.
- Are not serving a contractual or statutory notice period in respect of the termination of their employment on 31 January 2021. (The guidance states that this includes employees serving notice of retirement, and on the face of the wording of the Treasury direction it includes notice for any reason, whether provided by the employer or the employee.)
- Meet the minimum income threshold.
Claim can be made in respect of individuals who are not employees, such as office holders or agency workers, as long as there was a claim under the CJRS in respect of them and the other eligibility criteria of the JRB are met.
Minimum income threshold
Employees must have been paid a total of at least £1,560 gross during the three relevant tax months:
- 6 November to 5 December 2020.
- 6 December 2020 to 5 January 2021.
- 6 January to 5 February 2021.
Employees must have been paid at least one payment of taxable earnings (of any amount) in each of the relevant tax months.
The minimum income threshold criteria apply regardless of:
- How often an employer pays its employees.
- Any circumstances that may have reduced an employee’s pay in the relevant tax periods, such as being on statutory leave or unpaid leave.
Only payments included as taxable pay will count towards the minimum income threshold. Taxable pay is the amount reported to HMRC through Full Payment Submissions via RTI. HMRC will check the information submitted through RTI to ensure that employees claimed for have been paid at least the minimum income threshold.
Further guidance on whether an employee will meet the minimum income threshold is set out in the minimum income threshold guidance, which includes examples of different employee scenarios.
The claim guidance advises that employers may be eligible to claim under the JRB for employees of a previous business who transferred to them where:
- The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) applied to the transfer.
- The PAYE business succession rules applied.
- The employees were associated with the transfer of a business from the liquidator of a company in compulsory liquidation where TUPE would have applied had the company not been in compulsory liquidation.
- The employer claiming the JRB furloughed and successfully claimed for the employee under the CJRS as their new employer, and the employee meets all the eligibility criteria for the JRB.
An employer can therefore not claim the JRB for any employees who transfer to it after the CJRS closes on 31 October 2020.
How to claim
Employers will be able to make a claim for the JRB between 15 February and 31 March 2021.
The claim guidance states that it will be updated by the end of January 2021 with details of how employers can access the online claim service on gov.uk.
Before employers can claim the JRB, they will need to:
- Have reported all payments made to the relevant employees between 6 November 2020 and 5 February 2021 through RTI.
- Still be enrolled for PAYE online.
- Comply with their obligation to file PAYE accurately and on time under RTI reporting for all employees between 6 April 2020 and 5 February 2021.
- Keep their payroll up to date and make sure that they report the leaving date for any employees who stop working for them before the end of the pay period that they leave in.
- Use the irregular payment pattern indicator in RTI for any employees not being paid regularly.
- Comply with all requests from HMRC to provide any employee data for past CJRS claims.
When will payment be received?
No information has been provided as yet of how quickly HMRC will process claims. However, the claim guidance states that if HMRC are still checking an employer’s CJRS claims, it can still claim the JRB, but payment may be delayed until after those checks are completed.
Who keeps the payment?
The guidance makes it clear that employers do not have to pay the JRB over to the employee – and, indeed, the indication from the outset has been that JRBs are intended to be paid for the benefit of businesses and that they will therefore indirectly benefit employees by supporting their employer, as opposed to it being intended that they are to be passed on to employees.
Employers must include payments they receive under the scheme as income when calculating their taxable profits for income tax and corporation tax purposes. However, individuals with employees that are not employed as part of a business (such as nannies or other domestic staff) will not have to pay tax on JRBs.