All information contained on this site is believed to be correct at the time of going to press though it is advised that no direct reliance is placed solely on this website and that employers and individuals take advice from their usual legal advisor prior to taking any action.

The government has laid out unprecedented new measures to protect individuals during the Coronavirus pandemic. On Friday 23 March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced temporary measures to maintain jobs and the UK economy, these announcements came on top of announcements previously made.

The key measures announced are as follows:

New Coronavirus Job retention scheme for employers (businesses and charities). This means that 80% of salaries are covered via HMRC grants with effect from 1 March 2020 for individual salaries of up to £2,500 per month. The grants service will initially last for three months and there is no limit on the amounts the government will provide to support jobs. The aim of the grants are for employers to keep their workers on and use the grants, rather than laying them off.

When and how will this be available?

To access the scheme, employers will need to:

  • Designate affected employees as furloughed workers, and notify employees of this change
  • Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal
  • HMRC will set out further details on the information required.

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The department is setting up a new system for reimbursement, as existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

Implications of the scheme

The full details of the scheme will not become available until passed into law and there will be teething problems when a plan of this scale is implemented at short notice. While we expect to see the scheme in operation by April, with backdated to 1 March 2020, a lot of questions remain unanswered:

  • How do employers calculate normal pay for hourly paid workers who are furloughed?
  • Can company directors be furloughed?
  • If workers have recently been made leavers can this be reversed, and will those employers still be entitled to the retention grant?
  • What data is required to be submitted to HMRC?
  • Will Payroll software require updating?
  • What are the mechanics for making the claim?

When legislation is published, and we have more clarity we will update you and work with you to figure out your business’s best way forward.

What is meant by “Workers Wages Costs”?

While there is no legislation to check, our interpretation is that it is the value of salary before tax is deducted plus the value of employers national insurance and pension contributions. We need clarity on things such as company cars and other benefits.

At present, employers pay 13.8% national insurance on top of wages that exceed £719 a month and if there is a basic workplace pension scheme in place; a further 3% on earnings that fall between £512 and £4,167 a month.

Therefore, an employee with monthly earnings of £2,500 has a total wages costs of £2,805

How will HMRC police the scheme?

A condition of the scheme is that a worker who has been furloughed cannot work for the employer during the period they have been furloughed. This opens up other questions including:

  • How will the government ensure that the furloughed are not working?
  • How will the government test that the wage paid to a furloughed worker is a true reflection of their usual pay?
  • Will there be a change in the information reported to HMRC?

As always as soon as further information is known we will update our guidance.

Requesting Time to Pay

In the current climate of uncertainty businesses are keeping hold of as much cash for as long as they as they can. While normal payroll operations continue, the delay in payment of PAYE and National Insurance to HMRC is a logical step being taken to give your business owners an immediate cash benefit. However, you must speak to HMRC before withholding payment in order to agree terms, known as a time to pay arrangement.

In order to access this facility, you must speak to HMRC first and be prepared to be on hold for a long time Call HMRC on 0800 015 9559 and ask about Time to Pay Scheme

You will need your:

  • Business name and business address
  • PAYE Reference number*
  • Your 13 digit Accounts Office Reference number (sometimes called a collection reference)*
  • The amount you want to delay