Government’s Job Retention Scheme is now online

The HMRC portal to reclaim staff salaries under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live yesterday, 20 April 2020, 10 days ahead of schedule. The scheme allows employers to claim 80% of their employees’ wages up to £2,500 a month if they have been placed on furlough leave because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the government’s website, 5000 HMRC staff will operate the scheme in order to help many firms and businesses in accessing the government’s grant. Last week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the scheme will be extended for a further month, until the end of June, to reflect continuing COVID-19 lockdown measures. Amidst media criticism that thousands of workers ‘missed out’ on the scheme, the eligibility date was since extended to 19 March 2020 and as a result it is anticipated that many thousands more workers will now qualify to be furloughed in an attempt to avoid redundancies. However, the change to 19 March 2020 has been widely criticised as it generally only benefits employers and employees who are weekly paid.

It is understood that the scheme has not been without technical glitches, given the extent and the complexity of it, but it is hoped that its early release will assist in identifying and rectifying these glitches.

The portal has a step by step application process manned by HMRC staff, answering phone calls and webchat services to ensure employers can operate the scheme smoothly and effectively.

Given the challenging times ahead for the economy, the extent of the restrictions and its impact on business across the country, the scheme is welcome relief for both employers and employees. In accordance with the scheme, employers can furlough anyone they employ, provided that on or before 19 March 2020 (the previous date was 28 February 2020) they were on PAYE payroll and HMRC has been notified of payment via the RTI system.

In order to make a claim, employers will need the Government Gateway user ID and password, which they should each have received when registering for PAYE online. HMRC has made it clear that during busy periods the service will be operating slower than normal. Once the claim is complete, a claim reference number will be generated. After checking the claim, the HMRC should pay the amount by BACS into the nominated bank account within six working days.

HMRC also announced that employers with less than 100 furloughed staff will be required to enter details of each employee they are claiming for directly onto the system. We understand that this can be laborious. However, employers with over 100 furloughed staff will need to upload a file, rather than directly inputting the information, which needs to include Employee’s full name, National Insurance Number, furlough start date and end date (if known), the full amount claimed and employee’s payroll number (optional). Employers need to keep a record of furloughed employees for five years.

If you need any advice or support in placing your employees on furlough leave or how the scheme operates, please contact our dedicated employment team.

Posted on: 21/04/2020

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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