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The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) portal opens today

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Mercer & Hole’s latest update: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) portal opens today (20 April 2020), the claim period has been extended to 30 June 2020 and there is updated guidance for employer claims.

HMRC have been busy behind the scenes on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).  On Friday 17 April 2020 they confirmed that the portal via which employers will be able to submit grant claims under the CJRS will open on 20 April 2020. In addition, it was also announced that the scheme will be open for an extended period beginning on 1 March and ending on 30 June 2020 (previously 31 May 2020). This is a total of four months and some updates to the main original guidance and some new guidance were also issued.

In relation to the submission of claims, applicants are encouraged not to call HMRC with queries but to direct these to their appointed agents or to use the web chat service to keep lines free for urgent matters.

HMRC emphasises in the guidance that payments may be withheld or need to be repaid in full if the claim is based on inaccurate information or found to be fraudulent. To strengthen the message, they have also put in place an online portal where employees and the public will be able to report concerns in relation to how the CRJS rules are being applied by employers.

What is in the updated guidance?

HMRC have created a step by step guide for employers and online calculator to help with applications, please find the calculator link here. The guidance goes through what information the employer will need to hand to make claims, noting that they should not commence the claim process before collating this as sessions will time out after 30 minutes.

This is an important point to note, there will be no ability to print out and check the claim before submission or make changes to submitted claims and so accuracy when entering the data will be important.  Once submitted, a confirmation number will be presented on screen which users are advised to note down or use a print screen option to capture.

Those intending to submit claims are referred to the new guidance on how to work out the quantum of the claim (please see below) as well as the guide to checking if they can claim through the scheme.

How to quantify the claim

The most significant update is the guidance on how to work out the claim which provides helpful examples of a number of common scenarios and how to calculate the 80% figure.  Amounts an employer can claim for are to be calculated on a daily basis for the furlough period if this is less than the total pay interval.

The guide explains what sums are to be taken into account as reference salary (generally anything contractual) and which are to be excluded (primarily discretionary payments such as tips, etc.).

There appear to be some complications in relation to holiday pay.  There is long awaited confirmation that staff on furlough can take holiday during that period, however, the result of this is that the employer must then top up the wages to full normal rate pay.

There may also be some thought required by employers who had furloughed staff over the Easter period as there are additional provisions in relation to bank holidays.  The guidance in this respect states that:

If an employee usually works bank holidays then the employer can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If the employee usually takes the bank holiday as leave then the employer would either have to top up their usual holiday pay or give the employee a day of holiday in lieu’.

Employers wishing to avoid additional top up payments may be more likely to opt for the -provision of days off in lieu.

And finally

Many employers will be relieved that the portal is available and payments should be made within six days of claim.  Despite some of the complicated calculations that may be required, HMRC have included in the guidance the following reassuring comment:

Choose the calculation you think best fits the way your employee is paid. For example, if you pay your employee a regular salary, use the calculation for fixed pay amounts. HMRC will not decline or seek repayment of any grant based solely on the particular choice of pay calculation, as long as a reasonable choice of approach is made.

Please see below links to key HMRC guides in relation to the CRJS

Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Work out 80% of your employees’ wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers

For further information and questions relating to The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme portal please get in touch with your usual Mercer & Hole contact or one of our partners.

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