Banner photo for the news story 'COVID Update 15'

As of yesterday, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government will cover 80% of workers' wages for March, April and May if they are put on leave by their employers.

Employers will pay workers and reclaim the money from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at the end of April. They can apply to join the scheme from Monday.

Figures from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) suggest nearly a fifth of smaller firms and half of companies will access this help.

“This extension means that firms will no longer be forced to issue redundancy notices over the next few to days to comply with 45-day consultation requirements, and can instead return to focusing on protecting jobs and their businesses," said CBI boss Dame Carolyn Fairbairn.

If you have made staff redundant since 19 March, your can choose to rehire them under the furlough scheme. But employees hired for the first time after that date are not eligible for it.

Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including for workers who are foreign nationals. But in practice it will mainly be private sector businesses and charities that make a claim.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees, and still continue their training. And an individual can furlough an employee, such a nanny, but only if they are paid through PAYE.

Can staff still claim sick pay?

Anyone placed on furlough has the same employment rights as before. If they are ill, they are eligible for statutory sick pay and can be placed on furlough when they recover.

The government will only cover up to 80% of a worker's core salary. That cannot include any bonus or commission payments. It will also cover the minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions made by an employer, and their staff’s National Insurance contributions.

If the wages that you pay a staff member differ from month to month, your company should base their salary either on what they earned in the same month the year before, or on their average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year, whichever is higher.

Employers do not have to top up salaries that no longer reach the minimum wage.

PLEASE NOTE: Staff cannot do any work for you if they have been furloughed.

Of course, many firms haven't furloughed staff but have asked them to work reduced hours for reduced pay, which they will have to fund as normal.

Companies are under no obligation to keep on any employees when they stop receiving furlough, although they cannot use these payments to subsidise redundancy packages.

The scheme currently runs until 1 June, and the government has indicated it will be extended beyond that if necessary.

The hope is that by the time furlough ends, restrictions will have been lifted and businesses will be able to stand on their own two feet and start paying full salaries.

For further information, please use the following link:

Please stay safe and well, we are here if we can be of help.