Updated: 2 November 2020
As the COVID-19 situation evolves across the country on a daily basis, the rules underpinning Government support to employers changes at regular intervals. The Job Support Scheme, being the replacement for the Job Retention Scheme, was originally due to commence on 1 November 2020 and last fox six months.
This commencement date has been postponed until at least early December 2020 as a result of the extension of the Job Retention Scheme which mirrors the 4-week lockdown period in England commencing on 5 November 2020
The Job Support Scheme was first announced on 24 September 2020 as part of the #wintereconomyplan. Significant changes to the planned operation of the Job Support Scheme were made on 22 October 2020 with policy papers and guidance being published at the same time for the two derivations of the Job Support Scheme.
We expect further updates to guidance to be published before the Job Support Scheme starts when the extended Job Retention Scheme ends.
This article is based on guidance that was available on 22 October 2020 and is subject to change as further details are released.
In broad summary:
- The Job Support Scheme is targeted towards viable jobs; aiming to protect income of employees, limit unemployment and help in the future economic recovery;
- To be eligible under the Job Support Scheme:
- An employer (which does not include organisations with staff costs which are fully publicly funded) must have a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme registered on or before 23 September 2020 with an RTI submission made on/before this date;
- An employee must have been in the employment of the employer on 23 September 2020 with an RTI full payment submission notifying payment to that employee being made to HMRC at some point in the period from 6 April 2019 to 23 September 2020. A grant under the Job Support Scheme cannot be claimed for an employee who has been made redundant or serving a contractual or statutory notice period. There are special rules for any employee who ceased employment after 23 September but who is then re-hired.
- The Job Support Scheme is split into the Job Support Scheme Open, being the format previously announced and which is aimed at those employers facing reduced demand and so needing extra support and the Job Support Scheme Closed, being the new format for those employers who are legally required to close their premises;
- The calculation of the capped reference salary and usual working hours under the Job Support Scheme broadly follows the rules established under the Job Retention Scheme, albeit introducing into the mix the period to 23 September 2020 for different calculations. Further guidance is promised on this;
- Employer’s with 250 or more employees on 23 September 2020 will need to meet a Financial Impact Test to show they have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and a working employee test if they are to be the Job Support Scheme Open eligible. Guidance recommends no capital distributions be made whilst claiming grants under the Job Support Scheme;
- A claim under the Job Support Scheme Open can be made only from the later of the date that the employee starts to work the reduced hours under the Job Support Scheme Open or the date when the working reduced hours is confirmed in writing. Employers will need to be aware of this given the imminent 1 November start date and the prospect that further guidance on what needs to be included in the written agreement is still to be issued;
- Claims may be made monthly in arrears and cannot overlap. The claim system is due to open on 8 December 2020. We would expect the Job Retention Scheme mechanism to be adapted for this purpose, particularly as the last date for making a claim under the Job Retention Scheme is 30 November 2020; and
- The amounts claimed under the Job Support Scheme Open and the Job Support Scheme Closed for an eligible employee differ slightly per the following table:
Clearly the devil remains in the detail but employer’s will need to start thinking now how the the Job Support Scheme may be used and whether, if the the Job Support Scheme Open scheme is applicable, is it affordable given the underlying cost not to be met by the Government.