Flurry of Furlough Updates
Sentient Group Ltd
Info Update 2020/22                                                         Issue Date: 20/04/2020
Flurry of Furlough Updates
We had thought that our update on Friday afternoon would be it for the week – well wouldn’t you just know there have been a number of separate updates on Friday evening and over the weekend that contain important information. We have summarised them here. Enjoy!
  • Whilst the start date for employees for whom the 80% can be claimed has been confirmed as 19th March, they must also have had their RTI submitted by then too. In practice, many won’t have done the RTI by then so employers are unlikely to see a claim for those employees paid out. Thus some who were thought to be included now won’t be.
  • The formal Treasury Direction is signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and is THE document.
  • The claims portal is now open (from 5.30am this morning). Anecdotal reports are that some claims have already been paid out, but that some attempts to submit information are having difficulties – no doubt this is a volume of traffic matter so keep trying.
  • HMRC will check claims and withhold payments if claims are “based on dishonest or inaccurate information or found to be fraudulent.” There will be a portal in place for employees and public to report suspected fraud.
  • There is new information advising that Fixed contracts must NOT have ended to claim the grant. “Where a fixed term employee’s contract ends because it is not extended or renewed before its natural conclusion you will no longer be able to claim the grant for them once the contract ends. Fixed term contracts which ended, without extension or renewal, on or before 19 March 2020 will not qualify for the grant once they have ended.”
  • HMRC has updated its statutory payments manual to provide that employees do not qualify for SSP if they are on furlough.
  • Tweaks to SSP regulations Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020. They provide that a person is deemed to be incapable of work if they are unable to work because they fall within the extremely vulnerable category and have been advised to shield. That is they are treated as sick and in accordance with earlier guidance cannot be furloughed at the same time. The Regulations came into force on 16 April and, on first reading, it does not appear they have retrospective effect (unlike some of the other changes to SSP). Having said this, HMRC guidance makes it possible for an employee who is ‘shielding’ to be furloughed, as an alternative to being classed as absent due to sickness. As indicated above, an employee cannot be both furloughed and absent due to sickness (and in receipt of SSP) at the same time.
  • HMRC has now provided (some) clarity on the vexed issue of taking annual leave while on furlough. They have done it by updating the Employees' Guidance, but (at the time of writing) not the Employer's Guidance. The Employee's Guidance now states that it is possible to take annual leave while on furlough, with the employer having to 'top up' to 100% of normal pay. It is silent on whether an employer can compel an employee to take annual leave while on furlough, thus depleting their holiday entitlement at the government's expense BUT, as it remains unclear, it will be a risk to compel employees to take annual leave whilst on Furlough Leave until there is definitive Guidance for Employers on this.
  • Slightly ominously, the Guidance concludes this section by saying: "During this unprecedented time, we are keeping the policy on holiday pay during furlough under review."

We will keep our eye and ears open for further changes this week.
The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of the law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.
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