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Job Support Scheme: What do the October furlough changes mean?

·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the replacement scheme as part of his Winter Economy Plan. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the replacement scheme as part of his Winter Economy Plan. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is coming to an end this month, after subsidising the wages of nearly ten million workers.

Between March and July, the government paid employees 80% of their salary up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,233) per month. It also covered employer’s National Insurance (NI) and pension contributions too.

Since August, the government has gradually reduced the support available - and employers have had to start paying employer’s NI and pension contributions. The furlough programme is coming to an end this month, when it will be replaced by a new Job Support Scheme - which aims to protect “viable” jobs.

So what does this mean for businesses and employees?

“The Job Retention Scheme is coming to an end on 31 October, and in its final month, there are some significant changes to its funding that employers and employees need to be aware of,” says Alan Price, employment law expert and CEO of BrightHR.

When it was first implemented, the scheme was funded entirely by the government. However, since 1 August, the government has contributed less to the scheme, meaning employers have had to put more of their funds into furloughed staff wages to ensure they continue to earn at least 80% of their salary for the time in which they do not work.

“From 1 October, the government will only provide 60% of this payment; employers will need to top up the remaining 20% themselves. They will also need to continue paying employee national insurance and employer pension contributions,” Price says.

“As has been the case since July, furloughed staff can still be asked to return to work on a part-time basis. However, employers need to pay them in full for the hours that they work. They can also be removed from the scheme if the employer deems it necessary, which includes making them redundant.”

Watch: What are the new job support schemes and grants for the self-employed?

What is the Job Support Scheme?

Once the furlough programme ends on 31st October, it will be replaced by a new government-funded system of support - the Job Support Scheme - on 1st November.

“This scheme will be slightly different to the furlough scheme and is designed to support jobs that are not entirely dependent on government funds,” Price explains.

“Under the JRS, employees will work at least one-third of their normal working hours. The government and the employer will then each provide pay for one-third of the number of hours in which they do not work, meaning all employees on the scheme will receive at least 77% of their normal wages. The government’s contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK government unveils 'Winter Economy Plan' to protect jobs and firms

Under the scheme, an employee who normally works five days a week and earns £350 per week will work 40% of normal working hours (two days a week). The percentage of hours lost is 60% (worth £210).

The employer pays £140 for hours worked, as well as a further £70 (one-third of hours lost). The government will pay £70 (one-third of hours lost). The employee will receive £280 in total per week.

“All companies will be eligible to make use of this; however, larger businesses will need to pass specific financial tests. Companies will also not need to have furloughed staff previously,” Price adds. “Employers will be able to claim a reimbursement for employee wages from December 2020 via an online portal.”

The scheme will be open from 1st November 2020 to the end of April 2021.

Additionally, a cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism companies will also be extended until March. The cut from 20% to 5% VAT had been due to expire on 12 January next year.

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