Most of the information below has been taken directly from the UK government website and updated as at 16th April 2020.
How much you can claim
You’ll need to claim for:
- 80% of your employees’ wages (even for employee’s on National Minimum Wage) – up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Do not claim for the worker’s previous salary.
- Employer National Insurance contributions that are paid on the subsidised furlough pay.
Employer pension contributions that are paid on the subsidised furlough pay, up to the level of the minimum automatic enrolment employer contribution. The maximum level of grant for employer pension contributions on subsidised furlough pay is set in line with the minimum automatic enrolment employer contribution of 3% on qualifying earnings. Grants for pension contributions can be claimed up to this cap provided the employer will pay the whole amount claimed to a pension scheme for the employee as an employer contribution.
You can choose to top up your employee’s salary, but you do not have to. Employees must not work or provide any services for the business while furloughed, even if they receive a top-up salary.
Grants will be prorated if your employee is only furloughed for part of a pay period.
Claims should be started from the date that the employee finishes work and starts furlough, not when the decision is made, or when they have written to confirming their furloughed status.
The way you work out your employees’ wages is different depending on what type of contract they’re on, and when they started work.
Full or part-time employees on a salary
Claim for the 80% of the employee’s salary, as in their last pay period prior to 19 March 2020.
If, based on previous guidance, you have calculated your claim based on the employee’s salary as at 28 February 2020 (and this differs from their salary in their last pay period prior to 19 March 2020) you can choose to still use this calculation for your first claim.
Employees whose pay varies
If the employee has been employed for 12 months or more, you can claim the highest of either the:
- same month’s earning from the previous year
- average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year
If the employee has been employed for less than 12 months, claim for 80% of their average monthly earnings since they started work until the date they are furloughed.
If they have been employed for less than a month, work out a pro-rata for their earnings so far, and claim for 80%.
Past Overtime, Fees, Commission, Bonuses and non-cash payments
You can claim for any regular payments you are obliged to pay your employees. This includes wages, past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments. However, discretionary bonus (including tips) and commission payments and non-cash payments should be excluded.
Benefits in Kind and Salary Sacrifice Schemes
The reference salary should not include the cost of non-monetary benefits provided to employees, including taxable Benefits in Kind. Similarly, benefits provided through salary sacrifice schemes (including pension contributions) that reduce an employee’s taxable pay should also not be included in the reference salary.
All the grant received to cover an employee’s subsidised furlough pay must be paid to them in the form of money. No part of the grant should be netted off to pay for the provision of benefits or a salary sacrifice scheme.
Where the employer provides benefits to furloughed employees, including through a salary sacrifice scheme, these benefits should be in addition to the wages that must be paid under the terms of the Job Retention Scheme.
Normally, an employee cannot switch freely out of a salary sacrifice scheme unless there is a life event. HMRC agrees that COVID-19 counts as a life event that could warrant changes to salary sacrifice arrangements, if the relevant employment contract is updated accordingly.
Employer National Insurance and Pension Contributions
You’ll still need to pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees, and you can claim for these too.
You cannot claim for:
- additional National Insurance or pension contributions you make because you chose to top up your employee’s salary
- any pension contributions you make that are above the mandatory employer contribution
Apprenticeship Levy and Student Loans
Both the Apprenticeship Levy and Student Loans should continue to be paid as usual. Grants from the Job Retention Scheme do not cover these.
National Minimum Wage
Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW)/ Apprentices Minimum Wage (AMW) for the hours they are working or treated as working under minimum wage rules. This means that furloughed workers who are not working can be paid the lower of 80% of their salary or £2,500 even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below their appropriate minimum wage. However, time spent training is treated as working time for the purposes of the minimum wage calculations and must be paid at the appropriate minimum wage, taking into account the increase in minimum wage rates from 1 April 2020. As such, employers will need to ensure that the furlough payment provides sufficient monies to cover these training hours. Where the furlough payment is less than the appropriate minimum wage entitlement for the training hours, the employer will need to pay the additional wages to ensure at least the appropriate minimum wage is paid for 100% of the training time.
Where a furloughed worker is paid close to minimum wage levels and asked to complete training courses for a substantial majority of their usual working time, employers are recommended to seek independent advice or contact Acas.
Returning from statutory leave
Statutory leave includes maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave, sick leave and parental bereavement leave.
In line with other employees, claims for full or part-time employees furloughed on return from statutory leave should be calculated against their salary, before tax, not the pay they received whilst on statutory leave.
Claims for those on variable pay, returning from statutory leave should be calculated using either the:
- same month’s earning from the previous year
- average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year.
Once you have calculated the claim for each employee, you are ready to make your claim. See this post on how to make the claim with HMRC.