The Government published a further Treasury Direction (TD) on Friday 2 October 2020 along with accompanying guidance. This TD sets out the legal basis for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Bonus.
What is the Job Retention Bonus (JRB)?
It is a one-off flat rate payment of £1,000 made by the government to employers for each employee they furloughed and made an eligible claim for through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and who they retain in employment until 31 January 2021.
Employers can only claim the bonus from 15 February 2021 until 31 March 2021. In order to do so, employers will need to have reported all payments made to the employee between 6 November 2020 and 5 February 2021 to HMRC through Full Payment Submissions via Real Time Information (RTI).
Further guidance on how employers can claim the bonus is to be published by the end of January 2021.
Which employees can an employer claim for?
Employers will only be able to claim the JRB for employees:
- who have been continuously employed from the end of the last period the employer claimed a grant for them under the CJRS scheme until 31 January 2021; and
- who have been paid a minimum of £1,560 taxable earnings over a three- month period from November until December and have received taxable earnings in each of the following tax months:
- 6 November to 5 December 2020
- 6 December 2020 to 5 January 2021
- 6 January to 5 February 2021.
The guidance for employers entitled “Check if you can claim the Job Retention Bonus” states that employers can still claim the JRB for any employees they claim for under the new Job Support Scheme (JSS) when the CJRS ends. No further details are provided on this point and further guidance on the JSS is awaited.
However, we believe that this is still subject to the employee having been previously furloughed under the CJRS, and employers will not be able to claim the JRB for employees who they claim for under the JSS but who had not previously been furloughed under the CJRS.
Employers will also not be able to claim the JRB for those employees who do not receive taxable earnings in each of the taxable months, even if they earn over the minimum earnings threshold. So, for example, if an employee has taxable earnings of £600 in the month 6 November until 5 December 2020 and £1,200 in the period 6 December 2020 until 5 January 2021 but does not have taxable earnings in the period 6 January to 5 February 2021, the employer will not be able to claim the JRB bonus for them.
Are there employees whom the employer cannot claim for?
Yes. Employers cannot claim the JRB for employees:
- Who they erroneously claimed for and have since repaid the CJRS grant. HMRC recently reported that some employers had voluntarily returned more than £215 million to the government in furlough scheme payments they did not need or took in error. This included companies such as Redrow, Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Games Workshop, Bunzl and the Spectator.
- Who transferred to the employer after the CJRS ends on 31 October 2020.
- Who are under notice of termination of employment or who resign before 1 February 2021. This includes employees who have been given notice of dismissal for any reason including redundancy as well as misconduct, capability on grounds of performance or ill health for breach of a statutory duty or for some other substantial reason. It also includes employees who have resigned and those who have given notice to retire before 1 February 2021.
What is the purpose of the JRB and what is the impact for workers?
The TD states that the purpose of the JRB is “to enhance the purpose of the CJRS.” The purpose of the CJRS is to provide payments to the employer in order to keep employees in employment in those businesses which have been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) and/or as a result of measures taken to prevent or limit its further transmission.
When the JRB was first announced on 8 July 2020, many employers openly stated that they would not be claiming the grant. However, that was before the chancellor announced the JSS on 24 September 2020, which replaces the CJRS when it comes to an end on 31 October 2020. The important question now is whether the introduction of the JSS has changed the landscape at all.
Commentators from the Resolution Foundation have already pointed out that under the JSS it may cost employers more to retain two workers on reduced hours than to keep one full-time employee. Whether the JRB will encourage employers to keep employees in their jobs will therefore very much depend on whether the one-off payment of £1,000 will be enough to make up for the shortfall in payments from the government to employers under the JSS when this replaces the CJRS from 1 November 2020. This is only likely to be the case for low earners who meet the minimum earnings threshold and who earn taxable income in each of the three taxable months.
The government has published guidance for employers with examples as to how the minimum income threshold under the JRB applies according to how employees are paid, if they receive statutory benefits and if they take unpaid leave during the three-month period.
Action for unions
Where unions are collectively consulting with employers on proposals for redundancy, they should request that any final decisions are put on hold to carefully consider whether the impact of the JRB and JSS taken together will enable redundancies to be avoided.
The Treasury Direction is available here.
Guidance for employers ‘Check if you can claim the Job Retention Bonus’ is available here.
The guidance “Example of employer deciding which employees will meet the minimum income threshold for the Job Retention Bonus” is available here.
Articles shared by Thompsons relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) are correct at the time of publication. You should check the government's guidelines for the latest information and advice at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.