On 31st October, the UK government announced that a new national lockdown will be imposed from 5th November until at least 2nd December.
People are urged to work from home, whenever possible, not to gather outside of their household and only essential shops will remain open during the month-long lockdown, in line with the “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives” mantra used back in March.
To help support businesses and workers, the government have announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), also known as the Furlough scheme, will continue until December 2020 with grants covering 80% of wages for time not worked, up to a maximum of £2500, while implementation of the Job Support Scheme (JSS) has been delayed.
Under the extended scheme, the cost for employers of retaining workers will be reduced compared to the previous scheme, which ended on 31st October. This means the extended furlough scheme is more generous for employers than it was in October.
Employers will still have to pay for all the employer’s NIC and employer’s minimum workplace pension contributions and can top-up the employee’s furlough pay at their own expenses if they wish to.
The scheme will be available to all employers with a bank account, including Charities and non-for-profit organisations, and it will apply to employees who were on the employer’s payroll at 30 October 2020, regardless of whether they were included in an earlier CJRS claim. Employees on any type of contract can qualify, including zero hours, although more detail on whether contractors or directors are included is expected in the next few days.
Flexible furlough will be permitted alongside full-time furlough, so staff may be brought back part-time to say, set up the premises for the lifting of national restrictions, or to prepare for Brexit.
The same rules for flexible furlough will continue to apply as they have done since 1 July, so the employee may be furloughed for a few days or hours per week. There appears to be no minimum time set for furloughed hours or working hours. However, each furlough claim must be for a period of at least seven consecutive calendar days.
A series of grants, worth up to £3,000 per month, will be made available in England to premises forced to close. These grants are being provided under the Local Restrictions Support Grant scheme. In addition to this, local authorities are being given additional funds to help support business in their area.
Mortgage payment holidays have also been extended. Borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.