Government publishes further guidance on job retention scheme

The government has published further guidance on the Government Job Retention Scheme (GJRS), including more information about the new flexible furlough rules.

From 1 July 2020, businesses will be able to bring back furloughed employees to work a flexible pattern, while claiming funds back for the hours that they do not work. However, only employees that have successfully claimed a previous grant will be eligible for more grants under the scheme.

This means employees must have previously been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks, taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. For the minimum three consecutive week period to be completed by 30 June 2020, the last day an employee could have started furlough to be eligible, would have been 10 June 2020.

Existing government guidelines sees employers contributing towards the cost of furloughed employees’ pay from 1 August 2020.

Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, said: “Employers will welcome the guidance on flexible furlough that was released late on the evening of Friday 12 June 2020, though possibly not the format it was provided in. Amendments to several different documents, and further newly created ones, made it difficult to track what is actually changing and how.

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“However, the guidance gives us more of an idea of how employers will be able to furlough employees flexibly from 1 July 2020. It seems as though the system is indeed more flexible than the original rules with the minimum three week period of furlough being removed; the new scheme allows flexible furlough to last for any amount of time. However, employers will need to be aware that the minimum claim period allowed is seven calendar days.

“The second ‘phase’ of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme is a marker for its gradual conclusion, which is expected at the end of October 2020. While some employers will be relieved that they are now permitted to meet growing demands from their customer base with a mixture of furlough, work and financial assistance from the government, the new scheme will not offer help to those who cannot yet open. Coupled with the introduction of employer contributions to wage costs, the impending end of the scheme will not be good news for all.”