Please Note: Following the announcement of a 2nd lockdown in England, the Government has confirmed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) will remain open until March 2021, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a max of £2500 – see more in our article about the extension of the furlough scheme. The Job Support Scheme (JSS) is expected to begin once this extended furlough period has ended.

 

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has updated his Job Support Scheme (JSS) post-furlough package which was first announced in September. Here’s a quick guide to how it has changed and how it differs from the Job Retention Scheme (JRS).

The difference between the JSS and JRS
The new JSS is expected to replace the JRS – commonly known as furlough – which was launched in March to cover 80% of workers’ wages. Under the JRS an employee could either be off work on full furlough, or agree to flexible furlough. There were no restrictions on the split between working and non-working hours under flexible furlough arrangements. However, to qualify under the JSS an employee must work a minimum of 20% of normal working hours (unless JSS: Closed applies which has no minimum hrs – see below). The JRS also sits alongside the coronavirus job retention bonus – which offers companies £1,000 for keeping a furloughed worker on their books until at least the end of January.

Employees cannot be made redundant, or put on notice of redundancy, during the period an employer is claiming for them under the JSS. This is a change from the JRS – in terms of which employees could be claimed for even when under notice.

The revised JSS
The original JSS was designed to support the wages of employees who worked at least 33% of their usual hours. Their employers would pay full wages for the hours an employee worked and for the hours a worker was away from their job, the government would pay 33% of their wages, and firms would need to contribute a further 33%.

After the changes to the JSS announced in October, an employee needs to only work 20% of their usual hours to benefit. The government has also cut the level of employer contribution from 33% to just 5% (up to a cap of £125 per month), with the discretion to pay more than this if they wish. This means the government will pay 61.67% of a worker’s wages for the time they are away from their job, up to a maximum of £1,541.75 per month.

What support is available in Tier 2?
The expansion of the JSS is designed to aid companies suffering a drop in business in areas subject to “high” alert tier 2 restrictions, which include curfews on opening hours and bans on people from different households meeting.

The chancellor also announced cash grants of up to £2,100 per month primarily for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector, which may be adversely impacted by the restrictions in high-alert level areas. The Treasury said the grants would be made available retrospectively for areas that have already been subject to restrictions.

What about Tier 3?
For businesses in “very high” tier 3 alert level areas that have been forced to close their doors, there is a variance of the JSS known as the “Job Support Scheme: Closed”. It requires no contribution to be made to workers’ wages from businesses and does not require an employee to work a minimum number of hours.

Under the JSS: Closed, the government will pay two-thirds (67%) of a worker’s usual wages, to a maximum of £2,083.33 per month. Employers pay no wages, although they have the discretion to top up pay if they wish, and they must still pay national insurance and pensions contributions.
The government has also made available business grants of up to £3,000 a month open to companies in tier 3 areas.

Parental leave
The government will introduce parental pay legislation (covering maternity allowance, statutory maternity/, paternity, shared parental, adoption and parental bereavement pay) to avoid parents losing out on their entitlement to parental pay as a result of being put on the JSS during the relevant assessment period. More details on employee eligibility will be available in further guidance published by the Government.

Employees who can claim for JSS Open and JSS Closed

An individual is an employee for the purposes of this scheme if they are treated as an employee for Income Tax purposes. Employees can be on any type of contract, including zero hours or temporary contracts. Agency workers are regarded as employees of an employment agency for the purposes of this scheme, provided they are employees for Income Tax purposes.

Employees do not need to have been furloughed under the JRS to be eligible for the JSS. Employers cannot claim both JSS Open and JSS Closed in respect of a single employee for the same day.

Job Support Scheme Duration
The JSS will be open once the JRS ends  and is expected to run until 30 April 2021. The government will review the terms of the scheme in January 2021. Full details on the JSS scheme can be found on the government website here

How we can help
The above is a very simplistic look at the JRS and JSS schemes and does not take into account all of the issues that may arise. We advise and represent businesses with workforces ranging from small numbers to many hundreds on all aspects of employment law. We also act for employees who need clear and practical advice on their legal employment rights and options. Contact Alexis Lane for more information.