Furlough start date extended to 19 March

The government has extended the start date for eligibility for furlough to 19 March from original 28 February meaning 200,000 more people can benefit, reports Sara White

Thousands more employees will able to receive support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) as a result.

The government also confirmed that the scheme is expected to be fully operational next week with the online portal due to go live on 20 April to allow businesses to start filing their returns before the crucial PAYE payroll runs.

Under the scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 23 March, employers can claim a grant covering 80% of the wages for a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2,500 a month.

To qualify and to protect against fraudulent claims, individuals originally had to be employed on 28 February 2020.

But following a review of the delivery system and to ensure the scheme helps as many people as possible, new guidance published today has confirmed the eligibility date has been extended to 19 March 2020 – the day before the scheme was announced.

Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020.

This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an real time information (RTI) submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.

There is no fixed monthly deadline per se for signing up to RTI payroll reporting but it is important to note that HMRC guidance states that ‘employers must register [employee] before the first payday’.

The scheme is only open to employers and not payroll third party agents or bureaux, however their clients can avail themselves of the online portal directly.

HMRC confirmed that ‘payroll bureaus, or a “file only agent”, wouldn’t be able to use it as things stand but those employers can still make claims themselves’.

This change makes the scheme more generous while keeping the substantial fraud risks under control and is expected to benefit over 200,000 employees.

By Sara White

HMRC guidance, Claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, updated 15 Apr 2020

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