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Coronavirus (Covid-19): More furlough!

What do we already know?

At the time of our December Newsletter, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was due to end on 31 March 2021, but the Government had said it would review the CJRS in January 2021 to consider whether to ask employers to contribute more.

What’s new?

Following further Government announcements:

Given the closure of schools, the Government has updated its CJRS guidance (available here) to make it clear that employers can furlough employees who have caring responsibilities resulting from Coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing.

Employers can also furlough employees who, as a result of COVID-19, are caring for a vulnerable individual in their household.

Publication of Employer Furlough Claim Information

One of the major changes to the furlough scheme when it was extended originally, is the publication of information about employers who are claiming under the furlough scheme. Details of employers who are using the furlough scheme will be in the public domain and they should prepare for the potential greater scrutiny that this could bring.

The Government has confirmed that they will be publishing information about employers who claim under the furlough scheme for the period starting on or after 1 December 2020. Initially, HMRC will publish a list of employer names on GOV.UK on 26 January 2021. At some stage in February 2021, HMRC will then start to publish information monthly as follows;

The HMRC will in addition be providing information direct to employees about furlough claims, including details of furlough claims made for them, for the claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020 in their Personal Tax Account.

Publication can be restricted if an employer can show that publishing the information would result in a serious risk of violence or intimidation. For employers who believe they fall in this category, they will need to make a request to HMRC not to publish the information.  Such a request would need to be supported by evidence.

Given the publication of furlough claim information, employers use of the furlough scheme is likely to come under review. We’d encourage employers to review their furlough scheme arrangements to ensure compliance in full.

With estimates of significant fraudulent furlough claims (estimated to be upwards of £3.5 bn) the only surprise is that it has taken HMRC this long to introduce some controls.

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