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ADVICE

The STUC has updated its advice on the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It’s good news for many. Your Unions have negotiated a real boost in these critical times. Join one today!

But the scheme doesn't work the same way for everyone and there is still plenty we need to do to make sure everyone gets the support they need. Our priority is making sure employers do the right thing. Our action section suggests some ways to work together to ensure you get what is due to you and that you AND your colleagues are fairly treated.

There are still some things we are trying to find out. You can email us at info@stuc.org.uk asking to be kept updated or return to this site regularly.

(Your data will be treated confidentially, consistent with data protection rules and will only be used for the purposes of giving information or seeking your views on this subject)

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The UK Government have announced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. They intend for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020, but have said that they will extend the scheme if necessary.

This scheme enables a PAYE registered employer that cannot cover staff costs due to the coronavirus to claim 80% of staff costs.

If your employer intends to access this Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to furlough you, they should discuss what this will mean in practice for you.

I am to be ‘furloughed’. What does this mean?

You are classified as a furloughed worker IF you meet the following 3 conditions:

• You have been enrolled for PAYE since at least 28 February 2020

• You are told that you will be kept on your employer’s payroll

• You will not be undertaking any work for your employer

You cannot undertake work for your employer whilst you are furloughed.

This furlough process allows your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. I have been furloughed.

Am I still employed?

You are still employed even though you have been furloughed. Your employer could fund the 20% difference between the furlough payment and your salary, but they are not required to. If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may qualify for support though the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

Does this apply to me whatever kind of contract I have with my employer?

Yes. You can be on any type of contract, including:

• full-time employees

• part-time employees

• some agency workers (those who qualify as ‘employees’ of either the agency, the end user or both)

• employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

Do I need any evidence of being furloughed?

No, but your employer should write to you to confirm you have been furloughed.

Make sure you keep a record of this communication.

How will I know I am on the PAYE System?

If you are on the PAYE system you will have a tax code.

If you are given a PAYE tax code, it will be shown on:

• a notice of coding sent by your tax office

• your pay slip

Employers usually have to pay employees through PAYE if the employee earns £118 or more a week (£512 a month or £6136 a year).

Employers do not need to pay self-employed workers through PAYE.

How do I know I’m an employee?

This is a complex area of the law but as a general rule, you are:

• an employee if you work for someone and do not have any of the risks associated with running a business

• self-employed if you run your own business and are responsible for its success or failure.

Employees are paid on a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) basis, which means tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are usually automatically deducted.

I am still working, does it apply to me?

No. Your employer cannot furlough you and ask you to work. This also applies to you if work for an agency.

My hours have been reduced, does this scheme apply to me?

No. If you are still working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, you are not eligible for this scheme and your employer will have to continue paying you through the usual payroll, and pay your salary subject to the terms of your employment contract.

If your employer has unilaterally reduced your hours as a result of the coronavirus, this should have been discussed and agreed with you. If you are unhappy with how this happened please speak to your union rep. If you are not a member of a union you can contact info@stuc.org.uk to find out which union you can join. You can also contact Thompsons Solicitors by email at Talk@TalkToThompsons.com.

I am a zero hours worker. What does this scheme mean for me?

If you are on a zero hours contract; you meet the definition of ‘employee’ and you are earning more than an average of £118 per week under that contract (known as the Lower Earnings Limit), then you will be on the PAYE system.

The scheme covers everybody who is on the PAYE system through a company.

Remember: there is a very important distinction between an employee and someone who is considered self-employed. Employers do not need to pay self-employed workers through PAYE – so someone who is classed as self-employed will not be eligible for this scheme. Self-employed workers must make an application instead through the UK Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

If you are a zero hours or variable hours worker then you are entitled to receive 80% of your average salary (with reference to your earnings since commencing work, up to a period of 12 months i.e. earnings from the 2019-2020 tax years) or your last month’s salary – whichever is the highest. If you only started working in February 2020 then you are entitled to a pro rata calculation of your earnings so far.

Your employer than has to work out National Insurance contributions and the minimum auto enrolment employer pension contributions that can be claimed.

I am not on the PAYE System/I am a ‘gig economy worker’ – but I have no work due to the impact of the coronavirus. Do I qualify for 80% of my salary? Unions have been fighting for extension of coverage to you. Self-employed and freelance workers can now claim for financial support to make up for lost earnings, in a similar way to people who are employed. But this is not through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

We will share new guidance about how you can get this support shortly.

I am on unpaid leave. Does the scheme apply to me?

You cannot be furloughed if you are on unpaid leave, unless you were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February, in which case you should contact your employer to ask them to make an application to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

I am on Statutory Sick Pay. Does this scheme apply to me?

If you are on sick leave or self-isolating, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (or in some cases, occupational sick pay), but can be furloughed when you are well enough again.

If you are self-isolating, in line with public health guidance, you can be placed on furlough.

I have more than one job. Does this scheme apply to me?

If you have more than one employer, you can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap of £2,500 applies to each employer individually.

My employer has asked me to undertake some training while I am furloughed. What happens to my income?

If you are required to undertake training, for example completing an online training course, while you are furloughed, then you must be paid at least the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of your wage that will be subsidised.

I am on Maternity Leave, contractual adoption pay, paternity pay or shared parental pay. What happens to my income under this scheme?

Individuals who are on or plan to take Maternity Leave must take at least 2 weeks off work (4 weeks if they work in a factory or workshop) immediately following the birth of their baby. This is a health and safety requirement. In practice, most women start their Maternity Leave before they give birth. If you are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, the normal rules apply, and you are entitled to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance.

Employees who qualify for SMP, will still be eligible for 90% of their average weekly earnings in the first 6 weeks, followed by 33 weeks of pay paid at 90% of their average weekly earnings or the statutory flat rate (whichever is lower). The statutory flat rate is currently £148.68 a week, rising to £151.20 a week from April 2020.

If your employer offers enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay, 80% of these costs can be claimed through the job retention scheme. The same principles apply if you qualify for contractual adoption, paternity or shared parental pay.

Will I still get at least the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage?

Not necessarily. Furloughed workers will be paid the lower of 80% of their salary, or £2,500 even if, based on your usual working hours, this would be below National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage.

Can my employer charge me a fee for paying me through the new scheme?

No. If you are furloughed, your employer must pay you the full 80% of what you are entitled to under the new scheme. However, your employer can choose to pay you more.

When my employer decided who to furlough, I think my employer has discriminated against me because of my sex/age/disability/gender reassignment/race/religion or belief/sexual orientation/marital status/pregnancy and maternity status. What can I do?

Equality and discrimination laws apply in the usual way, including to your employer’s decisions about who to offer furlough to.

If you think you have been discriminated against, please speak to your union rep.

If you are not a member of a union you can contact info@stuc.org.uk to find out which union you can join.

You can also contact Thompsons Solicitors by email at Talk@TalkToThompsons.com.

Do my rights at work change if I am furloughed?

No. If you have been furloughed, you have the same rights as you did previously, including Statutory Sick Pay entitlement, maternity rights, other parental rights, rights against unfair dismissal and to redundancy payments.

I started working for my employer in February 2020 but before the 28th – will I be eligible for salary payments if I am furloughed?

Yes, you will be eligible, as long as you are part of the PAYE system. There is no qualifying employment period, just that you must have started before the 28th February. If you only started working in Feb 2020 then you are entitled to a pro rata calculation of your earnings so far.

I started working for my employer after 28th February 2020 – will I be eligible for salary payments if I am furloughed?

No, this scheme only applies to people who were employed on the PAYE system before 28 February 2020.

I have been made redundant since 28th February

The scheme also covers employees who have been made redundant since 28th February 2020, if they have been rehired by their employer. Speak to your employer. Refer them to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and tell them they can furlough workers instead.

Will I still have to pay tax and other usual deductions?

If you have been furloughed, your wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions. You will also pay automatic enrolment pension contributions on qualifying earnings, unless you have chosen to opt-out or to cease saving into a workplace pension scheme.

What happens to my pension while I am furloughed?

Employers can claim for 80% of your furloughed usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. The UK Government will provide more guidance shortly about how the pension contributions will work.

But 80% of my salary is not enough to live on… If you have been furloughed you might find that the 20% reduction in your salary means that your earnings meet the eligibility threshold for Universal Credit or you may find that you qualify for other benefits.

You need to make a claim for this.

From 6 April the Government are increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week (on top of planned annual uplifts). This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants. You should also ask your employer to make up the 20% shortfall from their own funds. There is nothing to prevent them from doing this!

Will I qualify for Occupational or Statutory Sick Pay if I contract Coronavirus OR am required to Self-isolate?

If you are an employee, you might qualify for occupational sick pay. You should check with your employer, asking for details of their occupational sick pay scheme (if they have one).

To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you must:

• be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer

• earn an average of at least £118 per week You will not qualify if you: • have received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks) • are getting Statutory Maternity Pay

The Government have amended rules for payment of SSP – it will be paid from day one of your Coronavirus related absence – whether this is because you are a confirmed case of the virus or you have been told to self-isolate.

I am self-employed/I am a ‘gig worker – can I claim SSP?

If you are self-employed and you are sick or have to self-isolate, you will be eligible to access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to SSP for employees.

How much Universal Credit might I get?

How much you receive (called the UC Standard Allowance) depends on whether you are single or claiming as a couple. It also depends on your age. There is one standard allowance for your household:

• Single claimant aged under 25: £251.77 per month

• Single claimant aged 25 or over: £317.82 per month

• Joint claimants both aged under 25: £395.20 per month

• Joint claimants either aged 25 or over: £498.89 per month

Please note: As from 6 April the Government are increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week (on top of planned annual uplifts).

This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

However, you might also be eligible for 'additional elements' such as childcare or housing costs. You can obtain further information from the UC helpline: 0800 328 5644. You can also obtain advice from your local Welfare Rights Officer - they can be found working for your Local Authority or perhaps a Housing Association. The Citizens Advice Bureau is also a good source of information - they have people dedicated to assisting with UC claims: https://www.cas.org.uk/helptoclaim

Universal Credit is means tested and paid based on earnings – this means that it is calculated at the same rate regardless of whether you are a worker, self-employed or an employee.

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