What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a package of support for businesses affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, including grants available under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme is intended to support employers maintain their workforce where their operations have been severely affected by the coronavirus crisis, or where employees are unable to work because of circumstances resulting from the crisis.

Under the scheme, if a worker is designated as a "furloughed worker", a grant is available from HM Revenue and Customs to reimburse the employer, initially for 80% of the wage costs relating to the worker, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The level of contribution towards wage costs that employers can claim under the scheme will reduce gradually until the end of October 2020, when the scheme will close. See How is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme changing between 1 July 2020 and 31 October 2020?. The scheme is now closed to new entrants.

Up until 1 July 2020, the worker was required not to perform any work for the employer while on furlough. From 1 July 2020, employees can perform some work for the employer under a flexible furlough arrangement.

Employers do not have to top up the worker's wages so they are paid in full, but can do so. The employer will need to obtain the worker's agreement to a reduction in pay if it does not intend to top up their pay, unless it has a contractual right to lay them off on reduced pay.

Employers must use an online portal to make a claim.