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Job Support Scheme: What we know so far

Employers need to know whether the Job Support Scheme (JSS) will help them to retain some employees, but there are unanswered questions. Rebecca Cave summarises what we know and where the knowledge gaps are.   

29th Sep 2020
Tax Writer Taxwriter Ltd
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Currently all that has been released about the JSS is one factsheet. There is no draft legislation or guidance, yet, but HMRC has said it will issue some guidance “next month” – ie in October.

Period of the scheme

The JSS is designed to replace the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) for furloughed workers, which comes to an end on 31 October 2020. The JSS also has a limited life as it will only apply to salaries or wages paid in the period from 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021, unless it is extended.

Which employees qualify? 

Any employee who was included on an RTI return submitted by the employer on or before 23 September 2020, will be eligible to be included in a JSS claim, if the working hours conditions are also met for that employee.

We don’t know whether that RTI return must have been submitted for the 2020/21 tax year or for an earlier year. If the employee had to be paid in 2020/21, directors who are paid annually in late March won’t be eligible for the JSS grant as they won’t have been included on an RTI return for 2020/21 before September. Those annually paid directors were also excluded from the CJRS as they hadn’t been paid in 2019/20 before that scheme started.   

The JSS is not restricted to employees who were furloughed at some point between March and October 2020. Also, unlike the CJRS, the JSS will be available for employees who have recently joined the payroll, for example since March 2020.

Employees who are already on notice for redundancy, or who have been made redundant can’t be included on a JSS claim submitted by the employer who made them redundant.        

Which employers qualify?

Any small or medium sized employer with a UK bank account will be able to use the JSS without further conditions applying.

Large employers will have to show that their business turnover has reduced due to Covid-19 before they can use the JSS. This test is clearer than the “adversely affected” condition for the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS), as it concentrates on turnover rather than on profits or costs.

HMRC has said that large employers will be expected to refrain from paying dividends to shareholders, and must not use share buy-back schemes, while claiming under the JSS. It will be interesting to see how this ban on dividends will be defined in the law and guidance.

We don’t know how “large employer” will be defined for the JSS, but it is likely to be by number of employees, such as 250 or more. Regulations will need to determine whether the employee headcount is for the corporate group as a whole, and whether the employee numbers are “full-time equivalents”, as applies for most share schemes.   

Working hours

The employee must work at least 33% of their usual hours, but we don’t know how “usual hours” will be defined. Many employees have been working part-time under flexi-furlough since 1 July, so it will be crucial to know at what date “usual hours” will be measured. This will be an interesting problem for employees who have recently joined the workforce.

The 33% of working time ratio will apply for November 2020 to January 2021, and the government may increase this minimum percentage from 1 February onwards.   

The employee won’t have to work one third of every week, they will be able to chop and change, as long as each period containing some work lasts for least seven days.

Who pays what?

The employer will have to pay the employee for the actual hours worked according to their normal terms of employment. The factsheet makes it clear that this is the pre-Covid wage rate, not 80% of normal pay, which furloughed employees may have agreed to take.

The JSS grant only covers the pay for 33% of the hours not worked. The employer must pay for 33% of the non-working hours, and the employee must forego pay on the balance of the non-working hours. Thus, the cost of the non-working time is born equally by the employer, the government and the employee. However, the government’s contribution under the JSS is capped at £697.22 per month.

Under the JSS the employer will pay around 55% of the employee’s normal pay in return for 33% of their normal working hours, and the government will contribute 22% of the employee’s normal pay. The employer will also pay all of the employer’s NI and employer’s minimum pension contributions to a workplace pension, both on the entire amount of wages paid.    

Example

Alex is an airline pilot paid £52,000 a year, £1,000 per week. Before the Covid-19 pandemic he worked 36 basic hours per week, so his basic hourly rate is £27.78

Alex agreed to work 12 hours per week, with 24 non-working hours. His employer must pay him for 20 hours (12 working + 8 non-working). The JSS will cover a further eight of those non-working hours, subject to the monthly cap.

The JSS is capped at £697.92 per month. The guidance so far is not clear, but it appears that where one third of the employee’s non-working payment exceeds the JSS cap, the employee does not receive the shortfall from the employer, and thus bears the burden of no pay for that time.

On a weekly basis Alex receives pay for 20 hours: £555.60. The JSS should cover a further eight hours which would be £222.24, per week, but the cap of £161.06 (per week) comes into play, so Alex only receives £716.65 in total.

In November Alex works 48 hours over four weeks, and is paid for for 80 hours at £27.78, plus the JSS cap of £697.92, which amounts to £2,920.32. The employer must pay employer’s NIC and any pension contributions due on the total pay of £2,920.32.

When is the claim made?

The employer must pay the employee first, and then make a claim for the JSS through an online portal which will open in December 2020. The employer will be paid the JSS grant once each month, but only after the RTI return that reports the employee’s wages has been received by HMRC.

The JSS grant can only be used as reimbursement for wage costs actually paid.

Communication

The JSS factsheet says that employees will be informed by HMRC directly of the JSS claim made to support their pay. This indicates that each claim will have to include an email address or mobile phone number for every employee in that claim. 

The exemple in this article has been updated to show how the JSS cap is expected to work, based on the information available at 1 October 2020.

Replies (16)

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By Crouchy
30th Sep 2020 09:29

I can't see there being a big uptake on the JSS, several problems

1. the cost to the employer for not a lot of work is too high
2. its cheaper to employ 1 person full time than 2 for a third of the time
3. the requirement to actually do work to be eligible will either exclude the availability for a lot of workers, or force the employer to incur extra cost to bring someone in who they dont actually need, not to mention the fact that this could bring more people into circulation and spread the virus
4. the cost of redundancy will be less in many cases
5. whilst employers may want to keep staff who they have invested in, the job market will be bouyant and picking up new staff may be easier than pre covid

the level of government support seems very stingy at at max of £697 per month, but many would argue that the furlough scheme was too generous

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By Swabber
30th Sep 2020 09:46

''The factsheet makes it clear that this is the pre-Covid wage rate...''

Not to me! It says

“Usual wages” calculations will follow a similar methodology as for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Full details will be set out in guidance shortly.

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By RogerMT
30th Sep 2020 09:53

Surely your example is Employer 12hrs + 8hrs (1/3 of hours not worked) = 20hrs (not 28hrs), JSS 8hrs, Employee forgoes 8hrs? Unless I "mis-read" ;)

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Replying to RogerMT:
Universe
By SteveOH
30th Sep 2020 10:30

Not quite. The employer will pay the 12 hours worked but also, initially, will have to pay 2/3 of the hours not worked. The 1/3 covered by the JSS is paid by the government to the employer later on.

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Replying to SteveOH:
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By RogerMT
30th Sep 2020 11:19

Thanks - v confusing! So the 28 hours is "cash flow", the 20hrs the ultimate cost.

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Replying to SteveOH:
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By Graham Greenwood
02nd Oct 2020 08:43

That's as I understood it too, having studied Rebecca Cave's example under the heading "Who pays what", and also read the fourth bullet point of paragraph 3 of the factsheet ("What does the grant cover").
At the third bullet point of paragraph 1 of the same factsheet, however, it does state that the government and the employer will each pay a third of the unworked hours "ensuring employees earn (?) 77% of normal wages WHERE THE GOVERNMENT CONTRIBUTION HAS NOT BEEN CAPPED". The implication here is that the employee will NOT receive 77% if the cap applies - if the employer makes up the shortfall (in the government's contribution) the employee would receive 77% regardless.
I have no desire to contradict any contributor, but would like some clarification.

I believe the article has since been updated to reflect the uncertainty around this issue

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Replying to RogerMT:
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By 3el Nd
30th Sep 2020 14:44

yes it seems so.

‘The JSS grant only covers the pay for 33% of the hours not worked. The employer must pay for 33% of the non-working hours, and the employee must forego pay on the balance of the non-working hours.’

If employer pays for 28 hours and jss covers 8 hours, the employee will receive full 100% of normal pay with employer covering 66% of non working hours which i think is wrong.

This means employers will pay 78% of normal wage for 33 time worked??

as above, the employer will pay 20 hours in total

Edit - ok, i understand now. The employer pays 2/3 of non working hours then claim 1/3 back off the goverment.

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Replying to RogerMT:
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By 3el Nd
30th Sep 2020 11:13

duplicate

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By AndrewV12
30th Sep 2020 10:49

Its a bit complicated but it looks sound.

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By kar999
30th Sep 2020 11:56

"The scheme can be used alongside the Job Retention Bonus"

I wonder how the figures will work out for low salary sole directors doing a bit of admin and being paid the minimum of £520 per month in order to get the £1000 bonus?

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By MikePT
30th Sep 2020 16:15

Thank you for the article.

I work with a small business in hospitality with a number of employees on zero hours contracts. Government restrictions have made it difficult to operate profitably. I consider the JSS unhelpful for businesses in a similar position.

They will obviously try to match the cost of food and wages to minimal income. The last thing they need is to be paying staff for more than the hours they work and make a loss plus the added work of JSS calculation and submission. Of course I understand that it helps the employee by paying a ‘usual’ wage, but not the employer.

My conclusion has to be that it is not worth using the JSS and there will be more redundancies. More so that it does not help those on zero hours contracts or small businesses with tight budgets during these difficult times.

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By Techie5600
30th Sep 2020 17:06

Hi Rebecca.

Thanks for this which is very helpful. I am however, wondering if the example is correct where it states "...the employer must bear the cost of the balance: £2,413.44 plus ..."? Isn't the (net) employer contribution to hours not worked limited to the one third or normal pay ... making individual employee calculations more complicated?

The Factsheet states that:
"The Government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap, with the employer also contributing a third. This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages, WHERE THE GOVERNMENT CONTRIBUTION HAS NOT BEEN CAPPED."

The 77% minimum applies where 33% of normal hours are worked and a full Government contribution is received by the employer. The wording in the Factsheet implies that if the Government contribution is capped, the employee may receive less than 77%.

The Factsheet goes on to say:
"For time not worked, the employee will be paid UP TO two-thirds of their usual wage."

(CAPS added by me in each case, for emphasis)

It also states that:

" Our expectation is that employers cannot top up their employees’ wages above the two-thirds contribution to hours not worked at their own expense."

I am not sure where this leaves us as regards (a) the expected JSC rules (b) the content of the required written agreements between employer and employee for the JSC, and (c) interaction between the JSC and employment / contract law.

Any thoughts?

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Replying to Techie5600:
rebecca cave
By Rebecca Cave
01st Oct 2020 18:46

I think you may be right Techie 5600. Its difficult to know for certain until we get some more guidance from HMRC, but I'll alter the example.

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By debrahuzzard
23rd Oct 2020 08:14

Hi Rebecca, as usual before Rishi had sat down I was getting emails from clients asking what the changes to JSS meant and what they would get! I expect you have been trawling through anything HMRC have published and look forward to your next article. What I have spotted though is that for JSS, hours paid as worked (eg the 20% minimum) must be paid at minimum wage. I do have sole director businesses with no work eg serving the events industry, working from home so no other grants so though not much, any little claim I can make for them has helped keep the wolf from the door. But of course, they are only paid at around the NIC threshold so if it were to cover a 35 hour week would be well below minimum wage. What are your thoughts on the Director/minimum wage issue?

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Replying to debrahuzzard:
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By stigers
23rd Oct 2020 10:32

Following..... I beleive there would also be a potentional issue with regards to an employment contract as very few owner manager directors have a contract.

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Replying to debrahuzzard:
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By kar999
23rd Oct 2020 12:32

That's an important point. There will no doubt be a lot of OMB directors on NIC threshold salaries with no main work doing "admin, training and marketing" for one day a week.

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