With the country still dealing with coronavirus and the effects of the national lockdown imposed in March (possibly teetering on the brink of another lockdown) employers are faced with a multitude of challenges going into the autumn.
On 24 September the Chancellor announced the introduction of the Job Support Scheme (JSS), which will start on 1 November, and effectively replaces the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The CJRS, or furlough scheme, has been in place since March, and provides for the government to pay the wages of employees who are kept on by employers even though they are presently surplus to requirements due to the economic effects of the pandemic.
The Chancellor’s announcement will have come as some relief to those who feared employers would fall over a cliff-edge when the CJRS ended, resulting in mass redundancies, but the JSS is less generous than the furlough scheme.
The JSS effectively provides for the government to pay a proportion of wages for employees who work reduced hours. The scheme is intended to protect “viable jobs”- essentially those jobs that employers wish to keep, but for the moment cannot afford to keep paying full time.
Headline points on JSS:
- It will run from 1 November until the end of April 2021
- The scheme is available to all businesses; however, large businesses must meet a certain financial loss threshold
- To be eligible, employees must have been on the employer’s payroll on 23 September 2020. They cannot be made redundant or given notice of redundancy during the period for which the employer is claiming contributions from the government
- Employees for whom a claim is made must work at least one third of their usual hours, during which time the employer must pay salary in the usual way. For hours not worked, employees will be paid two thirds of their usual salary. The employer will pay one third; the government will pay for one third, subject to a cap of £697.92 per month; and one third will remain unpaid, the employee needing to take a pay cut during the operation of the scheme.
Whilst navigating the intricacies of the new scheme, employers must also weigh up how and when to re-open workplaces, ensuring that these remain Covid safe and allow for social distancing.
Accommodating both those employees who do want to come into the office and those who wish to continue to work from home will present formidable challenges for employers in the weeks and months to come. Successful re-opening will require employers to communicate effectively and be as flexible as possible with staff. This will be one of the trickiest run ups to Christmas in decades.