The UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) has provided updated guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the furlough process for individuals and companies in the fashion and textile industry.

This includes new details on volunteer work or training, apprentices, company directors and office holders, and can be read in full below:

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus.

Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) 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.

Employers can use this scheme anytime during this period.

Employees you can claim for

You can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 28 February 2020.

Employees hired after 28 February 2020 cannot be furloughed and claimed for in accordance with this scheme.

Employees can be on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts. Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed.

When your employees are on furlough you cannot ask your employee to do any work that:

  • makes money for your organisation
  • provides services for your organisation

They can take part in volunteer work or training.

If you made employees redundant or they stopped working for you after 28 February

If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

If your employees are working reduced hours

If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.

If your employee is on unpaid leave

You can only claim for employees that started unpaid leave after 28 February 2020.

If your employee is self-isolating or on sick leave

If you’re employee is on sick leave or self-isolating, they’ll be able to get Statutory Sick Pay.

You cannot claim for employees while they’re getting Statutory Sick Pay, but they can be furloughed and claimed for once they are no longer receiving Statutory Sick Pay.

Shielding Employees

You can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) if they are unable to work from home and you would otherwise have to make them redundant.

Employees with caring responsibilities

Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.

If your employee has more than one job

If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

Employees can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for another employer and receive their normal wages.

If your employee is on a fixed term contract

Employees on fixed term contracts can be furloughed. Their contracts can be renewed or extended during the furlough period without breaking the terms of the scheme. Where a fixed term employee’s contract ends because it is not extended or renewed you will no longer be able claim grant for them.

Eligible individuals who are not employees

As well as employees, the grant can be claimed for the following, if they are paid via PAYE:

  • office holders, including company directors
  • agency workers (including those employed by umbrella companies)

The guidance below sets out specific considerations for those individuals who are paid via PAYE, but who are not necessarily employees in employment law. Unless explicitly set out below, all other guidance is applicable to these cases, and should be followed.

Office Holders

Office holders can be furloughed and receive support through this scheme. The furlough, and any ongoing payment during furlough, will need to be agreed between the office holder and the party who operates PAYE on the income they receive for holding their office. Where the office holder is a company director the furlough arrangements should be adopted formally as a decision of the company.

Company Directors

As office holders, salaried company directors are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme. Company directors owe duties to their company which are set out in the Companies Act 2006. Where one or more individual directors’ furlough is decided by the board, this should be formally adopted as a decision of the company, noted in the company records and communicated in writing to the director(s) concerned.

Where furloughed directors need to carry out particular duties to fulfil the statutory obligations they owe to their company, they may do so provided they do no more than would reasonably be judged necessary for that purpose. For instance, they should not do work of a kind they would carry out in normal circumstances to generate commercial revenue or provides services to or on behalf of their company.

Agency Workers

Where agency workers are paid through PAYE, they are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme, including where they are employed by umbrella companies.

Furlough should be agreed between the agency, as the deemed employer, and the worker, though it would be advised to discuss the need to furlough with any end clients involved. As with employees, agency workers should perform no work for, through or on behalf of the agency that has furloughed them while they are furloughed, including for the agency’s clients.

Apprentices

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whilst furloughed.

However, you must pay your Apprentices at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW/NMW) as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means you must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage.

If your employee does volunteer work

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work, if it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.

Your organisation can agree to find furloughed employees new work or volunteering opportunities whilst on furlough if this is in line with public health guidance.

If your employee undertakes training

Furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation.

Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient monies to cover these training hours. However, where the time spent training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages (see National Minimum Wage Section for more details).

If your employee is on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave

The normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply.

You can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

  • maternity pay
  • adoption pay
  • paternity pay
  • shared parental pay

Agreeing to furlough employees

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

To be eligible for the grant employers must confirm in writing to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you.

Employer National Insurance and Pension Contributions

You’ll still need to pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees, and you can claim for these too.

You cannot claim for:

  • additional National Insurance or pension contributions you make because you chose to top up your employee’s salary
  • any pension contributions you make that are above the mandatory employer contribution

Past Overtime, Fees, Commission, Bonuses and non-cash payments

You can claim for any regular payments you are obliged to pay your employees. This includes wages, past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments. However, discretionary bonus and commission payments and non-cash payments should be excluded.

Benefits in Kind and Salary Sacrifice Schemes

The reference salary should not include the cost of non-monetary benefits provided to employees, including taxable Benefits in Kind. Similarly. Where the employer provides benefits to furloughed employees, this should be in addition to the wages that must be paid under the terms of the Job Retention Scheme.

Normally, an employee cannot switch freely out of a salary sacrifice scheme unless there is a life event. HMRC agrees that COVID-19 counts as a life event that could warrant changes to salary sacrifice arrangements, if the relevant employment contract is updated accordingly.

Apprenticeship Levy and Student Loans

Both the Apprenticeship Levy and Student Loans should continue to be paid as usual. Grants from the Job Retention Scheme do not cover these.

National Minimum Wage

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW)/ Apprentices Minimum Wage (AMW) for the hours they are working or treated as working under minimum wage rules.

This means that furloughed workers who are not working can be paid the lower of 80% of their salary or £2,500 even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below their appropriate minimum wage.

However, time spent training is treated as working time for the purposes of the minimum wage calculations and must be paid at the appropriate minimum wage, taking into account the increase in minimum wage rates from 1 April 2020. As such, employers will need to ensure that the furlough payment provides sufficient monies to cover these training hours. Where the furlough payment is less than the appropriate minimum wage entitlement for the training hours, the employer will need to pay the additional wages to ensure at least the appropriate minimum wage is paid for 100% of the training time.

Minimum furlough periods

Any employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. Employees can remain on furlough as long as the scheme is in operation. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. There is no guidance on how the minimum time you might bring employees back before placing them back on furlough.

After you’ve claimed

HMRC will check your claim, and if you’re eligible, pay it to you by BACS to a UK bank account.

You must pay the employee all the grant you receive for their gross pay, no fees can be charged from the money that is granted.

Employee taxes

Your employees will still pay the taxes they normally pay out of their wages. This includes pension contributions (both employer contributions and automatic contributions from the employee), unless the employee has opted out or stopped saving into their pension.

Employee rights

Employees still have the same rights at work, including:

  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • maternity and other parental rights
  • rights against unfair dismissal
  • redundancy payments

Grants cannot be used to substitute redundancy payments. HMRC will continue to monitor businesses after the scheme has closed.

Working for a different employer

If contractually allowed, your employees are permitted to work for another employer whilst you have placed them on furlough.

For any employer that takes on a new employee, the new employer should ensure they complete the starter checklist form correctly. If the employee is furloughed from another employment, they should complete Statement C.

Tax Treatment of the Coronavirus Job Retention Grant

Payments received by a business under the scheme are made to offset these deductible revenue costs. They must therefore be included as income in the business’s calculation of its taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes, in accordance with normal principles.

Businesses can deduct employment costs as normal when calculating taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes.”

www.ukft.org