The festive period presents logistical challenges for CJRS claims – act now to avoid being caught out.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) claims for November 2020 must be filed by 14 December 2020. This is the first of the strict new filing deadlines under the new regime. In addition, two scheduled changes to the CJRS come into effect in December 2020 and HMRC have updated their guidance on furloughing workers over Christmas and New Year. As December 2020 claims must be submitted by 14 January 2021, the logistics of running payrolls before Christmas – and staff absences during the holidays – are likely to make this challenging for some employers. This article summarises some key CJRS considerations for December 2020 and January 2021.
Deadlines for November claims
CJRS claims for November 2020 must be submitted by 14 December 2020, with any underclaims that are subsequently identified claimed by 29 December 2020. These are obviously very tight deadlines, and although HMRC can extend these if the employer has a ‘reasonable excuse’ for being late, in the absence of any special circumstances, HMRC are unlikely to accept pressure of work as a reasonable excuse for missing these dates. Employers should therefore not rely on HMRC accepting a late submission, and plan now to ensure they’re able to file or correct on time.
Furloughing workers over Christmas and New Year
It’s always been clear that employees shouldn’t be placed on furlough during periods when they would, in any case, be on holiday. Additionally, HMRC recently updated their guidance to confirm that employees should not be placed on furlough only because the employer usually does less business over the festive period. In some sectors, it will be clear that a reduction in demand over Christmas and New Year is due to the COVID-19 outbreak and associated restrictions. In others, it might not be as easy to determine the extent to which a drop in activity is due to COVID-19, rather than a seasonal effect.
Employers who furlough workers over late December 2020 and early January 2021 should therefore ensure that they can demonstrate the associated reduction in demand is due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and not merely a usual seasonal trend. In all cases, where employees are furloughed over Christmas and New Year, it would be advisable to assemble contemporary evidence in support of that decision. This should be retained to assist with any future HMRC review or public scrutiny of relevant CJRS claims.
Plan now for December claims
Many employers will run their December payrolls early based on estimated hours worked and on furlough. As December CJRS claims must be submitted by 14 January 2021, it’s vital that employers prioritise obtaining final furloughed hours data in early January 2021 to ensure employees are paid the correct amounts due to them for December 2020, and that December 2020 claims are correct and submitted on time. Employers should consider what steps they might need to take now to ensure this data is available in time to meet the January 2021 deadline.
For claim periods that begin on or after 1 December 2020, grants can no longer be claimed in respect of furloughed workers who are on notice (including for resignation or retirement as well as redundancy). Employers should therefore ensure their December 2020 claims are correctly prepared on this basis.
As a reminder, HMRC will also publish information on claimants, including an indication of the amount claimed by reference to set bands, for periods that begin on or after 1 December 2020.
For more commentary on the CJRS, see our employer Q&A.
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