Been furloughed by your employer? This is everything you need to know about the Government's scheme to help workers

A Government scheme to support businesses and help safeguard jobs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has opened for applications today.

Monday, 20th April 2020, 5:49 pm

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live with businesses able to claim towards staff wages in a bid to protect millions of jobs across the country.

As it was launched this morning, Monday, April 20, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "It's vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it's safe - and this scheme will allow that to happen."

Under the furlough scheme, employers can go online to claim cash grants worth up to 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 a month per worker, with the aim they will not be laid off.

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Restaurants, hairdressers and barbers, gyms and bars have been ordered to close during the coronavirus outbreak, with many firms placing their staff on the Government's furlough scheme.

The Chancellor has already confirmed the scheme will be extended for a further month until the end of June, in light of the ongoing countrywide COVID-19 lockdown.

The British Chambers of Commerce has estimated two-thirds of firms have furloughed some part of their workforce.

Among businesses ordered to close by the Government are bars, pubs and restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, betting shops, gyms, hairdressers, barbers, beauty and nail salons, including piercing and tattoo parlours.

HMRC staff will operate the scheme, with the money due to reach bank accounts within six working days, a statement from the Treasury said.

Phone lines and web-chat services will be available to help answer applicants' questions, with the scheme launching 10 days ahead of schedule, it added.

Here’s what money are you entitled to and how will the initiative work if you have been furloughed:

What is furlough?

If you are furloughed then your employer is keeping you on the payroll while a business has less work than normal.

While on furlough you cannot undertake work for or on behalf of your employer.

Many shops, restaurants, hotels and other service industries in the UK have found themselves with no customers after being forced to close amid the pandemic, and many other firms have had work cancelled.

Who is eligible?

Any employer with a UK payroll and a UK bank account will be able to claim on their employees' behalf.

Employees must have been on their employer's payroll scheme and had this notified to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on or before March 19.

This means that people who work for businesses, charities and public authorities will be entitled to the money if their employer signs up.

Employees can be on any type of contract, including zero-hours or temporary.

If you were employed as of February 28 and on the payroll, but were made redundant or stopped working before March 19, you can qualify for the scheme if your employer re-hires you and puts you on furlough.

Employers can backdate claims to when employees were first furloughed, with the earliest date being March 1.

To make a claim, you must have, created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020, enrolled for PAYE online and have a UK bank account.

How much will I get paid?

Businesses will be able to pay their employees 80% of their regular monthly wage, or £2,500 a month, whichever is lower.

If on the scheme, your employer must pay you at least the 80% of your usual income, however they are also free to top this up if they wish.

This means that if you earn £24,000 a year, you will earn a gross income of at least £1,600 a month on the furlough scheme.

How long will it last?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was originally intended to run to Monday, June 1, 2020, however it has been extended until at least the end of that month.

In a statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Our unprecedented job retention scheme will protect millions of jobs across the country and is now up and running.

"It's vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it's safe - and this scheme will allow that to happen."

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How have businesses and trade unions reacted?

The two groups have broadly welcomed the scheme and its extension.

Trade bodies and business groups said the Government must ensure speedy access to the funds so staff can be paid.

Unions said there would be "no reason" for redundancies and called on ministers to ensure workers are protected longer-term during a recovery.

Who will run the scheme?

Treasury said in a statement that about 5,000 HMRC staff will work on the project, which is intended to assist thousands of UK firms, with the money due to reach bank accounts within six working days.

Phone lines and web-chat services will be available to help answer applicants' questions, with the scheme launching 10 days ahead of schedule, it added.

Do I still get taxed?

While on furlough your wage will be subject to the usual income tax and other deductions, the Government guidance says.

What are my rights?

According to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) furloughed employees have exactly the same rights they did when working.

This means you are still entitled to statutory sick pay, maternity and other parental rights, the right against unfair dismissal and redundancy payments should you lose your job.

What if I do not want to go on furlough?

The Government say you may be at risk of losing your job if your employer asks you to go on furlough and you refuse.

If this is the case, it must be in line with normal redundancy rules and protections.

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