Job Retention Scheme Extended
On Saturday evening the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced new measures for England in a renewed effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
So how different are the new rules, and what impact will this have on employers and employees?
More limited and time limited?
Although the measures are being widely reported as another national lockdown in England, the reality is that the recently announced changes are likely to be far less restrictive than those imposed in March 2020.
For whilst the Prime Minister has signalled that non-essential shops, hospitality, leisure, and entertainment venues will all have to temporarily close, there are currently far more industry sectors that will still be able to continue trading under these new restrictions.
The final details won’t be known until after a parliamentary vote on Wednesday, but it already seems clear that exceptions to the new rules will include essential shops, manufacturing, construction, education and (of course) all those already working from home too. And in a subsequent interview Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, confirmed that moving house will still be allowed during the restrictions, adding that removal firms, estate agents, and tradespeople can continue to work, but must follow Covid safety guidelines. So a complete lockdown similar to that seen earlier this year this is certainly not, yet that shouldn’t detract from the harsh reality for those businesses – and their employees – who are forced to again close their doors.
The other big difference is that the new restrictions are time limited, with the proposals intended to last from Thursday this week (5th November) until the 2nd December. In this respect the proposals perhaps more closely resemble the “circuit break” idea which has been widely suggested as a way of containing and reducing the COVID-19 infection and incidence rates.
Back to the future
The good news is that the government have also announced an increase to their employment support for the period of the new restrictions.
The Job Retention Scheme (JRS) has been supporting millions of employees over the last few months, and was due to cease on Saturday. This has now been extended until the end of March 2021 to ensure that similar levels of financial support remain in place.
Of course the Job Retention Scheme has provided several different levels of fiscal support since it began, with the amounts paid subject to a taper in recent months. The level of support from the JRS for November would appear to mirror that available in August, with the government paying 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500, and employers paying National Insurance and automatic enrolment pension contributions in the usual way. This is actually a more generous level of support for employers than was provided in the last two months of the JRS scheme, so has been widely welcomed. For more details of the JRS scheme please see this post by Employment Lawyer Matt Jenkin (written in June 2020).
What about the Job Support Scheme?
So with the extension to JRS, what does this mean for the two versions of the Job Support Scheme which were scheduled to commence from the 1st November 2020?
The official position is that the Job Support Scheme is "postponed", which suggests that it may yet be introduced following the end of the Job Retention Scheme. We will of course aim to update our followers on any developments in this space as they occur.
For more information on any of the above topics, please speak to your usual Howden Consultant in the first instance, or visit our website for other contact options. For the latest details on COVID-19 & Employee Benefits provision please visit our coronavirus hub.
(First Published 02/11/20 / Updated 06/11/20)
Steve is Head of Benefits Strategy, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, and is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions, Employee Benefits, and Human Resources issues. He is occasionally accused of making Employee Benefits interesting.
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