The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) comes to an end on 31 October 2020. The Government has recently announced the Job Support Scheme (JSS) as a way of continuing to support employers impacted by the pandemic and to top off the wages of workers.

The JSS is also intended to be accessed by employers where they need to close as a result of local lockdown measures. The JSS will commence on 1 November 2020 and run for six months.

How Does It Work?

Employees must work at least one-third of their normal hours. Schools will be responsible for paying staff wages for the proportion of time staff spend working. For the remaining hours that are not worked, the Government and the school will each pay one-third of staff wages. Unlike with the CJRS schools will not be able to 'top up' the pay received by employees.

How Much Will the Government Contribute?

The Government's contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month.

By way of example:

An employee who works 33% of their normal working time could be paid as follows:

  • 33% of normal hours worked - paid by the employer in usual way
  • 22% of normal pay paid by the employer
  • 22% of normal pay paid by the Government (subject to the maximum of £697.62 per month)
  • 23% of the normal working hours is unpaid

Note: employers remain responsible for paying employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions.

Can a School Rotate Employees Using the JSS?

Yes. Each arrangement between a school and employee must cover a minimum pay period of seven days but it appears that employees can otherwise be rotated.

Can All Employers Use This Scheme?

No. Whilst it is not a requirement to have previously used the CJRS, the Government has said that "larger businesses" will need to meet a financial assessment test, demonstrating their turnover now is lower than before the pandemic. No financial assessment will be required for small and medium organisations. We await details on the likely financial assessment and its implication for schools.

Is the JSS Simply the CJRS But at a Lower Rate of Government Contribution?

No. The emphasis of the JSS is very much to preserve viable jobs, rather than all jobs. In contrast to the CJRS, employees cannot be made redundant or given notice of redundancy whilst their employer calls upon the JSS. The JSS could therefore be useful to a school that is not operating at capacity, or in circumstances where a year group or bubble is isolating, reducing the workload for particular staff. The JSS could also be used by schools in respect of support staff, where there might be a reduced requirement for particular roles.

Must the School Agree the Arrangement with the Employee?

Yes. As with the CJRS, the change in hours must be agreed in writing with each employee. Failure to do so could lead to breach of contract and employment related claims.

HMRC also has the power to request a copy of the written agreement.

Has the JSS Been Extended?

Yes. On 9 October 2020, the Chancellor announced an extension to the JSS. The extension will apply to businesses that are legally required to close their premises due to local or national COVID-19 restrictions. The extension will not apply to businesses that are required by local public health authorities to close following a specific workplace COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the expansion, businesses whose premises are legally required to shut for a period as part of local or national restrictions will receive grants to pay the wages of staff who cannot work. For those employers, the Government will support eligible businesses by paying two thirds of each employees' salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. Under these provisions, employers will not be required to contribute towards wages but are asked to cover National Insurance and pension contributions. Unlike under the standard JSS, employers may decide to 'top up' pay should they wish to do so.

It may be that the expanded scheme is of little value to Schools - it may be that schools will not close their premises to pupils in the same way as they did in March even during a local or national lockdown. For those schools with affected trading subsidiary operations however that are required to close, it could be of some benefit.

Further guidance on both the Bonus and JSS are expected over the coming weeks. Further developments are likely as the Government responds to the changing COVID-19 situation and makes further decisions on a local and national level.

Originally published by Veale Wasbrough Vizards, October 2020

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