Hear from our HR & Payroll Experts
Let our experts, Neil & Dawn share their HR and payroll advice, guidance and COVID-19 employer support to help you during these challenging and changing times.
During these unprecedented and constantly changing times it is hard to know where to turn for advice. As the Government have announced a host of unprecedented measures to support employees and businesses during this uncertain time, such as The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, changes to Statutory Sick Pay, support for self-employed workers and more to support businesses and their people. It means that employers need to know how they will apply this to their organisation.
As Government guidelines on these measures are continually changing, and we want to ensure that you’re up to date with the latest coronavirus advice for employers, particularly HR and payroll processing and legislation. As a result, we have launched this page along with a series of webinars in April. These will feature a variety of experts in our question and answer sessions and useful tips and tricks on how to set up your systems to capture the new needs of the business.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
- Self-isolation and Statutory Sick Pay
- Holiday Entitlement
- iTrent Configuration and Processes
- General FAQs
- Podcast Updates
Alternatively, you can download a handy PDF to share with your team below.
HR Advice & Guidance Webinar Series
Join us for our HR Advice & Guidance webinar series to ask the questions you want and need to know. Our sessions are open to all; our customers, partners and those that just want advice. You can watch our latest webinar on demand.
Is the pay up to £2500 to employees as part of CJRS taxable?
We presume so and this would make sense but as the rules are not available, we cannot be 100% sure.
On the Coronavirus retention scheme, could employees take another (temporary) job if they are earning the 80%?
That might be possible, it will depend on the final details when they are published, however, an employee on furlough will need to be available for work if the employer needs them.
Will employers be reimbursed for employer's National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions under the CJRS?
As with everything related to this scheme we need to wait for guidance. The ACAS guidance talks about 80% of 'wage costs' being reimbursed, while the HMRC guidance says 'wages' so it's definitely unclear!
Can any size employer apply for the CJRS?
All UK businesses are eligible, 'any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit' to use the Chancellor's words.
Does the government's job retention scheme mean that furloughing replaces previous rules and payments for Laying Off and Short Time working (LOST)?
Our understanding is that this is a temporary measure which will cease once we are through this crisis. Moving forward employers might want to look at revisiting contracts of employment and adding in LOST clauses to new contracts. If they want to change all contracts of employment to contain this clause then of course they will have to consult and gain agreement on any proposed changes.
Will March commission for furloughed employees (paid in April) mean their pay is capped at £2500 even though they earnt it in March (i.e before they were furloughed). Are you able to provide any guidance on what we should do?
The Government have not yet released official guidance on how their Coronavirus salary support will work. However, based on similar support, we assume this will be processed as a refund, where you can claim the money back. This means that organisations will continue to run their payroll as normal, and so it would be up to the individual organisation whether to pay commission or not, as this is unlikely to be covered by the Government support.
What are the risks associated with changing someone’s employment status to be a furloughed worker?
If you identify those you wish to be furloughed, you can write to them and explain your reasons for doing this as a temporary variation to contract. You can vary the contract by agreement, and you can ask someone if they are happy to move to being a furloughed worker. They can refuse but if the alternative is no work instead of 80% of pay, then it is likely that you would be making them redundant, so they do need to understand the implications. There is always a risk with varying contracts of employment but explain your business reasons and negotiate with employees.
What communications may need to be included around furloughing workers?
If you are looking at putting someone on furlough as there is no work for them, then you will need to speak with them to advise that you have identified them as a furlough worker and your reasons why. There is no set procedure to follow as long as whoever is selected is not chosen for any discriminatory reasons. It is good practice to confirm your discussions with them in writing as a temporary variation to the contract of employment. If they don't agree and you have no work for them then the alternative route will more than likely be redundancy.
If there are employees on Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) but we want to begin the furlough process, do we end the SSP and immediately start 80% pay?
If they are on SSP they are not available for work. They would need to be put on furlough when they return if there is no work for them,or would be made redundant.
Can you furlough those staff that have been placed on "shielding" for 12 weeks due to high risk of illness?
If there is no work for them or they would be made redundant, then they can be furloughed.
If an employer furloughs an employee and doesn't top up the 20%, would this mean that the employer would need to make up for lost employee contributions?
That's one of many unanswered questions. Arguably not, because this isn't normal pay, but we'll have to wait for guidance (or a legal opinion).
Regarding the 80% of wages, is this purely based on their salary or could it be based on their past 3 months take home? This is mainly for employees with commission-based work or allowance.
As with most questions about this scheme, there simply isn't any guidance yet on what 'pay' is defined as for this purpose.
What is furlough?
Furlough is an American term for putting someone on unpaid absence because you have no work for them. In this case, however, the government is funding 80% of their normal pay.
We are a retail company and our salespeople are paid commission, which they advised is not reclaimable? Is this correct?
The original guidance said that fees, bonus and commission were specifically excluded from the calculation. The latest guidance now says: “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 (including tips) and commission payments and non-cash payments should be excluded.” That’s still open to interpretation, though. You can of course pay anything you wish; you just can’t reclaim some items.
How do we calculate the pay period for timesheet people?
It should be the higher of the pay in the same period last year, or their average pay over the 2019/20 tax year.
How much do we pay someone who was on maternity leave, has just returned but is now on furlough leave?
The guidance doesn’t say, but I suspect you will have to base it on what they’d have expected to get if they weren’t on maternity leave as there’s a general principle that people must not be penalised for being on maternity leave.
Does normal pay include shift allowance?
I imagine this would be considered part of “normal pay”, possibly unless working shifts was voluntary.
What happens with regard to pension contributions, my assumption is the Government cover 3% on the 80% (or £2,500). Is there an expectation that we would pay into the normal level and would defined Benefit Schemes need to be treated differently?
The guidance isn’t clear on this, it just says they’ll repay the minimum, but you can choose to pay more if you wish. I think that’s a question for the scheme administrators.
What should you do if an employer asks you to do some work once furloughed?
The rules are clear, you cannot work while on furlough. Employers have to furlough people for at least three weeks in order to be able to claim the furlough pay back from the government, so it might not be in the employer’s interest to ask people to work!
Can childcare vouchers and holiday buy/sell, cycle to work benefits still be deducted from the furlough payment?
The guidance doesn’t mention these at all, I’m afraid, so we can’t advise on this.
Will we be given details for the data loading of the furlough report?
Full instructions will be provided soon for using the report and dealing with the output.
If as a company you are paying additional salary to furloughed staff - am I correct in thinking that we will not be able to use the New Report and subsequent data conversion?
The report has a parameter where you can specify the percentage to be paid up to, the default is set to 80 but can be amended when running the report.
Do we end employees’ salaries?
No, for permanent elements the report will generate an offset to reduce the normal value to the 80% required.
If we are paying 100% and claiming only 80% will we need to do any adjustments for future reporting, or will we just report at a later stage and adjust figures for reclaim?
You will need to calculate 80% value somehow but exactly how will depend on your configuration.
Does furlough apply to teachers, schools remain open however not all teachers are required, such as peripatetic teachers who teach specific/specialist subjects on an annual basis?
We have exam invigilators that are on zero hours but only employed during the exam periods (May/June). They are on our payroll; how will we calculate their furlough pay as at end of Feb?
You use the higher of the pay in May/June last year or the calculated average. I guess the actual pay will be the higher value for these individuals.
How is the 80% reclaimed from HMRC?
Via an online system which doesn’t exist yet! It will be a simple claim for a composite amount. Not separately for each employee.
Does normal salary include any regular allowances and is it notional salary pre salary sacrifice?
The latest guidance suggests that it’s the actual (post sacrifice) salary which is used, though interestingly it does say that covid-19 is considered a ‘life event’ which would allow people to opt out of salary sacrifice arrangements.
Can you claim over the £2,500 in some cases?
No. £2,500 is the maximum.
What if we hired a new starter but only to start 1st April, is this new starter eligible to be on Furlough?
No, they have to be employed on or before 28th February.
If employees are paid in advance and we furlough and need to recover, will the iTrent solution be able to handle this?
The recovery is outside of iTrent. Furlough reclaims can only be made for days of absence from the 1st of March.
I have read that normal pay for furlough is gross pay before tax. We operate a pension scheme where the employee pension contribution reduces taxable pay. Would we use the taxable pay figure to calculate the 80%?
No, it’s 80% of the gross payments. The pension contribution due on the 80% will be deducted from pay before tax as usual, of course.
Is the Pension Reclaim 3% on the LEL only or above the LEL?
Minimum contributions – so 3% of pay above LEL.
Can you furlough if they are in isolation, so they get a higher wage?
Not if they’re self-isolating (they get SSP), but you can if they’re particularly vulnerable and are ‘shielding’ themselves if they can’t work from home and would otherwise be made redundant.
When completing average calculations for weekly paid timesheet staff should bonus and commission be excluded from this calculation as well?
Yes, they’re never included.
Can you furlough for 3 weeks and then work a week and then go back on furlough?
Yes, provided the periods of furlough are all at least 3 weeks long.
Do employees continue to accrue holiday whilst on Furlough?
Yes, I believe so, as they’re still employed by you.
Are we able to furlough someone who is unable to work from home due to childcare issues?
It’s your decision who to furlough.
We are paying our salespeople holiday average as there will be on commission to pay, is this not correct now?
You can pay whatever you like so long as it’s at least 80% of normal pay, but if they’re furloughed, the amount you can claim back from the government will exclude any commission element other than compulsory commission.
When you furlough an employee should you also remove their access to all IT systems?
Not necessarily, they’re still employed by you. Do you remove access during holidays?
Would it be discriminatory to furlough someone who is not available to work because they are shielding and not available to work for this reason?
No, the guidance specifically says you can furlough these individuals.
Is there any guidance for time sheeted term-time workers? Do we calculate their average pay in the tax year and divide by 12 months to arrive at the average to pay?
Nothing in the guidance says to treat them differently to any other workers.
If we are paying above £2,500 who will receive the allowance up to the Secondary Threshold. The government or the employer?
Guidance on calculating the NI reclaim in these cases is promised at a later date.
Can staff on furlough undertake volunteering activities for NHS for example?
We are looking to furlough staff from 21.03, can we backdate furlough?
Is the 28/2 Furlough applicable date, the organisation start date, or position occupancy?
The guidance says “employed by you” so it will be the start date.
What if the employee works for your organisation but on a casual basis and might have a main job somewhere else and you don't know about it - can you still furlough them?
Yes (as can the other employer if they wish).
If an employee is self-isolating due to having a child ‘at risk’, what pay would they be entitled to if the business is still open?
On the ACAS website they are saying if the individual is in the same household as someone who has coronavirus then they are entitled to SSP. If the child is not ill, then strictly speaking the employee isn't entitled to SSP as they are not sick. The caring responsibility will be covered by time off to look after dependants which unfortunately, unless there is something in your contract of employment to the contrary, is unpaid. Is there any way the individual could work flexibly and work from home or perhaps take some of time as unpaid leave and some as annual leave.
Are SSP refunds from day one only for smaller companies? (i.e. not larger organisations over a certain number of employees)
The refund is for small employers only but the payment from day one is for every employer.
Does SSP entitlement for Coronavirus still only occur where sickness absence is 4 days or more?
SSP is payable from day one for sickness related to Coronavirus.
You mentioned sick pay is paid from day one, but that it's not yet legislation and actioned in iTrent - when is this likely to be and will it be in time for April payroll?
The regulations are still being debated by Parliament. We have a software fix available and on the assumption the rules we know are approved we will release the fix next week.
If the SSP is wrapped up as part of the company sick pay element can they be furloughed?
If not available for work as off sick, then can't be furloughed until come back to work. Sick leave is not superseded by furlough.
What is the entitlement for a person that is self-isolating because a member of the household is sick, and then they get sick later? Are they only entitled to 14 days payment or more?
There would be two absences here. The self-isolation will be the first absence, which under the new rules won't have waiting days so its paid from day one. When they get sick, that would need to be a second absence (because it's for a different reason, they're actually sick) and that one will follow the normal rules so SSP would be paid for up to 26 weeks (the full 28 less the two used up by the 14-day self-isolation).
With backdates to SSP to the beginning of March - what advice is being given for year-end processing? Wait for the fix to be applied after government legislation?
There shouldn't be any year-end implications. If the extra SSP is paid in April, it should be taxed as part of the April pay as normal.
What if someone is sick while furloughed? Do we record this in the usual way?
Yes, if the employee tells you about it.
What information do you have on holding information about those who are shielding?
I’ve not seen anything specific about these people other than that they can be furloughed.
If we have more than 200 employees, can we reclaim SSP?
The cut-off is 250 employees, I believe (though there’s no detailed guidance on this yet).
Does the holiday carry over apply to ALL employees regardless of furlough?
Yes. The main reason for doing it is because some people in essential industries are busier than ever and won’t be able to take their holidays. They certainly won’t be furloughed.
Do bank holidays also need to be carried over as well as normal holiday?
Bank holidays are just holiday days within the normal entitlement, so yes, I assume they can be carried over. Nothing says otherwise. Incidentally, the ACA's guidance says that employees “may still be required to use a day’s paid holiday for bank holidays, including when they’re furloughed.” They have to be paid holiday pay for that day, though.
What are the rules of taking holiday while furloughed? Can we ask employees to take holiday during furlough?
Nothing says you can’t. However, bear in mind that this will break the furlough as the people will not be furloughed during the holiday (Furlough is unpaid leave and you can’t be on unpaid leave and paid holiday simultaneously). This might affect what you can claim back, especially since the guidance says you can only reclaim furlough pay if people are furloughed for at least three weeks. However, the guidance doesn’t cover this specific scenario anywhere so we can’t be sure!
Our employer has told us strictly no carry over for holidays (we are allowed to take them during this period). Are they breaking the new legislation?
The guidance says that employees will have a right to carry holidays over if it’s not reasonably practicable for them to be taken in the current year, but there’s no definition of ‘reasonably practicable’. The government are expecting employers to be pragmatic in these exceptional circumstances.
Holiday carry over was indicated as only for Key Workers, is this correct?
The guidance doesn’t say this, it says it applies to all employers affected by Covid-19 (which is basically every employer!).
What if your holiday entitlement is more than the statutory days i.e, 28, can these be carried over?
That’s for the employer to decide – the government announcement only applies to the 20 days that are granted under EU law.
We have a max carry over limit for holidays at 10 days - do we have to lift this?
Can we get advice on how to delete sickness absence reasons that may have been set up previously in iTrent, but we want to replace with covid-19 prefix?
Reasons are deleted using the table contents details screen for the table of absence reason.
Will iTrent allow sickness reasons with the covid-19 prefix even though the law hasn’t yet been changed?
You can set these up whenever you like - once updated, the system will remove the SSP waiting days for these absences regardless of whether they were entered before or after the update
What would be the recommended way to process/label 'furlough' employees in iTrent?
The current rules are not clear enough for us to be able to answer this yet. We have a latest news article which we will continue to update as more information becomes available. This will include suggestions of the changes needed in iTrent.
Will the new SSP element for iTrent be ready before the end of March?
It will be released as soon as we can after the necessary legislation has been passed. At the moment (Thursday 26th March) we're still waiting for a Statutory Instrument to bring the SSP change into effect.
Please could you explain again how we should be recording Sickness due to COVID 19 in iTrent ?
Record them as a normal sickness. As long as the absence reason starts Covid-19, the special SSP waiting day rule will be applied.
Regarding the SSP iTrent hotfix for Coronavirus, I'm assuming we can apply this after End-of-year turn over?
Yes, this will be able to be applied at any time.
How do we attach the coronavirus absence to our sickness absence scheme?
If you mean an absence for someone who has Coronavirus or is self-isolating, they’re entitled to SSP so it should be a sickness absence.
Do you have to create an element called furlough pay or can we just pay as basic pay?
You can do it however you like – it’s just a payment. Remember you need to identify it somehow in order to reclaim it, though.
Can I confirm the sickness reason we need to enter for coronavirus related SSP?
Anything starting covid-19, the case of the letters doesn’t matter.
For the important software changes, if you are hosted, are these automated updates run by MHR?
Cloud services will be in contact to arrange the appropriate updates.
Is the furlough extract only possible on a global scale? What if we have one employee or a couple to update throughout the month?
The report can be run for a Smart Group, though to be honest if there’s only two employees it’ll probably be more efficient to process them manually.
Where is the furlough report held in iTrent for us to run?
It will be in Pay Run Reports.
Do we need to set up the SSP reason and set it as COVID-19 for coronavirus sickness?
There is a standard one shipped with the patch, but you can also create your own.
Will there be a report that we can extract regarding furlough to claim back from HMRC?
This will depend on your set-up.
If we want to top up the employee’s salary from the 80% will this be processed differently?
The report has a parameter where you can specify the percentage to be paid up to, the default is set to 80 but can be amended when running the report.
When will the furlough report be available?
As soon as we can develop and test it – the Knowledge article currently on Service Cloud will be updated when we have an update.
Is there a report that will help to identify the higher of the pay for furloughing?
Yes, there will. See the Knowledge article on Service Cloud.
Will the report for furlough pay including all elements paid to employees in the tax year including overtime, allowances etc?
You will pick the elements by attaching them to an accumulator.
We have employees being furloughed on different dates, will there be an option for this in the conversion load?
The report will calculate on a full payroll period.
Do we need to build a new sickness scheme, to override the waiting days or if it's on the patch how will this override a current scheme?
The waiting day rule only applies to SSP and the iTrent update will apply this automatically to absences with an appropriate Absence reason.
We have already set up several Covid-19 sickness reasons or other absence eg. coronavirus self-isolation - health reason or coronavirus - symptoms is there a way the SSP will work for them?
You need to change the absence reasons so they start with Covid-19. Then recalculate the absences (unless they’re still open).
Is there an effective date on the furlough upload?
It works per pay period, as it uploads temporary input.
We use pay scales that are paid monthly as well as salaries - will the report allow for this?
The report will calculate using accumulators and take the values paid each period rather than reference pay scales and salaries
If someone has more than one role, do they get 80% of each role, and is it loaded per occupancy or is it per person?
It is loaded per person, but taking all roles into account.
If staff are furloughed and we top up their salary to 100% how will the RTI file identify these staff to be furloughed?
It doesn’t, these staff are not identified on RTI.
If we aren't classing the absence as sickness, do we still need to put the patch in the system?
The employees are entitled to SSP if they meet the criteria, so they should be processed accordingly.
If the COVID-19 absence reason is used will it still use entitlement as they could be in no pay?
Yes, Occupational payments are unaffected, all it does is pay SSP from day one.
If we create a Furlough Leave in other absence, will the report you are building still work?
Will the report do part month for future pay periods?
The report will calculate on a full payroll period.
What employment legislation allows an employer to require staff notice to take leave, but the notice period is twice the amount of leave?
From the ACAS website - If your employer needs you to take your holiday on certain dates, they should tell you at least twice as many days before as the number of days they need you to take.
Have there been any changes to the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations while employees are working from home?
Not as far as we're aware.
Do you know anything about the accrual and build-up of annual leave during furloughing?
Annual leave still accrues during that period.
As a coronavirus employer precaution, is there any special treatment required for pregnant employees?
You should conduct a risk assessment for a pregnant employee. As women who are pregnant have a higher risk of complications - as a precaution - the government has recommended that pregnant women should take the same measures as other people at higher risk of severe complications from coronavirus. If you can arrange for any pregnant employees to work remotely if possible or arrange for them to work in a lower risk area that would be great. This advice could change and pregnant employees may be advised to self-isolate. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired are being advised to self-isolate now.
We don't offer paid dependent leave apart from the 1 or 2 days to make arrangements - what do you feel would be reasonable in light of COVID-19?
Unfortunately, there is no definition of "reasonable", it’s a combination of what your business can support, and could be a combination of paid/unpaid leave.
Are companies being flexible and how are they dealing with the current spate of holiday cancellations over the next two months or so?
That will be up to the individual company and their rules around taking holidays.
I thought employers were required to enable staff to take at least 20 days annual leave under Working Time regulations. Will coronavirus affect this?
If employers are not allowing people to rearrange their holidays due to cancellations and they still have the time booked off, then they are being allowed to take holidays. It is a difficult situation as employers may think they will have a problem at the end of the holiday year with people all wanting to have rearrange their holidays.
Has there been any changes in DSE regulations?
Not as far as we’re aware.
Statutory bereavement - can’t find anything about it on GOV.UK apart from in the February 2020 HMRC Employer bulletin. And it’s supposed to apply to any deaths or still births after 6th April 2020. And shouldn’t it be in Trent or do we have to set up our own Statutory element?
You have to set up the element and pay manually for now. We’ll add it to the Absence module later. The guidance is late but that’s probably because of Covid-19!
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