COVID-19 Weekly Round Up (up to 14th September)

With it being National Payroll Week last week, it seemed fitting to dedicate this blog to an update on what has been dominating our time over the past six months. Here’s what you may have missed – don’t forget to check out my Covid-19 page for a consolidated list of resources too.

On Monday, following issues in recent weeks where Excel spreadsheet uploads for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) claims had been rejected, HMRC provided a new Excel template which should be used moving forward. Their communication to stakeholders made it clear that:

The XLS and XLMS versions of the template now highlight any missing information needed to make a CJRS claim. Where information is missing, fields will be red. Once the missing information is filled in, the fields will turn green, making it easier for employers to provide all the data we need to process their claim quickly and successfully. 
The template now also allows employers to flag if employees have recently returned from statutory leave, to ensure claims with any new employees listed are processed correctly.
It’s important that employers provide all the data we need to process their claims. Payment of their grant may be at risk or delayed if they submit a claim that’s incomplete or incorrect, so we want to help employers get this right.

However, by Tuesday it was clear things weren’t as simple as this communication suggests. HMRC indicated that there had been no issues with rejected CJRS claims using their excel spreadsheet and that this has all been due to employer error. This has not been my experience; I have clients who have been submitting the same HMRC template from April and uploads only started being rejected in June. The payment was paid out it seems, but they have been in touch to ask for a re-submission via Dropbox.

In other news, it was clear that National Payroll Week couldn’t come to an end without some unexpected presents from HMRC on Friday! New paragraphs and examples have been slipped into the following guidance concerning how to calculate an employee’s worked hours and furloughed hours:

One of the key points to note here is what to do if an employee stops being furloughed or flexibly furloughed partway through a claim period. If this is the case, when calculating the number of furloughed hours you can claim for, make sure you:

  • only calculate the employee’s usual hours up to the last day of furlough, instead of to the end of the claim period
  • do not include any working hours after the last day of furlough

The guidance makes it clear that this applies even if your claim period includes days after the employee’s last day of furlough (for example, because you’re claiming for multiple employees and some of them stay on furlough). You do not need to amend any previous claims submitted prior to 14th September 2020 for these employees. You should use this calculation for any claims from 14th September 2020, for an employee who stops being furloughed or flexibly furloughed partway through a claim period.

Of course, this is a significant change at this late stage and I would have thought it should have been discussed with agent and employer representative bodies before being published – particularly as there was a stakeholder meeting (the Employment and Payroll Group) with HMRC last Wednesday!

Hopefully more will become clear about exactly what these points mean in practice over the course of the week and as those of you with September monthly claims begin to submit them.

If you’re looking for updates, commentary and extra content as it happens, I also send Covid-19 update emails – drop me a message if you’d like to be added to the mailing list.