The UK government has announced the introduction of the Job Support Scheme ('JSS'). The JSS was due to run from 1 November 2020 for six months but it was announced on 31 October 2020 that it was being postponed until the end of the extended Job Retention Scheme ('JRS').

The short-time working part of the JSS ('JSS Open') is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses facing lower demand over the winter months due to COVID-19. Ostensibly this appears similar to flexible furlough arrangements under the JRS, in that an employee can work part-time and be paid as normal for the hours worked, with their employer claiming a grant to cover a proportion of unworked hours. However, there are some important differences.

  • In terms of the JRS an employee can either be off work on full furlough, or agree to flexible furlough. There are no restrictions on the split between working and non-working hours under flexible furlough arrangements. However, in order to qualify under the JSS Open an employee must work a minimum of 20% of their usual hours (it is not yet clear whether this is per week or as an average over a set period). The government is to undertake a review after three months of the JSS starting and decide whether to increase the threshold.
  • At the start of the JRS the government contributed the lower of (1) 80% of an employee's 'reference salary'; or (2) £2,500 per month. This contribution rate reduced on a sliding scale from August until October, when it was a maximum of 60% of salary (subject to the cap). When the JRS was extended for November the contribution rate increased back to the lower of 80% or £2,500 per month. The government's contribution to unworked hours under the JSS Open will be 61.67% of 'reference salary' up to a maximum of £1,541.75 per month. Employees must have been on the PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020.
  • Until the end of July the government grant under the JRS included employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions. A grant under the JSS does not cover either NICs or pension contributions. Employers will have to pay to HMRC any employer NICs due on the full amount that that is paid to the employee, including any amounts subsequently met by a scheme grant. Employers must also continue to pay pension contributions in accordance with the applicable terms of the pension scheme, unless the employee has opted out.
  • It's possible to move employees in and out of both schemes. Each short-time working arrangement under the JSS must be for a minimum consecutive seven day period. Until 30 June there was a minimum furlough period of three weeks. There is no minimum period of flexible furlough (although the minimum claim period for furloughed hours was seven days).
  • The JRS was open to all employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE system, regardless of their size. However, in order for large businesses to be eligible for the JSS Open they will have to undertake a Financial Impact Test - the grant will only be available if their turnover has stayed level, or is lower now than prior to them experiencing difficulties as a result of coronavirus.
  • Employees cannot be made redundant, or put on notice of redundancy, during the period an employer is claiming for them under the JSS. This is a change from the JRS – in terms of which employees could be claimed for even when under notice.
  • Employers will be able to claim under the JSS even if they had not previously furloughed staff under the CRS (and likewise employees do not necessarily have to have been furloughed in order to be put into the JSS). In order to be eligible for flexible furlough employers had to have furloughed staff by 10 June 2020.
  • Under the JSS, as grants will be payable in arrears, employers can only submit a claim after payment to the employee has been made and reported to HMRC via a Real Time Information return. Under the JRS you can make a claim in anticipation of an imminent payroll run, at the point of running payroll, or after running payroll.

In addition to the JSS for short-time working, an expansion of the JSS will also be available (following the end of the furlough scheme) for businesses required to close for at least seven days because of local or national coronavirus restrictions ('JSS Closed'). Although part of the same scheme, the JSS Open and JSS Closed have different rules on eligibility and grants. Eligible employers under the JSS Closed will receive a grant for employees who have had to cease work at the relevant premises of two-thirds of their normal pay up to a limit of £2,083.33 per month. 

Information on the Job Retention Scheme and the Job Support Scheme is available on our online HR and employment law portal, Workbox by Brodies. We will be updating the JSS pages as and when the guidance is updated (expected to be in December). 

This blog was originally published on 12 October 2020; and was then updated on 26th October and again on 2 November.


Julie Keir

Practice Development Lawyer