National Lockdown – Extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Business Support Update

The Government has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) following the announcement of new Coronavirus restrictions in England from Thursday 5 November 2020 to Wednesday 2 December 2020, which will require many businesses to close.

It has also confirmed that those businesses that are required to close will be eligible for business grants of up to £3,000 a month, introduced originally for closed businesses in areas of ‘Very High’ Coronavirus restrictions under the three-tier system.

Meanwhile, the mortgage payment holiday scheme that had been due to end on Saturday 31 October 2020 has been extended so that borrowers impacted by Coronavirus will be able to access a six-month repayment holiday. 

Businesses forced to close

The categories of businesses forced to close under the new restrictions are near-identical to those required to close following the initial announcement of ‘Stay at Home’ measures on 23 March 2020, with some limited differences.

The Government has confirmed that the following businesses will be required to close from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December 2020:

  • all non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops.
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks,
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens;
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons.

Supermarkets, food shops, garden centres and a limited group of other retailers that sell ‘essential’ goods and services will be able to remain open if they follow COVID-secure guidelines.

Meanwhile, ‘non-essential’ retailers will be able to open for click-and-collect and delivery only.

As was the case during the original ‘Stay at Home’ measures, hospitality businesses, including pubs, bars and restaurants that are required to close may provide takeaway and delivery services. However, in contrast to the previous measures, under the new restrictions, hospitality venues will not be able to provide takeaways of alcohol.

Accommodation venues will only be able to remain open for people who have to travel for work and for a limited number of other exemptions. 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Extension

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended, just hours before it had been due to close to be replaced by the new Job Support Scheme.

The extended CJRS will operate on similar terms to those in place in August 2020. CJRS grants will cover 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s usual wages, capped at £2,500 a month, while employers will be required to cover employer National Insurance and pension contributions. They will not be required to contribute to employees’ wages, as had been required in September and October.

Flexible furlough arrangements will also be permitted under the extended scheme. This means furloughed employees will be able to work reduced hours, paid by their employer in full, while the employer can claim a CJRS grant in respect of 80 per cent of the pay for usual hours not worked.

Crucially, neither the employer nor the employee needs to have used the CJRS previously to use the extended scheme.  The scheme is open to all employees for whom a Real Time Information (RTI) submission had been made on or before 30 October 2020. Previously, the scheme had only been open for employees reported on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020 and who had been furloughed for at least three weeks before 1 July 2020.

The scheme will otherwise operate as it has done previously and will be open to employees on any type of contract. Employers will also be able to top-up employee wages above the value of CJRS grant if they wish to do so.

Employers will need to agree full furlough or flexible furlough arrangements with employees in accordance with employment law and their contracts of employment.

Full guidance on the extended scheme is expected to be published imminently.

The extension of the CJRS means that the introduction of the JSS Open and JSS Closed on 1 November has been postponed until the CJRS closes.

These arrangements apply to the whole of the UK.

Business Grants

Businesses that are required to close under the new England-wide restrictions and which are in the business rates system will be able to claim grants of between £667 and £1,500 for each two-week period they are required to remain closed.

The arrangements are the same as those in place for businesses in areas of ‘Very High’ (Tier Three) Coronavirus restrictions through the Local Restrictions Support Grant.

The new grants will pay £667, £1,000 or £1,500 for each two-week period a business is required to shut.

Businesses with rateable values of £15,000 or less will receive £667, those with rateable values of £15,000 to £51,000 will receive £1,000 and those with rateable values of more than £51,000 will receive £1,500.

The scheme will be administered by Local Authorities, with £1.1 billion of funding being distributed on the basis of £20 per head to help them support businesses more broadly.

This scheme applies to England only. However, the Devolved Administrations will receive equivalent funding to distribute as they see fit.

Mortgage Payment Holidays

Following the introduction of the new Coronavirus restrictions in England, the Government has confirmed that mortgage payment holidays will still be available to borrowers impacted by Coronavirus. The scheme had been due to end on 31 October 2020.

Borrowers affected by Coronavirus will be entitled to a six-month mortgage payment holiday. Those that have already benefitted from a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top this up to six months without a record being made on their credit file.

Further details of the scheme are expected imminently.

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