The Job Retention Bonus (JRB) is a further finance package from the Government in the form of a one-off payment of £1,000 for each eligible employee. This may be a welcome add-on to the new Job Support Scheme, aimed at assisting businesses to keep viable jobs alive during these lean times caused by the ever-increasing restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19. But will it be enough to keep the wolf from the door as we head towards the bleak mid-winter?
“Every little helps”, as the saying goes. The benefit of the JRB will depend on the eligibility of employees. For each eligible employee the employer will be entitled to claim a one-off payment from HMRC of £1,000. This will be taxable but it is a bonus payment for the employer and does not have to be passed over to the employee.
Employees for which the employer may claim the JRB must be “eligible” employees. There are a number of factors for eligibility:
- The employee must have been on furlough at some point - in essence, this means that the employee in question must have accessed the furlough scheme prior to 10th June 2020 (for a minimum of 3 weeks). This was a condition precedent to accessing the flexible furlough scheme from 1st July 2020. Employees who have never been furloughed (but have never-the-less remained employed during the relevant period) WILL NOT be eligible for the JRB.
- Employees must remain employed as at 1st November 2020 and remain continuously employed, and not under notice, on 31st January 2021. Curiously, employees cannot be working their notice up to and including 1st February 2021: this means that notice to terminate their employment must not be served until 2nd February 2021 at the earliest.
- The employer must have paid a total taxable salary amount of at least £1,560 to the employee between 6th November 2020 and 5th February 2021 (this is to prevent the employer getting the bonus of £1,000 by keeping, say, a zero hours employee on the books and paying them a trivial amount before 31st January 2021).
- The employer must have paid some of that taxable salary (of at least £1,560) to the employee in each calendar month (November/December/January). The actual amount that is paid in each calendar month does not matter provided that some taxable salary is paid at least once each month and the total over the three months is at least £1,560.
The JRB can be claimed using an online portal which is scheduled to open on 15th February 2021. There will be a 6-week window, until 31st March 2021, to make a claim. Remember, employers can still claim the bonus even if they claim for that employee through the Job Support Scheme, provided always that the employee has at some point been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Government Guidance on eligibility and claiming the JRB is available here.
There is a user-friendly set of examples of employees who will trigger the bonus is available here and if you're really keen in getting stuck into the detail, HMRC’s Directions of the JRB is here.