British Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on December 17 that the Coronavirus Job Retention Program (CJRS) was to be extended until April 30, 2021. This represents a further one-month extension.
The Chancellor also announced that the government’s contribution to employee wages for hours not worked will remain at 80% (capped at £ 2,500 per month). The other CJRS eligibility criteria will also remain unchanged until April 30, 2021, on which more details can be found in this LawFlash. To date, the CJRS has paid part of the salaries of nearly 10 million jobs from more than one million companies.
In addition, the Chancellor revealed that business loans against the government guaranteed coronavirus (COVID-19) will be extended until the end of March 2021. These loans were initially scheduled to cease at the end of January 2021.
The Chancellor had indicated in a previous statement in early November 2020 that a decision on any extension of the CJRS would be taken in January 2021. This latest announcement was therefore unexpected. He said the measures have been revealed now to bring “certainty and clarity” to the businesses concerned ahead of the new year. The Chancellor’s announcement coincides with further changes to ‘tier’ allocations in regions of England, with a general picture of tighter restrictions across the country, in particular due to the new variant of COVID-19 primarily affecting London and the South East of England. This situation is likely to put even more pressure on many employers and employees, especially those in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own independent rules for coronavirus restrictions.
Finally, the UK budget has been confirmed for March 3, 2021, in which the government will present future plans to support businesses and employees. This means that, for employers planning to lay off 20 or more positions, they will have time to consider any additional support offered in the budget before confirming any layoffs and consulting with employees (with minimum statutory consultation periods of 30. days for 20 to 99 layoffs and 45 days for 100 or more layoffs).[View source.]