Extended Covid-19 support 'welcome news' for rural sector

Rishi Sunak has extended the CJRS scheme to 31 March 2021, with flexible furloughing to continue (Photo: WILL OLIVER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Rishi Sunak has extended the CJRS scheme to 31 March 2021, with flexible furloughing to continue (Photo: WILL OLIVER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Further support to protect jobs and livelihoods is welcome news for the rural sector as the second lockdown gets underway, Saffery Champness says.

The government announced last week an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to provide 'significant extra support' to jobs and livelihoods.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the scheme to 31 March 2021, with flexible furloughing set to continue.

The previously announced - and less generous - Job Support Scheme has been withdrawn, as has the Job Retention Bonus.

The scheme will revert to the same conditions as when it was first introduced - 80% of the furloughed employees’ earnings will be funded by the government.

This is up to the maximum of £2,500 per month, with employers continuing to be liable for employer’s National Insurance contributions and auto enrolment pension contributions.

According to accountancy firm Saffery Champness, this level of support will be reviewed in January, in light of the prevailing economic conditions at that time.

It adds that rural employers can still choose whether to top-up employee earnings paid through the scheme.

Meanwhile, support for the self-employed, through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), is also set to increase.

Again, this will revert to the same levels as when the scheme was first introduced, with the self-employed to benefit from a grant of up to £7,500 for the 3-month period to the end of January 2021. This will cover 80% of average trading profits.

Saffery Champnesss explains there will be a further grant paid in respect of the 3 months from February to April 2021, at a rate to be determined.

Businesses that have been forced to close as a result of the latest restrictions may also benefit from government grants worth up to £3,000 per month, dependent on the rateable value of their property, the firm adds.

Those in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors that were affected by Tier 2/3 restrictions, could also benefit from a backdated grant of up to 70% of that amount.

Martyn Dobinson, partner at Saffery Champness, said this extension of the CJRS meant that the previously announced Job Support Scheme and Job Retention Bonus would no longer be introduced.

"The bonus was due to be paid in February to employers retaining previously furloughed staff," he added.

“Employers across the UK can claim for employees who were employed and on the payroll on 30 October 2020.

"There must have been a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC notifying a payment to that employee between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020. This applies whether the business is open or closed."

Mr Robinson said there was flexibility for rural employers to use the scheme for employees for any amount of time or shift pattern.

"They can furlough employees on either a full or part-time basis, and businesses will also be able to vary hours worked where there is agreement with the employee. Employees can be on any type of employment contract.

“With employees made redundant after 23 September able to be rehired and placed on furlough, employers and employees that may wish to take advantage should look into this as a matter of urgency,” he said.