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Update: just as we were about to publish this post, Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown for England and with it an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The CJRS is now due to end on 30 November, with the Job Support Scheme replacing it from 1 December. The government says the lockdown will be limited to one month. But with numerous suggestions in the media that a month-long lockdown may not be sufficient to bring the rate of infection as low as required, the CJRS may yet have more time.

It’s all change again for embattled businesses. So what’s the current state of play for payroll departments trying to understand who gets what?

First came the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will come to an end on 30 November. Then the Job Support Scheme (JSS) will take its place, although in a significantly different form to its initial announcement. So if you’re left bewildered trying to understand what help is available, here’s our guide.

JSS – where were we?

When it was initially announced, the JSS would operate as follows:

  • Employees would be required to work 33% of their regular hours. Employers paid wages for this as normal.
  • For the hours not worked, the employee would receive two-thirds of their regular salary, with employer and government each paying one third.

JSS – where are we?

On 22 October, The Chancellor announced an update on those plans, saying, “I’ve always said that we must be ready to adapt our financial support as the situation evolves, and that is what we are doing today.”

As a result the JSS now operates two systems, one for businesses able to continue trading (JSS Open) and one for those that cannot (JSS Closed). The terms of JSS Open are as follows:

  • Employees are required to work 20% of their regular hours. Employers pay wages for this as normal.
  • For the hours not worked, the employee will receive two-thirds of their regular salary of up to £3,125 per month. The government pays 61.67% of wages up to a maximum of £1,541.75. The employer pays 5% up to a maximum of £125.

Job Retention Bonus

The JRB is an additional payment of £1,000 for each employee you placed into the CJRS or JSS and kept on payroll until at least 31 January 2021. Businesses can claim JRB after 15 February 2021.

Taken together, the government estimates JSS and JRB could account for 95% of total employee wage costs, providing those staff are retained until at least February.

Find out more about applying for JRB.

What is JSS Closed?

Some businesses in tier 3 locations have been required to close entirely (pubs, bowling alleys, casinos, for example). Some, like nightclubs, never reopened post-lockdown and must remain closed in every tier. And many fall in a discretionary area, for local councils to decide with health officials whether additional closures are required. Depending on the specifics of the local tier 3 arrangements, gyms, bookmakers, hair and beauty salons and similar could be required to close.

Where employers are legally required to close their premises (as opposed to choosing to close) the government will pay two thirds of a worker’s salary to a maximum of £2,083.33. Payroll departments will pay the wage and reclaim it from the government. The employer need not make any additional contribution, but they can if they wish.


The government has provided additional funding to local authorities to further help businesses affected by trading conditions as a result of the ongoing crisis. The specific amounts vary depending on the alert level within the area and the settlements agreed between authorities and government.

In general, however, tier 3 area businesses will receive additional support whether they remain open or closed if they have rateable premises. Tier 2 businesses which remain open but “severely impacted” by the conditions will also receive grants, again dependent on the rateable value of their premises.

What happens next?

The JSS runs until the end of April 2021, giving payroll departments a theoretical degree of certainty over what they can claim between now and then. Muddying the waters somewhat is the potential for additional tiers (an even more stringent tier 4 is being explored), and further changes as the government continues to adapt its response to the changing picture.

Already we have seen the JSS change significantly. It would be a brave person who predicted no further changes between now and spring.

If you need support in managing your payroll in a rapidly changing environment, talk about outsourcing to us.

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