Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Portal launch date and update on holidays

Shaun Millican

Shaun Millican

Business Advisory Partner

HMRC has confirmed that the claims portal for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will be launched on Monday 20 April. HMRC is working hard to make this portal self-service due to the anticipated demand there will be.

We are expecting updated guidance shortly, but one key point to note is that to make a claim, employers must be registered for PAYE online. At this stage, HMRC is advising that payroll bureaus, such as ourselves, will not be able to access the service to submit claims for clients. This means that businesses will need to register themselves directly. Once registered, you can advise your payroll bureau of your details, and they can then help you to submit your claim.

This position may change because it is recognised that allowing payroll bureaus access to the service would streamline the process but at this stage it would be safer to assume this will not be the case and to start the ball rolling setting up your online account.

What do I need to do now?

Right now, our suggested actions for employers are as follows:

  • Check that you have a valid government gateway login (you may use this for your VAT submissions/MTD registration) to access your digital account
  • Within your digital account you need to check whether PAYE online is activated
  • If PAYE online is activated then you are good to go when the portal is launched
  • If PAYE online is not activated you must apply for this to be activated and you will need to enter your PAYE and Accounts Office References. Please note that HMRC will send an activation code to the address that they have registered. If this is a business address that you do not have access to, we would recommend the following additional steps:
    • A company director should call the employer hotline and change the HMRC registered address to their home address
    • The employer helpline can be contacted on 0300 200 3300, Monday to Friday: 8am to 4pm. These helplines use speech recognition software, so you will be asked why you are calling HMRC. Try to answer with short phrases and words, for example “change my address”, “advice on job retention scheme”. You will need to have your PAYE and Accounts Office References to hand.

You can find full details of how to register for an online account (or how to access your existing account) on the HMRC webiste.


Holidays remain an area of uncertainty and the key question is whether an employee can be on annual leave and furlough leave simultaneously. The CJRS official guidance has not been updated, but HMRC appears to be advising through other channels (such as social media) that annual leave, including bank holidays, can be taken during furlough leave without disrupting the furlough leave period. At this stage we would recommend waiting until the official guidance is updated to avoid inadvertently disrupting the furlough leave and not achieving the minimum three week period. We will update you as soon as possible.

The main questions concerning holidays are as follows:

  • Does annual leave accrue during furlough leave – the answer to this is yes
  • Can an employee take annual leave whilst on furlough – uncertain as per above
  • Can an employer make an employee take annual leave whilst on furlough – uncertain as above but if the answer to 2 is yes, then it will be possible for an employer to ask employees to take annual leave subject to the employment law aspects around this. The government have announced that employees can carry forward higher amounts of unused relief as a result of COVID-19
  • What rate of pay would be paid for annual leave – it is acknowledged that the safest course of action would be 100% of an employee’s normal pay rather than the amount reduced under furlough.

We'll continue to keep you updated as and when more guidance is released.