Festive Furlough – the importance of consulting the Job Retention Scheme guidance

Shaun Millican

Shaun Millican

Business Advisory Partner

Now that the extended Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is well underway, and with the festive period just around the corner, employers may be tempted to put their employees on furlough when they close their doors for Christmas. While this may seem attractive, employers need to be mindful of the guidance and the risk of making a claim which is not within the legislation or spirit of the scheme.

The JRS guidance states that “employees should not be placed on furlough for a period simply because they are on holiday for that period.” With this in mind, in our view, where it is customary for your business to close for the festive period, and you are open for business before and after the holidays, it would be contrary to the guidance to place your staff on furlough for the duration of the festive period.

However, where your business is normally open for business during the holiday season but you take the decision to close because you anticipate the impact of COVID will mean you’ll have no work for your employees, it may be reasonable to place your employees on furlough, but we would recommend talking to our JRS team to ensure you’re working within the guidance. Every case should be assessed separately.

If you’ve considered the guidance fully and feel you can genuinely furlough your team over the festive period and it’s the right thing to do for your business, we would advise you document this fully. We would recommend considering the following areas in your planning:

  • Document the reasons for furlough as distinct from the business simply being closed for the holidays
  • Consider furloughing staff before and/or after the festive period
  • Avoid a blanket furlough of all staff if possible

The above steps will help provide the evidence needed to show your business has properly considered resource requirements, and has used the furlough scheme to address these, rather than because you are simply closed for the holiday season. If your business has few or no employees on furlough before the festive period or after the festive period, it is very difficult to see how an increase for the holidays would be within the guidance.

Going forward we anticipate that HMRC will subject claims to additional scrutiny than was previously the case, so it’s important to ensure you continue to stick within the guidance of the scheme.

Here to help

If you have any questions on the above, or the Job Retention Scheme in general, our dedicated JRS team is here to help. Get in touch with me, Shaun Millican at Shaun.Millican@jcca.co.uk to arrange an initial chat.

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