The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS)
The current JRS allows an employer to place an employee on furlough and apply for a grant to cover wage costs for the time an employee is on furlough. The employer:
- can claim 80% of ‘usual salary’ for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee (pro-rated for hours not worked) per month
- needs to fund employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) and the minimum employer automatic enrolment pension contributions.
In December 2020, the Chancellor extended the scheme until the end of April 2021.
Further extension of JRS
In Budget 2021 the Chancellor has further extended the scheme to 30 September 2021.
The level of grant available to employers under the scheme will stay the same until 30 June 2021.
From 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced and employers will be asked to contribute towards the cost of furloughed employees’ wages. To be eligible for the grant an employer must continue to pay furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they spend on furlough.
The reduction in the level of the grant means that the percentage recovery of furloughed wages will be as follows:
- for July 2021 70% of furloughed wages up to a maximum of £2187.50 and
- for August and September 2021 60% of furloughed wages up to a maximum of £1,875.00.
Employers will need to continue to fund employer NICs and mandatory minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions.
The Chancellor has also extended eligibility for the scheme. For periods starting on or after 1 May 2021, employers can claim for employees who were employed on 2 March 2021, as long as a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission was made between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
High quality traineeships for young people
The government will provide an additional £126 million in England for high quality work placements and training for 16-24 year olds in the 2021/22 academic year. Employers who provide trainees with work experience will continue to be funded at a rate of £1,000 per trainee.
Payments for employers who hire new apprentices
The government will extend and increase the payments made to employers in England who hire new apprentices. Employers who hire a new apprentice between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 will receive £3,000 per new hire, compared with £1,500 per new apprentice hire (or £2,000 for those aged 24 and under) under the previous scheme.
This is in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government provides for all new 16-18 year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan, where that applies.
Supporting apprenticeships across different employers
The government will introduce a £7 million fund from July 2021 to help employers in England set up and expand portable apprenticeships. This will enable people who need to work across multiple projects with different employers to benefit from the high quality long-term training that an apprenticeship provides.
Off-payroll working in the private sector
New tax rules are soon to come into force for individuals who provide their personal services via an ‘intermediary’ to a medium or large business. The new rules apply to payments made for services provided on or after 6 April 2021.
The off-payroll working rules apply where an individual (the worker) provides their services through an intermediary (typically a personal service company) to another person or entity (the client). The client will be required to make a determination of a worker’s status and communicate that determination. In addition, the fee-payer (usually the organisation paying the worker’s personal service company) will need to make deductions for income tax and NICs and pay any employer NICs.
The legislation uses an existing statutory definition within the Companies Act of a ‘small company’ to exempt small businesses from the new rules. A small company is one which meets two of these criteria:
- a turnover of £10.2 million or less
- having £5.1 million on the balance sheet or less
- having 50 or fewer employees.
If the business receiving the work of the individual is not a company, it is only the turnover test that will apply.
The Status Determination Statement (SDS) is a key part of the status determination procedure. The client must provide the SDS to the worker and should include not only the decision of the client but also the reasons underpinning it. The client must take ‘reasonable care’ in coming to its conclusion. If it doesn’t, the statement is not a valid SDS.
In the Budget the government announced minor technical changes to improve the operation of the rules, in response to feedback from stakeholders, which will be legislated for in Finance Bill 2021. The government will make changes to the rules regarding provision of information by parties in the labour supply chain.
These changes will make it easier for parties in a contractual chain to share information relating to the off-payroll working rules by allowing an intermediary, as well as a worker, to confirm if the rules need to be considered by the client organisation.
National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW)
The National Living Wage will increase by 2.2% and will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time. For workers aged under 23, the government has announced smaller increases in NMW in recognition of the risks to youth employment which the current economic situation poses.
From 1 April 2021, the new hourly rates of NLW and NMW are:
- £8.91 for those 23 years old and over
- £8.36 for 21-22 year olds
- £6.56 for 18-20 year olds
- £4.62 for under 18s
- £4.30 apprentice rate for apprentices under 19, and those 19 and over in their first year of apprenticeship.
The extension of the NLW to 23 and 24 year olds may catch out some employers. Employees in this category, if they are on the NMW rate, are currently being paid £8.20 an hour.
Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) scheme
At Budget 2020, the government announced a review of the EMI scheme to ensure it provides support for high-growth companies to recruit and retain the best talent so they can scale up effectively, and examine whether more companies should be able to access the scheme.
As part of this review the government is publishing a consultation alongside the Budget.
Van benefit charge nil-rating for zero-emission vans
From 6 April 2021, a nil rate of tax applies to zero-emission vans within the van benefit charge. In 2020/21 such vans have a van benefit charge at 80% of the standard flat rate of £3,490.
A zero-emission van is a van which cannot in any circumstances emit CO2 emissions when driven. Governments have provided varying amounts of discounts from the van benefit charge for zero-emissions vans since 2010. We are now back to the policy which applied from 2010 to 2015 when there was no charge.
Temporary changes to legislation resulting from coronavirus
Easement for employer-provided cycles exemption
The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2021 to introduce a time-limited easement to the employer-provided cycle exemption to disapply the condition which states that employer-provided cycles must be used mainly for journeys to, from, or during work. The easement will be available to employees who have joined a scheme and have been provided with a cycle or cycling equipment on or before 20 December 2020.
The change will have effect on and after Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2021 and be in place until 5 April 2022, after which the normal rules of the exemption will apply.
Employer-reimbursed coronavirus tests
The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2021 to introduce a retrospective income tax exemption for payments that an employer makes to an employee to reimburse for the cost of a relevant coronavirus antigen test for the tax year 2020/21. Legislation will extend this exemption for the tax year 2021/22.
The change will have effect on and after Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2021. The corresponding NICs disregard is already in force and this will also be extended for the tax year 2021/22.
Extension of income tax exemption for COVID-19 related home office expenses
The government will, by secondary legislation, extend the temporary income tax exemption and Class 1 NICs disregard for employer reimbursed expenses that cover the cost of relevant home office equipment. The extended exemption will have effect until 5 April 2022.