14th April – Woodlands scheme – carbon offsetting

At last, some none corona-virus news.

The government has found time to issue a statement concerning the new woodland scheme, whereby in the future they are able to buy carbon guarantee units, so as to offset against various carbon footprints.

This is potentially very important, particularly if the Agriculture Act is eventually passed.


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9th April – Furlough scheme – operational from 20th April

Dear all

Please find the latest information from HMRC concerning the Furlough scheme. As above, it goes live on 20th April.

“HMRC have been called on by the Chancellor to urgently direct financial support to where our citizens and businesses need it most. The first wave of this is the launch of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

We need your help in this important work. Your influence and your reach across the business sector are instrumental in helping us ensure employers know what they can do to get ready to make their claim. Claims should not be made by phone, it will be an online service.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Chancellor announced a series of measures to support businesses and their employees. One of those measures is the CJRS, that allows employers to claim 80% of the wages of staff (up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee) that they have furloughed (been put on temporary leave).

HMRC is working at pace to deliver the service that will allow businesses to make a claim. Businesses, and agents that are authorised to act on behalf of clients for PAYE matters, will be able to claim. However, file only agents, including Payroll Bureaus, will not be able access the service due to data protection reasons.

File only agents

If you are a file only agent, we still need your support. You will need to help your clients, as you might hold information that they need to make their claim. Businesses will need the following information on each of their furloughed employees:

  • National Insurance number
  • salary, National Insurance and pension contribution information that allows business to calculate the claim amount.

Service launch

We are ready to launch on 20 April. This will be made public shortly, at which point we will be contacting businesses to advise them what they need to do. At this point we would welcome you also contacting your clients and offering yourselves as vital support during this process, either directly, if authorised, or indirectly if you are a file only agent.

We are expecting phone demand to be beyond our capacity to offer a normal service. Therefore, the service is designed to be self-serve with guidance in place. Again, your support in helping us achieve this is called on.

Find out more

The latest guidance on CJRS can be found on GOV?.UK by searching for ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’.

HMRC will also be providing you with further information on our support for businesses and workers over the coming weeks, including more detail on the Coronavirus Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

We would like to thank you for your help to businesses at this time of national need. HMRC is working day and night, prioritising the need to get the financial support out to those who need it.

Yours sincerely


Jim Harra

First Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive – HMRC”

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6th April – 10.40am – New fiscal year, new problems

Dear all

Please find Hewitson’s excellent summary of the latest position in connection with the implementation of the Furlough scheme. When solicitors start caveating the interpretation of government schemes we know it will be far from straightforward!


HMRC has published guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme), in particular in respect of an employer’s claim for wages of employees on furlough leave due to COVID-19.

As we know, where an employer cannot maintain their workforce due to the fact that their business has been severely affected by COVID-19, they can claim 80% of the furloughed employee’s usual wage costs, capped at £2,500 (gross) per month, plus the associated employer’s National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer contributions on that wage.

Whilst the guidance does include a significant amount of information we were already aware of (albeit providing some further flesh on the bones), HMRC has helpfully clarified some areas which were unclear to date and had employers, lawyers and academics making educated guesses as to what the Government intended.

Many such clarifications will come as welcome news to employers who have already furloughed staff or are considering furloughing. We have highlighted below some of the main take away points for employers from this latest guidance.

Can apprentices be furloughed?

Yes, apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees. Furthermore, apprentices can continue to train whilst furloughed, subject to the requirement to ensure that they are paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (as appropriate) for the time spent training.

Practically, this means that if there is a shortfall between the amount claimed in respect of the apprentice whilst on furlough leave and their appropriate minimum wage, the employer will need to cover it.

Can employees that need to look after children be furloughed?

Yes, HMRC has confirmed that employees who cannot work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19 can be furloughed.

Can employees take on a new job whilst furloughed?

Whilst the Scheme specifically prohibits furloughed employees from undertaking any work which makes money or provides services for their employer, HMRC’s guidance has confirmed that such employees are permitted to work for another employer whilst on furlough. This could mean that an employee would earn 80% of their wages (capped at £2,500 per month) from their current employer under the Scheme as well as earning 100% of wages by taking on a new job with a new employer.

It is worth remembering, however, that furloughed employees are still employed whilst on furlough leave and so whether or not they are able to take on other work whilst furloughed will ultimately be subject to the terms and conditions of their contracts of employment. In most cases such contracts will have clauses in them which prevents the employee from working elsewhere without their employer’s consent.

Whilst the new guidance is therefore welcome news to employees who may want to take the opportunity to top up from 80% (particularly if they are high earners and their pay will be capped at £2,500 per month), in most cases it will still be down to their employer as to whether they can take on a new job whilst on furlough leave.

Can employers claim back commission, overtime, fees or bonus?

Whilst previous guidance indicated that the wages that employers could claim for meant actual gross salary as at 28th February 2020, excluding any fees, commission or bonus.

HMRC’s latest guidance, however, has confirmed that employers are able to claim back “any regular payments you are obliged to pay your employees”.

In terms of what this means, HMRC has clarified that this not only includes an employee’s wages but also past overtime, fees (although there is no clarification as to what is meant by fees) and compulsory commission payments. This will be welcome news for employees who work in sectors or roles which are heavily commission based (for example, estate agents or salesmen).

However, discretionary bonus and commission payments cannot be claimed.

Can employees be furloughed more than once?

Yes. Whilst unclear to date and so subject to speculation, HMRC has confirmed that employees can be furloughed “multiple times”, provided that each time they are furloughed for the minimum period required of 3 consecutive weeks.

Must an employee’s agreement to being furloughed be recorded in writing?

Yes. Whilst previous guidance did not require this, HMRC has confirmed that employers should discuss furlough with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement.

Any such agreement by employees to be furloughed must be confirmed in writing in order for the employer to be eligible for the grant.

Further, HMRC has stated that the written record of the employee’s agreement to be furloughed should be kept for 5 years (presumably in case of audit).

Whilst HMRC’s guidance has provided some clarity there are still a lot of unknowns, including in particular the conundrum of whether employees can take annual leave whilst furloughed, in respect of which many legal commentators and academics disagree.

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3rd April – 12.00noon – Banks told to behave

Please find the chancellor’s earlier statement, essentially telling the banks to behave. One statistic I picked up on:

Of 130,000 ‘enquiries’ (read application), only 983 have actually been processed and converted into loans. Hmmmm……….



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2nd April -11.30 – The latest from the RPA.

Please find the latest statement of practice from the RPA:


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2nd April – 10.25am – The banks get a ticking off…………..and stoats (!)

Not before time the banks have been told to do as they were asked by the Chancellor.


and I must confess to wondering if this next statement was an early April 1st joke, but no, on 31st March HMG published a statement concerning the humane trapping of stoats. As an antidote to the current despair and obviously catering for the stoat trapping community I reproduce the link to the statement.

Happy trapping!


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1st April – 10.55am – Further news on grants for businesses

Please find the latest statement from the Treasury concerning the release of funds for the retail and leisure sectors. If you are in these sectors, ensure that you understand your entitlement.



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31st March (15.00hrs) – Advice for Charities

Please find specific advice for the charitable sector.



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30th March 11.30am – No major releases as yet

Dear all

Please find 2 explanatory releases dated 27th March. One concerning the 80% wage scheme; the other concerning holiday pay for essential staff and the ability to carry it forward to a new holiday year.

Rules on carrying over annual leave to be relaxed to support key industries during COVID-19 – GOV.UK

Further details of Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced – GOV.UK


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26th March – TB testing anyone?

Despite the chaos that surrounds us, good old TB testing still continues (at least at present). Annual and pre-movement tests have yet to be cancelled and so for those affected, there is a very good link page that I will attempt to reproduce.

Here to inform you about all aspects of bovine TB

This should take you to the home page of TB hub.

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