Furlough extension to benefit seasonal workers

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Thousands of workers in Cornwall are expected to benefit from an extension to the cut-off date for the Government’s Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme.

The deadline for the scheme has been extended from February 28 to March 19, 2020, which means an estimated 200,000 more UK workers can be furloughed.

It is expected to benefit seasonal workers in particular, many of whom would not have been on the payroll at the end of February.

The issue was highlighted by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Leadership Board in a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week.

Under the Job Retention Scheme, employers can claim a grant covering 80% of the wages for a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2.5k a month.

To qualify and to protect against fraudulent claims, individuals originally had to be employed on February 28, 2020.

But following a review of the delivery system and to ensure the scheme helps as many people as possible, new guidance published this week has confirmed the eligibility date has been extended to March 19 – the day before the scheme was announced.

Mark Duddridge

The change has been welcomed by Mark Duddridge, chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, who said: “Seasonal workers are hugely important to our tourism, agriculture and food processing industries and we think there are around 6,000 people who have been in limbo because of the original February cut-off date for the furlough scheme.

“Having raised this directly with the Chancellor we are pleased that he has changed the deadline. This should mean that many more seasonal workers will qualify for furlough and receive 80% of the wages they could have expected to earn. There are some other flexibilities we have asked for, including the ability for employers to bring back staff on a part time or short term basis to fulfil orders or address specific pieces of work, and we will continue to press for this.”

Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.

The Job Retention Scheme is expected to be fully operational next week.

Any individual who needs support and advice on employment, training and skills can call Cornwall Council’s People Hub on 0333 0150699.  It is available between 10am–5pm, Monday–Friday, with an out-of-hours messaging service outside of those times.

People Hub is staffed by a multi-agency team to provide immediate information, advice, and guidance about

  • Employment and skills support programmes
  • Temporary staffing agency workers
  • Those under threat of redundancy or made redundant
  • Self-employed
  • Zero hours contract workers
  • Being furloughed
  • Retraining or developing new skills
  • Sick Pay and Processes

Businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that need help to understand what support is available to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 should contact the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth Hub, telephone 01209-708660.