Here's how businesses can claim 80% wages for staff during the coronavirus pandemic

As the economic effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt, the UK government has introduced a number of measures to help businesses both large and small to stay afloat during these most uncertain times.

One such initiative is Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, designed to help employers if they cannot cover staff costs due to Covid-19.

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It’s aim is to avoid redundancies, and the scheme can offer grants of up to 80% of an employee’s wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Here’s everything you need to know about it:

How does the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme work?

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during the crisis.

Which business are eligible?

All UK businesses are eligible.

How can my business access the scheme?

You will need to:

- designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change - changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation

- submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement.

Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

What do employees need to do?

If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker.

This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.

To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed.

This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You will remain employed while furloughed.

Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.

If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

How long will the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme run for?

The intention is for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least three months from 1 March 2020.

This time frame will be extended if the government deems it necessary.

For more information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, head to the government’s website

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread.

But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.

Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised.

Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat.

It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly.

The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of Monday 23 March the prime minister has put the UK into lockdown and instructed all citizens to stay at home.

People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and travel to work only if essential.

Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.

All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds, places of worship and libraries.

Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and celebrations.

Funerals can only be attended by immediate family.

Children of separated parents can go between both parents' homes.

Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.

The government has now instructed bars, restaurants, theatres and non-essential businesses to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis.

Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.

The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate.

People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake "shielding" for 12 weeks.

For more information on government advice, please check their website.

Should I avoid public places?

You should now avoid public places and any non-essential travel.

Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS