The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live today, 10 days ahead of schedule, with businesses able to claim up to £2,500 a month towards staff wages.
Employers can apply for direct cash grants through HMRC’s new online portal – with the money expected to land in their bank accounts within 6 working days.
The job retention scheme, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of a package of support to protect jobs and businesses, allows employers to claim for a cash grant of up to 80% of a furloughed employees wages, capped at £2,500 a month.
HMRC’s portal has a step by step application process and the government reports that up to 5,000 staff will be manning phone lines and webchat services to ensure any questions can be answered.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “Our unprecedented job retention scheme will protect millions of jobs across the country and is now up and running.
“It’s vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it’s safe – and this scheme will allow that to happen.”
Last week the Chancellor announced the scheme will be extended for a further month until the end of June, to reflect continuing Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Commenting on news that applications are now open for the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Adam Marshall, British Chamber of Commerce director general, said: “The opening of the Job Retention scheme is an important milestone for businesses, who can now begin to access the cash they need to pay their staff and protect livelihoods.
“Our research indicates that two-thirds of firms have furloughed some portion of their workforce. With April’s payday approaching, it is essential that the application process is smooth and that payments are made as soon as possible. Any delay would exacerbate the cash crisis many companies are facing and could threaten jobs and businesses.”
Institute of Directors director general Jonathan Geldart commented: “This scheme is crucial to protecting jobs and ensuring the recovery, when it comes, can take off as quickly as possible.
“We applaud the efforts of the scheme’s staff who will be working with businesses in desperate need of support, and we will continue to work with ministers to ensure that support reaches all who need it.”
While Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, added: “The Chancellor has already shown a willingness to do whatever it takes and act at speed during unprecedented times.
“Rolling out the job retention scheme will make a huge difference to tens of thousands of firms and millions of people, protecting jobs and living standards throughout the UK. Ensuring support gets to where it’s needed most – fast – is of the utmost importance.
“We’ll continue working closely across government departments as thoughts turn to restarting and reviving our economy.”
The Job Retention Scheme is part of a package of measures announced by the Chancellor to support the country through the coronavirus pandemic. He has already supported employers with a £30bn injection of cash by deferring VAT payments for the next quarter, has launched a scheme for the self-employed, loans for businesses and a rise in Universal Credit.
The link to the online portal can be found here.