coronavirus job retention scheme opens

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has gone live today as companies across the industry urgently look to claim up to £2,500 a month for each furloughed member of staff.

Initially announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak on the 20th March, the Scheme enables employers to claim back up to 80 per cent of their workers’ wages, with a cap of £2,500.

Employers can furlough anyone they employ, provided that on or before March 19 they were on PAYE payroll and HMRC has been notified of payment via the RTI system.

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The initiative was launched to prevent mass unemployment on an unimaginable scale as companies across multiple industries witnessed sales in their sectors almost disappear overnight following the lockdown measures introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The mobility sector was particularly hard hit, with elderly and disabled people – those most at risk if they contract the virus – largely self-isolating, slashing demand for big-ticket items such as mobility scooters.

Now employers can apply for the direct cash grants through the HMRC’s new online portal launched today.

According to the Treasury, the money is expected to land in companies’ bank accounts within six working days.

The news will come as welcome relief for many SMEs in the mobility sector concerned with cash flow.

With over 9 million UK workers estimated to currently be furloughed however, there is concern that the government’s new system will be unable to handle the rush of claims expected to be received.

Describing its new portal as easy to use with a step-by-step application process, the government has confirmed that it has 5,000 staff manning phone lines and webchat services to answer questions quickly and avoid significant disruption.

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.”

The launch of the new portal follows the government’s announcement last week to extend the scheme for a further month until the end of June, which the Treasury says reflects the continuing COVID-19 lockdown measures.

“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,” commented Adam Marshall, British Chamber of Commerce Director General.

“The government deserves credit for the speed, scale and flexibility of its response to the challenges facing our business communities. The focus should now be on delivering this support to firms on the ground.

“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.”

To begin the process to make a claim, visit the online portal here

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