We’ve said it before, but things always move fast in a crisis. Businesses across the UK were still getting used to the idea of swapping out the fading support of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for the newer Job Support Scheme (JSS), when everything changed.

The JSS would have seen employees getting paid two thirds of the money they were losing in reduced hours, with the bill shared between their employers and the government. However, with the UK plunging back into a nationwide lockdown on the 5th of November, a 1-month extension of the scheme was announced. Now, another announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak has changed the rules of the game again. The CJRS is back at full strength until the end of March 2021, and there’s a similar boost on the way for the self-employed in a bid to see everyone through the winter.

What’s actually changing?

The CJRS saw employees being “furloughed” in businesses that were struggling to keep their workforces on during the first lockdown. 80% of their wages during that time were forked over by the government, with employers expected to come up with the rest. That system is coming back, with a monthly cap of £2,500 on the government’s end and employers still responsible for NICs and pension contributions. The scheme’s going to be looked at again in January, to see if things have improved enough for support to taper off as it did before.

Basically, the government’s looking to safeguard millions of jobs that are being put at risk by the pandemic. The same basic rules apply as before, meaning that furloughed workers won’t be able to work for their employers during the “lost” hours they’re receiving support for. Also, anybody who was made redundant after the 23rd of September can be rehired on furlough and benefit from the scheme.

What about the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme?

The self-employed aren’t being left out of the new financial help package either – at least, not all of them. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which was already announced to have 2 more grants in the pipeline, has now been boosted. The upcoming 3rd grant, which people can apply for online after the 30th of November, will now cover 80% of average trading profits from November to January, with a cap of £7,500.

As before, there are criteria you have to hit to qualify for the grants, and people who have only recently started working for themselves will be left out in the cold this winter. The same goes for people whose average previous trading profits hit £50,000, or who pay themselves through salary and/or share dividends.

What happens next?

The new announcement will obviously offer some valuable breathing space for people and businesses feeling the squeeze of a second lockdown. The important thing for the moment is to keep your ear to the ground to make sure you understand exactly what you’re eligible for – and to keep yourself 100% within the rules. There’s been a lot of rumbling recently about coronavirus support being claimed fraudulently, and SEISS payments being made in error. It’s important to check you’re entitled to everything you’re claiming, since a crackdown can hit the unwary just as hard as it does the dishonest.

The most important thing to do is check if you're due a tax refund. You can claim every year and if it's your first claim you can go back 4 tax years. That could mean an average of £3000 to boost your bank account just when you need it most.

As always, come to RIFT with all your questions, concerns and problems – and keep checking back for the latest news updates and advice. Stay safe!