Professional September 2021


The CIPP policy and research team discuss what is next for the CJRS andwhat payroll professionals should be aware of as we slowly transition out of the pandemic The future of the CJRS

O n 20 March 2020, Rishi Sunak delivered a speech that would continue to have implications for payroll professionals for years to come. On that Friday evening, after a turbulent week of government announcements and media coverage, the newly appointed chancellor announced the introduction of the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS). The words “for the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and help to pay people’s wages” rang profoundly in the ears of the payroll profession who were suddenly thrust centre-stage of the Covid-19 support measures. The concept of furlough was foreign to most payroll teams at the beginning of 2020, yet now the scheme has been extended for the fifth time to the end of September 2021. Eligibility criteria have been updated to capture employees with start dates over three different periods, and employer contributions to the scheme have changed no less than six times. In July, the introduction of flexible furlough provided much needed agility in the scheme, but unfortunately this also brought with it more complexity and administration for teams managing these payments. The CJRS has been a resounding success – it has saved countless jobs and kept businesses afloat in the most challenging of circumstances. For many payroll teams,

it has also provided a platform to highlight to organisations the capabilities of an often-overlooked function. Payroll teams have remained adaptable and agile in their response times to changing legislation and guidance. We were recognised as key workers and led the way in technology and process changes to ensure proper management of CJRS implications. Payroll, for perhaps the first time, had an undeniable impact on the bottom line. ...designed to target deliberate fraud, and its consistent message is that it is not looking to investigate genuine mistakes. CJRS has, of course, come with some drawbacks. The cost of the scheme (at the time of writing) is over £64 billion – to put that into context, that is 140% of the total government borrowing for the whole of 2019. It is inevitable that this level of cost will take generations to repay. The level of government spending throughout

the pandemic has led to the creation of the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce (TPPT). Announced in the Budget speech in March 2021, the TPPT is a £100,000,000 investment targeted at tackling fraud in Covid-19 support schemes. The return of furlough ‘Unprecedented’ was a term that was used on an almost daily basis in 2020. The government, employers and employees approached life and work through a completely different lens as a result of the pandemic. However, in the future, economic downturn and recession now have a precedent to consider – CJRS. Shifting to an employment status of ‘furloughed’ has created the ability to keep unemployment rates down, support individuals and businesses in economic uncertainty, and will inevitably be something that will be put to the government in the future. Some individuals are already campaigning for a permanent furlough scheme since downturns aren’t solely linked to recessions, and it is quite possible that by the time this article is published, an extended or amended scheme will be made available past September 2021. Although many treat payroll professionals as amateur psychics (‘of course I should have known Bob was leaving even though you didn’t tell me!’), the truth is that we

| Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward | September 2021 | Issue 73 22

Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker