The extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (commonly known as the furlough scheme) is accompanied by a new set of time limits by which claims must be made with the first deadline coming up on Monday 14 December 2020.
Claims under the furlough scheme can be made before, during or after an employer processes its payroll as long as claims are submitted by the relevant claim deadline. It should be noted that claims cannot be made too early either; an employer cannot submit a claim more than 14 days before the claim period end date.
In general, employers have two weeks from the end of the previous calendar month to submit claims.
The table below sets out the time limits for making claims under the extended furlough scheme:
Claim for furlough days in : Deadline for submitting a claim
November 2020 : 14 December 2020
December 2020 : 14 January 2021
January 2021 : 15 February 2021
February 2021 : 15 March 2021
March 2021 : 14 April 2021
All claims must be submitted by 11.59 pm on the relevant deadline day.
The Government guidance page suggests that online claim services may be slow during busy times. Therefore, it would not be advisable to leave making claims to the day of the deadline in case of technical issues.
What happens if an employer misses a deadline?
HMRC may accept claims from employers outside the relevant deadline if they have a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline. Any claim after the deadline will need to be made without delay after the reasonable excuse no longer applies.
Examples of a reasonable excuse include:
- The death of a partner or close relative shortly before the claim deadline
- An unexpected hospital stay that prevented a claim being made
- A serious or life-threatening illness (including coronavirus) and no one else could make the claim
- A period of self-isolation that prevented a claim being made and no one else could make the claim
- Computer or software failure just before, or whilst preparing, an online claim
- Issues with HMRC online services or HMRC errors
- Situations in which fire, flood or theft prevent a claim being made
- Unexpected postal delays
- Delays relating to a disability that prevented a claim from being made.
Reasonable excuses will not be considered in advance of a claim deadline. Employers can only request that a reasonable excuse is taken into account retroactively i.e. once a deadline has been missed. This is presumably to ensure that employers make all reasonable efforts to meet the time limits. The excuses that are considered reasonable are those for which it is not possible to plan.