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Coronavirus furlough scheme opens for applications

The Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opened for applications this morning, with businesses now able to claim money from the state to help pay for staff salaries.

Employers can apply for cash grants through HM Revenue & Customs' new online page – and the money should arrive in their bank accounts within six working days.

Under the scheme unveiled last month, employers can put employees on furlough, meaning their job's put on hold and they don't work, but they're still employed. The state then finances 80% of furloughed employees' salaries, up to £2,500/month.

Though applications only opened today, firms can backdate claims to 1 March 2020. The scheme was originally due to pay people's wages for three months, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak said last week that this will be extended by an extra month to the end of June.

The Government says that 5,000 HM Revenue & Customs staff will operate the scheme and that it will be able to handle up to 450,000 applications an hour.

For more info on how this scheme works, see our furlough need-to-knows.

How do I apply to be furloughed?

Individual employees can't apply to be furloughed – they can only be furloughed by their employer.

However, you can ask your employer to furlough you. The scheme makes employers the gatekeepers to this support, and it's up to them whether they do so.

To help, Martin's drafted an info sheet – 12 simple furloughing need-to-knows for employees and small firms. The idea is to use it as a jump-off point for a discussion with your employer – give your boss a sheet too. Plus as furloughing sometimes involves both parties agreeing a contractual change, the employment relations service ACAS has kindly drafted a furloughing template letter for employers so we could include it. It's an easy legal way to furlough someone.

There's more detailed help in our Coronavirus Help for Employees guide.

I'm an employer – what do I do now?

If you're an employer furloughing staff, you can use this calculator to find who is eligible and how much to pay them (though you can only calculate using one employee/salary at a time, unless everyone is paid the same and was furloughed at the same time).

Plus you can now access the furlough scheme claim portal. You will need your Government Gateway ID to log in – you should have received this when you registered for PAYE online.

What does the Chancellor say?

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."

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