Assembly Question 9455/17-22
Question: To ask the Minister for the Economy whether she will investigate temporary changes to employment law to allow those made redundant on the basis of the expected end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on 31 October to take advantage of the extension of the scheme as announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 31 October. [Priority Written]
Answer: My officials are actively engaging with their counterparts in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to ascertain what, if any, legal changes are immediately required to employment law in Northern Ireland following the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and introduction of the Job Support Scheme.
The CJRS was introduced by HMRC, which also sets the eligibility criteria. It is my understanding that, to be eligible under the extension to the scheme, employees must have been on an employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 on 30th October 2020. Any employer making redundancies must follow the legal framework in Northern Ireland. HMRC guidance, as I understand it, advises that an employer can continue to claim for a furloughed employee who is serving a statutory notice period.
Any employer which requires information on the extension should contact HMRC directly. Details are available on its website, with further guidance from it expected to follow imminently.
I firmly believe that employers who have been able to take advantage of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, which has brought benefit to employers and employees alike, should treat staff fairly and respect employee rights. Specifically, in this situation, those relating to redundancy consultation, notice period and redundancy pay.
Individuals who believe their employment rights or terms and conditions of employment have been breached (including any potential unlawful deduction of wages) should consider contacting the Labour Relations Agency Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300 for confidential and impartial information.
Finally, the Law Centre NI continues to provide free, independent, specialist legal advice (subject to capacity) on employment rights. Its advice line can be contacted on 028 9024 4401, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.