Loophole means wages retention scheme could fail those who recently switched jobs

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

The UK Chancellor has been accused of making a “failed attempt” to correct a coronavirus job retention scheme which still leaves many thousands of job switchers penniless during the current crisis.

Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make further changes to the scheme, which allows businesses to claim state money for employee salaries.

Employers can apply for cash grants online and put employees on furlough, with the state paying 80 per cent of salaries, up to £2,500 per month.

Earlier this month, rushed changes were made to expand eligibility after it emerged many thousands of people who recently switched jobs could not apply under current guidelines.

The qualifying date for when an employee must have been on the employer’s payroll was changed from 28 February 2020 to 19 March 2020.

The government said this would mean hundreds of thousands of people would now be eligible.

However, many people say they remain shut out of the scheme.

Mrs Grant said constituents she is supporting are among them.

In her letter to the chancellor she said: “The changes you made gave thousands of people hope, at least until they read the small print and realised there is a new loophole.

“The employee’s pay information had to have been submitted to HMRC by March 19th. This was unrealistic and was underlined by the chief executive of HMRC days ago who told the BBC that most employers will pay their employees at the end of the month.

“This means people who moved jobs at the end of February or the beginning of March cannot, in most cases, expect their information to be processed by their new employer and submitted to HMRC until the end of the month.

“This is no victory. Please step up and rectify this and allow people who are starting new jobs to qualify for this furlough scheme.”