As it stands, the JRS allows employers to claim a grant through HMRC to cover 80% of an employee’s regular wage up to £2,500 per month, providing they were added to the company’s payroll on or before 28 February 2020.
However, anyone hired or added to a payroll scheme after this date cannot be furloughed and claimed for under the scheme.
A change.org petition, which demands the Government review the JRS to include workers who started their job after 28 February, has received close to 70,000 signatures at the time of writing.
The petition describes the decision not to include new starters in the JRS as “a huge oversight” that “puts thousands of workers at risk”, leaving them in a situation where they have no income and “little to no prospect of getting employment in this current economy”.
One area where the situation is being felt particularly acutely is in the Scottish Highlands, where the hospitality and tourism industry is one of the main employers, representing up to 43% of employment in some areas.
Scottish National MP Ian Blackford has made repeated calls to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to amend the JRS guidance to ensure anyone who has started or was due to start a job in March receives support.
“The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the main employers in the Highlands, and is a key driver of success in our rural economy,” he says.
“In thousands of cases, employment in this sector is seasonal, with jobs usually beginning in March and running until October.
“Seasonal workers who would normally be employed right now and working to accommodate families across Scotland and the UK during the Easter holidays are facing the prospect of being left behind with the only means of support being Universal Credit.
“I am urging the Chancellor to ensure seasonal workers and those who were due to begin work in March – and can demonstrate past employment history – are considered to be employees for the purposes of the Job Retention Scheme.”
Responding to the calls, a Treasury spokesperson said: “The Chancellor has outlined an unprecedented package of measures to protect millions of people’s jobs and incomes as part of the national effort in response to Coronavirus.
“Those who do not qualify for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be able to access a range of other measures – including an increase in the Universal Credit allowance, income tax deferrals, £1 billion more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.”