Are GPs eligible for the new job retention scheme?

Updated government guidance released at the end of last week indicates that GP practices may not be eligible for the new job retention scheme.

The guidance states, “The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations… Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs…Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to COVID-19 are not expected to furlough staff.”

The language used in the guidance isn’t unambiguous: we can infer that GP practices aren’t “expected” to furlough staff, but it’s unclear whether sufficient consideration has been given to scenarios where public sector organisations have the wrong type/balance of staff. For example a practice that wants to recruit more medics but shed admin staff.

What is clear, is that HMRC intends to audit businesses which receive funding. If employers have effectively been paid twice for the same thing (i.e. their public funding has continued and they have claimed money for the wages of furloughed staff), that could be considered a fraud.

If you are genuinely considering making staff redundant in order to reorganise your workforce, furlough leave may be justifiable. If you are prepared to accept the risk of being rejected for the scheme, or required to repay the money claimed, you should carefully document your decision-making process so that you can provide evidence later if requested, and you will need to have something to show for the additional money you receive under the scheme.

Please contact employment expert Julia Gray if you have any questions regarding this newsflash and visit Hempsons’ Covid-19 Portal for more information.