MRS is committed to supporting members and championing the needs of the research sector during this health and economic crisis. 

You can find our guidance and critical third party resources which we will continue to add to as we monitor and respond to this fast changing situation.

New this week:
MRS guidance and support
Third party guidance
Questions and answers

Please see FAQs for Covid-19

Send your queries to info@mrs.org.uk and we will endeavor to answer them here. 


We will try to keep these FAQs updated but as the government is responding to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic we recommend you cross reference with the latest official government guidance.

PPE is protective equipment which protects users against health and safety risks.  Facial PPE can be face masks, eye protection and safety helmets.

Facial coverings are non-surgical (or other medical grade) masks for facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles, and through which individuals can breathe e.g. a scarf.

More information can be found in the government’s guidance How to wear and make a cloth face covering.  There are a number of suppliers offering facial coverings.  The BSI guide to masks and face coverings for use in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic is a good source document for understanding the different types available and the relevant standards which ensures compliance with the appropriate standards and regulations.

Certain work environments and procedures convey a higher risk of transmission of Covid-19.  Where practitioners already used PPE in their work activity before Covid-19, they should continue to do so e.g. in undertaking and handling product testing of food.

The current government advice is that additional PPE beyond what you would usually wear for work is “not beneficial”.  Covid-19 is a different type of risk to the risks individuals face in a work place and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams, not through the use of PPE.  The exception is clinical settings such as hospitals.  Supplies of PPE needs to be reserved for those who need the equipment to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers.

If you need to use PPE it should be purchased from  an approved PPE supplier, a list is available via the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme list: https://www.registeredsafetysupplierscheme.co.uk/supplier-list/

There may be some circumstances when wearing a face covering and/or gloves may be beneficial as a precautionary measure.  Current evidence suggests, for example, that whilst wearing a face covering does not protect wearers, it may protect others if the wearer is infected but has not developed Covid-19 symptoms.

Where there are requirements to wear facial coverings in specific workplaces and/or environments, such as on public transport in England, then practitioners must ensure that they follow these requirements.

If facial coverings are used it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on, after taking them and if you have touched or moved them whilst wearing them.  More information can be found in the government’s guidance How to wear and make a cloth face covering.

Facial coverings are non-surgical (or other medical grade) masks for facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles, and through which individuals can breathe e.g. a scarf.

If facial coverings are used it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on, after taking them off, and if you have touched or moved them whilst wearing them. 

More information can be found in the government’s guidance How to wear and make a cloth face covering.  There are a number of suppliers offering facial coverings.  The BSI guide to masks and face coverings for use in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic is a good source document for understanding the different types available and the relevant standards which ensures compliance with the appropriate standards and regulations.

Wearing a facial covering may make communication more challenging e.g. the extra mental exertion required by participants to listen particularly when there is background noise.  Some of challenges can be overcome when facial coverings are made from transparent materials that allow the mouth to be seen, but these kinds of covering are not widely available. 

The UK’s Equalities Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made to support disabled people, including proofing information in an accessible format.

The charity Action on Hearing Loss has produced some general guidance on communication with individuals suffering hearing lost:

Where lip reading is possible:

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting
  • Face the patient
  • Get the patients attention before speaking
  • Use normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures

The below are particularly important when participants cannot use visual cues, such as when wearing facial covering:

  • Speak clearly – avoid shouting or speaking unnecessarily slowly
  • Say things differently if people ask you to repeat or do not understand what you have said
  • Check understanding by asking the patient to repeat information back
  • Use plain language and be straight to the point
  • Reduce background noise as much as possible
  • Where possible, also provide written information
  • If requested, speak to a relative or friend

A new loan scheme called the ‘Bounce Back Loan Scheme’ launches on 4 May 2020.  The Bounce Back Loan Scheme aims to help small and medium-sized businesses borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.   The crucial difference with the earlier schemes is that the government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there will not be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.  The government has committed to working with lenders to agree a ‘low’ rate of interest for the remaining period of any loans.

The loans will be delivered via the existing network of accredited Coronavirus business loan lenders.

More information about the Bounce Back Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

The Bounce Back loans are aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, not large businesses.  The eligibility is that your business must:

  • Be based in the UK
  • Be negatively affected by Coronavirus
  • Not have been an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019
  • Not already claiming under the Coronavirus Business interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

In addition to the above there are some sectors which are not eligible to apply including banks, insurers, reinsurers, public-sector bodies, further education establishments (if grant funded) and state funded primary and secondary schools.

More information about the Bounce Back Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

If you have already obtained a loan of up to £50,000 under the CBIL Scheme you cannot apply for a Bounce Back Loan.  However, you can transfer the loan under the CBIL Scheme and transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.  You must do this by 4 Noveber 2020. 

The advantage of moving to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme is that you can then access the 100% government guarantee for the loan plus the Bounce Bank Loan Scheme does not charge any fees or interest for the first 12 months of the loan.

More information about the Bounce Back Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

The Bounce Bank Loan Scheme offers loan terms up to 6 years so no you cannot seek a 10 year term via this scheme.  You should instead try the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) Scheme. 

You may find that when you factor in the Bounce Back Loan Scheme’s no interest in the first 12 months, plus the ‘low’ rates that the government is working with lenders to offer with this Scheme, that the requirement to repay over 6 years might still be more cost effective option for your business than the CBIL Scheme loan options.

More information about the Bounce Back Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

There is no current government advice on this type of circumstance.   On 2 April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this query with colleagues to determine if there is a resolution to this issue.  BEIS responded on 6 April and agreed that further government guidance is required in this area.  MRS will continue to liaise with BEIS to seek further clarification and guidance.

Updated 6 April 2020

SEISS is restricted to self-employed individuals and partnerships, it does not cover limited companies.  The Job Retention Scheme is designed to support employers with employee costs.  Your scenario does not fit the current criteria.

On 2 April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this query with colleagues to determine if there is a resolution to this issue.  BEIS responded on 6th April and agreed that further government guidance is required in this area. MRS will continue to liaise with BEIS to seek further clarification and guidance.

 Updated 6 April 2020

There is nothing on the current government website which states this cannot be done, although to claim furlough this would need to be undertaken in agreement with the company/s for which you undertake PAYE activities and you must have been on their PAYE on 28 February 2020. 

On 2 April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are going to confirm whether you can do both.  BEIS responded on 6 April and agreed there is no current restrictions preventing applications to both schemes.

Updated 6 April 2020

None that we are aware are and we are very concerned about your circumstances.  The Market Research Benevolent Association (MRBA) might be able to assist you in the short-term.

On 2 April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this query with colleagues in the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to determine if there is another funding avenue which you can access.  On 6 April BEIS informed MRS that discussions were on-going with DWP about this issue. MRS will continue to liaise with BEIS to seek further clarification and guidance.
Updated 6 April

MRS received additional advice from BEIS about another avenue: the Hardship Fund, directed to Local Authorities to support their local area. More information available here www.gov.uk/government/news/government-confirms-500-million-hardship-fund-will-provide-council-tax-relief-for-vulnerable-households
Updated 14 April

There are a number of options that you could consider to enable you to make some personal savings:

  • If you have a car and you are not using it due to Covid-19 lockdown you could register your vehicle as off-road.  This process is called Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) and more details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/make-a-sorn
  • If you have a mortgage or a personal loan you could approach your funder to discuss a mortgage payment holiday.  If you are struggling in this regard it is best to contact your provider as early as possible.
  • If you have bought a season ticket loan for use of public transport and are no longer travelling for work purposes you should be able to apply for a refund although there will be conditions attached.  For example with Transport for London (TfL) you can apply for a refund if you bought a Travelcard or Bus & Tram Pass season tickets on Oyster from TfL and there is at least:
    • 6 weeks remaining on an Annual ticket
    • 7 days remaining on a Monthly ticket
    • 3 days remaining on a 7 Day ticket

Alternatively, consumers can also contact Citizen Advice for information and advice on what to do if they find themselves struggling financially due to the outbreak.  There is also financial support and advice via the Market Research Benevolent Association (MRBA) which is specifically for researchers who work or have worked in research in the UK.

MRS is working with the Advertising Association (AA) on a weekly business tracking survey which will look at the business impact across the whole of the adverising and marketing communications sector. We hope to issue the first wave of the survey later this week. Research agencies across the spectrum of sizes and specialisms will be included in this activity to enable us to benchmark what is happening within research with other areas of advertising and marketing communications. The results of this survey will be shared with the research community via the MRS website.

  • MRS issued guidance on 6th March 2020 which set out best practice to enable face to face interviewing to continue during the early phases of the Covid-19 crisis.  This approach meant that interviewers would take steps to keep safe and healthy whilst interviewing but also allowed interviewers to continue to work during the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis. The guidance is here: https://www.mrs.org.uk/resources/coronavirus
  • When the government announced it was ceasing to undertake f2f research (such as via ONS) on 17th March MRS updated it guidance to reflect the government's position, whilst continuing to provide guidance for those that still wished to undertake f2f research
  • MRS is convening its senior client council, made up of some of the most senior client directors in the UK to establish a better picture of client responses & to try and find some actions that can be jointly agreed.
  • MRS has contacted a wide range of Ministers and MPs to lobby for research and the need for income protection for interviewers.  An example is here: https://www.mrs.org.uk/article/mrs/letter-to-the-rt-hon-rishi-sunak-mp-chancellor-of-the-exchequer
  • MRS has signed on behalf of the sector the petition to extend government assistance to the self employed 
  • MRS is a member of the Advertising Association (AA) which represents the whole of the advertising and marketing communications sector.  The AA is supporting MRS' positon in all of its representations to Ministers and civil servants.
  • MRS has been a long-term supported of the Market Research Benevolent Association (MRBA) and has encouraged research companies to send information about the MRBA to interviewers to raise awareness of support which is availble via this route.
  • As many interviewers are not MRS members we have put all guidance and information on the MRS website to enable anyone to view MRS activities.  We will continue to do this as our lobbying efforts intensify.

On 4 May 2020 the Bounce Back Loan Scheme is to be launched which is specifically targeted at small and medium sized businesses.  The Bounce Back Loan Scheme will offer loans between £2,000 and £50,000.  The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest for the first 12 months.  Loan terms are up to 6 years with no repayments due during the first 12 months.  Information about the Bounce Back Loan Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

If you are seeking more than £50,000, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is offering loans up to the value of £5mn for small businesses.  Companies with revenue under £45mn can apply through the 40 or so lenders approved to provide loan finance.  The loans will be provided as a normal business loan, an overdraft or invoice/asset finance, and is offered without interest or fees.  The business does however remain fully liable for the debt.  Details of the loan scheme is available here:https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/

The first decision you need to make is whether you wish to apply for a Bounce Back Loan or a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.  The Bounce Back Loans are for amounts £50,000 or less.  The CBILS for amounts over £50,000.  The Schemes are both available only via accredited suppliers.

Banks are struggling to meet demand, particularly those banks which use support teams in countries which have a lockdown (such as India).  There is no one bank which is better than the others.  The important point is that you approach the lender via the lender’s website.  If one lender turns you down, you can still apply to others.

The full list of accredited suppliers is available here: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/current-accredited-lenders-and-partners/.  Be aware there are fraudsters out there so only use one of the accredited suppliers listed.

It depends on which type of loan you are applying for.  The government guarantees 100% of any Bounce Back Loan.  The government guarantees 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) for loans offered via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). 

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has been criticised for allowing banks to ask potential borrowers to provide personal guarantees.  The effect being that directors of businesses could be at risk of losing their savings and property if their business fails (excluding their primary residence).  The Big Four banks have agreed that they will not take personal guarantees as security for lending below £250,000.  Any loans more the £250,000 will require security.

For large businesses a separate funding scheme is available, the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) which is being supported by the Bank of England and is aimed at helping large businesses and groups.  Originally only those businesses which are investment grade, as defined by a ratings agency could access funds via this route.  However, some of the criteria has now been relaxed and mid-sized companies, with good credit worthiness, should also be considered.

There is also the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) which supports businesses with an annual turnover of over £45million.  All viable businesses with a runover of more than £45million per year can apply for up to £25million of finance.  Businesses with a turnover of more than £250million can apply for up to £50 million of finance.

More information about CLBILS is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-large-business-interruption-loan-scheme

It should be noted that you can not apply for CLBILS is you have already received funding via CCFF.

On 2nd April the government expanded CBILS in terms of its features and eligibility. The aim of the changes is to enable more small businesses to access the Coronavirus funding. The main changes are:

  • No personal guarantees for accessing funding facilities below £250k (the Big Four banks had committed to this before the 2nd April announcement)
  • Personal guarantees for accessing funding facilities above £250k may be required (depending on the lender) but recoveries of funds will be capped at a maximum of 20% of the outstanding balance after business assets have been applied. [Note: a Principal Private Residence cannot be taken as security to support a personal guarantee or as security for CBILS.]
  • CBILS can now support lending to smaller business even where a lender considers there to be sufficient security, meaning more small business should be able to access CBILS.
  • The lenders should retrospectively apply these changes for any CBILS facilities offered since 23rd March 2020.
  • For any commercial loan facilities offered since 23rd March 2020 (i.e. non-CBILS), providing the borrowers meet the CBILS eligibility criteria, lenders have been asked to offer CBILS funding wherever possible.

Smaller businesses must:

  • Be UK based in its business activity
  • Have a turnover of no more than £45mn/year
  • Have a borrowing proposal, which would be considered viable by a lender
  • Self-certify that it has a been adversely affected by Coronavirus Covid-19

At the end of May the government announced changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, including the introduction of part-time flexible furloughing.  In summary this is:

  • Staff on furlough can return to work part-time from 1st For such employees and workers, the employer will pay the individuals’ salaries for the days worked and the government contribution will be 80% of the proportion of the hours not worked.
  • Claims for flexible furloughing grants will require employers to report on the number of hours employees and workers work and the number of hours they would usually work in the period claimed for; employers will need to come up with a means of recording hours accurately to demonstrate this information. 
  • The minimum claim period will be one week which may allow, for example, employers to test the waters to see what demand levels are like while still being able to access furlough funds.
  • With the introduction of so called ‘flexi-furlough’ the previous scheme will be closed to new entrants from 30th June 2020. As a result of the 3-week minimum period for any furlough grants, any new staff to be entered onto the scheme must be registered by 10th
  • Employers will have until 31st July 2020 to make any claims in response to the period to 30th

More information about the changes to the furlough scheme are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-self-employment-support-scheme-and-confirms-furlough-next-steps

The scheme will cease on 31st October 2020.  The transitional arrangements are:

  • From 1st August employers will be responsible for paying furloughed employees and workers’ pension and National Insurance contributions. The government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to the cap of £2,500.
  • From 1st September employers will be responsible for contributing 10% of wages whilst the government will cover 70% up to a maximum of £2,187.50 per month.
  • From 1st October employers will be responsible for contributing 20% of wages, whilst the government will cover 60% up to a maximum of £1,875 per month.

More information about the changes to the furlough scheme are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-self-employment-support-scheme-and-confirms-furlough-next-steps

The general advice on how monthly wages are calculated is that, if you are a full-time or part-time employee on a salary, then your monthly wages are based on your salary. If an individual’s pay varies and they’ve been employed (or engaged by an employment business in the case of agency workers) for a full year, employers will claim for the higher of either:

  • the amount the individual earned in the same month last year
  • an average of the individual’s monthly earnings from the last year

If an individual’s pay varies and they have been employed for less than a year, employers will claim for an average of your regular monthly wages since you started work. Lastly, if an individual has been working for less than a month, the employer will pro-rata that individual’s earnings from that month.

The grant paid to the employer will be calculated based on the individual’s regular, contractual pay, such as wages, compulsory commission and past overtime. The calculation will not include discretionary commission (including tips) payments or bonuses, non-cash payments or benefits in kind.

With the size of the interviewer panels that research and data collection companies have, some companies elected to only furlough some of their interviewer panels. The government advice makes it clear that any selection of individuals for furloughing should be non-discriminatory. Research companies have used criteria such as:

  • Has the interviewer undertaken research projects for the company in the preceding 12 weeks?
  • Was the interviewer booked to undertake research work for the company in March 2020?

An employer should make the best decision for their organisation and their employees.

  • Standard discrimination law applies, you cannot decide who should be furloughed on the basis of any protected characteristic.
  • It is acceptable – indeed encouraged – to consult on the process with employees. Some may have reason to want to be furloughed, other reasons not to be. A good employer would want to take that into account.
  • Note that if people with a particular protected characteristic disproportionately request furlough, it is acceptable that furloughs would be disproportionately weighted towards that group

Whilst furloughed an individual will continue to accrue leave as per their employment contract. The individual can agree with their employer to vary holiday pay entitlement as part of the furlough agreement, however almost all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks of statutory paid annual leave each year which they cannot go below.

An individual can take holiday whilst on furlough. Working Time Regulations (WTR) require holiday pay to be paid at an individual’s normal rate of pay or, where their rate of pay varies, calculated on the basis of the average pay you received in the previous 52 working weeks. Therefore, if an individual takes holiday while on furlough, their employer should pay them their usual holiday pay in accordance with the WTR. Employers will be obliged to pay the additional amounts over the grant, though will have the flexibility to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need. This applies for both the furlough period and the recovery period.

If an individual usually works bank holidays then their employer can agree that this is included in the grant payment. If they usually take the bank holiday as leave then the employer would either have to top up that individual’s pay to their usual holiday pay or give them a day of holiday in lieu.

The policy on holiday pay during furlough is being kept under review.

You’ll still need to pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees, and you can claim for these too.

You cannot claim for:

  • additional National Insurance or pension contributions you make because you choose to top up your employee’s wages
  • any pension contributions you make that are above the mandatory employer contribution

For further information, please view: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-80-of-your-employees-wages-to-claim-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The scheme has been extended to 31st October 2020. Furloughed workers will continue to receive 80% of their current pay, up to £2,500 until the end of July. From August the scheme will continue with more flexibility to support the transition back to work. The details regarding the changes are due to be announced at the end of May.

One change that has been announced, which will apply from August, is that workers will be able to return to their jobs part-time. In this scenario employers would need to contribute a proportion of the pay for that staff that return part-time. The details of how this will work will be announced with all the changes at the end of May.

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme has been created to help businesses pay staff, particularly if demand for business’ services have significantly decreased and/or ceased.  This scheme means that HMRC reimburses 80% of staff’s wage costs up to a monthly cap of £2,500 (gross) per month for each employee.  The government also covers the furloughed staff’s NI and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. Employers are required to continue to make payroll PAYE payments.  The payroll PAYE for the staff who have been ‘furloughed’ is then recovered through a grant from HMRC and paid into businesses’ bank accounts.

More information about the Job Retention Scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

There are some important limitations and conditions if you are intending to use this scheme:

  • The scheme was opened on 20th April 2020
  • Payment of furloughed grants is likely to take up to a month
  • Any staff furloughed cannot work for their employer nor can they work part-time or reduced hours for their employer
  • Once launched the grant will start on the day staff were placed on furlough and can be backdated to 1st March 2020
  • Staff must have agreed to be furloughed with their employer; staff can not apply to furlough themselves
  • Only UK employers with a UK bank account will be able to claim
  • The scheme is open to all UK employers that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 19 March
  • It applies to all types of contract including zero-rated contracts or temporary contracts plus staff on parental leave although how these will be administered is still not clear

More information about the Job Retention Scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Updated as of 16 April 2020

If your business has staff that are on sick leave or self-isolating because of Covid-19 the affected staff should be receiving Statutory Sick Pay: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay.  Once they have recovered they can then be furloughed. 

Note the conditions for applying for the Job Retention scheme: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

No.  The government does not expect public sector employers to use the scheme, particularly due to the high level of demand for public sector services during this crisis.  A similar limitation applies to employers which receive public funding for staff costs.

Employers can re-employ staff who were made redundant after 19 March and put them on furlough arrangements as an alternative to redundancy.

More information about the scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Updated as of 16 April 2020

As an interviewer you can not apply directly for the Job Retention Scheme - furloughing.  This must be undertaken by a research company which you have worked with and which has paid PAYE for your services.

Throughout April the government has been updating the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme information. The main changes are:

  • Clarification that organisations need to be registered for PAYE online services to be able to claim under the furlough scheme. If your organisation is not signed up to PAYE online and you are considering applying for this scheme you should sign up as soon as possible.  Click here to sign up to PAYE online.
  • Confirmation that Directors and office holders can be furloughed.
  • Employers can now claim for furloughed employees that were on an employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 – this has been extended from the original date of 28th February 2020.
  • The scheme will now be open until the end of June 2020 – extended one month from the original end date of end of May 2020.

More information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The government has clarified that organisations that wish to furlough office holders need to undertake the following:

  • The furlough, and any ongoing payment during furlough, will need to be agreed between the office holder and the party who operates PAYE on the income they receive for holding their office.
  • Where the office holder is a company director or member of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), the furlough arrangements should be adopted formally as a decision of the company or LLP.

More information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The government has clarified that organisations that wish to furlough company directors need to undertake the following:

  • Company directors owe duties to their company which are set out in the Companies Act 2006. Where a company (acting through its board of directors) considers that it is in compliance with the statutory duties of one or more of its individual salaried directors, the board can decide that such directors should be furloughed.
  • Where one or more individual directors’ furlough is so decided by the board, this should be formally adopted as a decision of the company, noted in the company records and communicated in writing to the director(s) concerned.
  • Where furloughed directors need to carry out particular duties to fulfil the statutory obligations they owe to their company, they may do so provided they do no more than would reasonably be judged necessary for that purpose, for instance, they should not do work of a kind they would carry out in normal circumstances to generate commercial revenue or provides services to or on behalf of their company.

More information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

  • The government has clarified that members of LLPs who are designated as employees for tax purposes (‘salaried members’) under the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act (ITTOIA) 2005 are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme.
  • To furlough a member of an LLP, the terms of the LLP agreement (or any such agreement between the LLP and the member) may need to be varied by a formal decision of the LLP, for example to reflect the fact that the member will perform no work in the LLP for the period of furlough, and the effect of this on their remuneration from the LLP.
  • For an LLP member who is treated as being employed by the LLP (in accordance with s863A of ITTOIA 2005), the reference salary for this scheme is the LLP member’s profit allocation, excluding any amounts which are determined by the LLP member’s performance, or the overall performance of the LLP.

More information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The government has clarified that furloughed staff can undertake the following:

  • A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work, as long as such volunteer activities do not provide services, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.
  • A furloughed employee can engage in training as long as in undertaking the training the employees do not provide services, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.
  • Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of their employer, the staff are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, would be sufficient to cover the training time. However, where the time spent training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages (see National Minimum Wage for more details).

More information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

If an employee or worker works for more than one organisation they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate, and the £2,500 cap applies to each employer individually.

Employees can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for another employer and receive their normal wages.

For more information see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#history

The online portal opened for submission on 20 April 2020.

HMRC is looking to make the first payments from submissions made on 20 April by 30 April and is then aiming to make future payments within four to six working days after further submissions have been made.

All employers must have access to an online PAYE account for job retention scheme grant submissions.  You may mistakenly assume they already have an online PAYE account or may forget details for it, therefore it's important to double check.

The process for enrolling to the PAYE portal is simple and more details on how to do this, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/paye-online

The government guidance on this issue is unclear. Employers can continue to make minimum 3% employer contributions for people on furlough and employers can continue to deduct personal contributions.

On 14th April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this query with colleagues to determine if there is further clarity on this issue.

The current government advice is that annual leave it not permitted during furlough leave, and holiday will accrue during the period of furlough. It is not clear however whether holiday pay for interviewers should be paid or whether this would be restricted as with annual leave.

On 14th April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this query with colleagues to determine if there is further clarity on this issue.

The Job Retention Scheme allows employers to claim a Government grant of up to 80% of each furloughed employee or workers wages, subject to a cap of £2,500 per month, to cover their PAYE costs.

On 15th April, the Government announced that the eligibility cut-off date for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be pushed back from 28th February to 19th March. This means employees who were on the PAYE payroll system on or before 19th March can now participate in the scheme.

Interviewers that work variable hours receive variable pay. To calculate furlough amounts you need to calculate the average earnings during the 2019/20 tax year and you pay each interviewer who you wish to furlough 80% of their average earnings per week subject to NI and Tax deductions and capped at £2,500 gross in any one month.

From the current government advice it is not clear.  The government advice does state that employers should discuss with their staff the furlough arrangements and make any changes to the staff contracts by agreement as required.  This might be one way to clarify when payments are to be made.  We have however raised this query on 2 April 2020  with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this scenario with colleagues to determine whether such an approach would be allowed.  BEIS responded on 6th April and agreed that further government guidance is required in this area. MRS will continue to liaise with BEIS to seek further clarification and guidance.

Updated 6 April 2020

Any furloughing arrangements need to made between the interviewers on the PAYE on 28 February 2020 and the organisation; there is no obligation to furlough everyone although clearly interviewers need financial support and furloughing could assist with this. 

However, the Job Retention Scheme is based on claiming 80% of furloughed employees’ 'usual monthly wage costs', up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.    The issue is how to determine the usual monthly wage costs if individuals have worked on an ad hoc basis rather than continuous.  It is not clear from the current government advice what organisations should do in these circumstances.

On 2 April 2020 MRS raised this issue with the government department, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and they are discussing this with colleagues to determine the answer to this query. BEIS responded on 6 April and agreed that further government guidance is required in this area. MRS will continue to liaise with BEIS to seek further clarification and guidance.

Updated 6 April 2020

We are responding to a brief that would involve doing research among employees of large businesses who the client are a supplier/partner of.

It is likely that some staff of these businesses will or have been furloughed. We know that under the government’s job retention scheme, furloughed staff are not allowed to work for their employer or others, but that they are allowed to volunteer and participate in training.

I was wondering if you have a view on whether or not a staff member taking part in incentivised market research would cause in any issues with breaching the terms of the furlough scheme?

Our answer:

I would start by framing the very nature of “incentive”

The research rules regarding incentives and participants/respondents are defined and regulated by MRS via the MRS Code of Conduct and associated MRS disciplinary and complaint procedures which apply to all MRS members and MRS Company Partners. MRS also has separate guidance for Incentives. which is also mandatory on all members and MRS Company Partners

  • The MRS Code of Conduct contains defines incentives as “any benefit offered to a participant to encourage participation in a project” and a participant is defined as “any individual or organisation from or about whom data are collected”. It is clear from these definitions that this is not a relationship that you would have with workers or employees.

Incentives are to encourage participation in research they are not a payment for time or participation.

  • Incentives payments are proportionate to what is being asked e.g. incentives would be higher for longer participation, but not an equivalent payment for the person's time i.e. equivalent to per hour earnings.
  • Incentives are not payments for participant's views as this would be a form of bribery i.e. "give us good feedback and we will pay you £100"
  • Incentives are not governed by formal contract (such as would be the case in employment).
  • Incentives are not linked to performance as a participant (which would also be the case with employment).

All this considering, they cannot be considered salary benefit, nor be subject to taxations.

As a consequence, there should be a very low risk in recurring to them.

However, it might be more problematic in a business to business research and it might need some additional considerations, with regard to the nature and the scope of the research project.

At the end of May 2020, the government announced an extension to SEISS. 

The scheme originally allowed applicants to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, capped at £7,500 in total. 

The scheme has been extended and applicants will be able to make a claim for a second and final grant in August 2020.  Eligible applicants for the second grant will be paid a taxable grant worth 70% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits capped at £6,570 in total.

More information about SEISS is available here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme opened on 13th May 2020.  Individuals will be able to make their claim on a specified date between 13-18 May, based on their Unique Tax Reference number. HMRC has assigned eligible self-employed individuals a specific date to apply on and this can be checked on HMRC’s online checker, found here. You will not be able to apply before their claim date but can make a claim after that day.

Those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account by 25 May 2020, or within six working days of completing a claim.

Further information on how to make a claim is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme allows you to claim a taxable grant up to 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months until June 2020. 

More information about the Self-employment Income Support Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

There are conditions attached to this scheme:

  • The scheme is not yet open for applications
  • HMRC will contact those eligible for the scheme
  • You must have submitted an Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the 2018-19 tax year; if this is outstanding the return must be made before 23rd April
  • You must have traded in the 2019-20 tax year
  • You must have intended to continue to trade in the 2020-21 tax year
  • You must have lost trading profits due to Covid-19
  • Your self-employed trading profits must be less than £50,000
  • More than half of your income must come from self-employment

More information about the Self-employment Income Support Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

Individuals will receive a taxable grant which be 80% of the average profits from the three previous tax years from 2016-2017 to 2018-19.  HMRC will calculate the average over this period to calculate the average total trading profit.  The grant will be 80% of the average profits up to a maximum of £2,500 for a period of 3 months.  The grant will be paid in one instalment directly to your bank account.

More information about the Self-employment Income Support Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

 

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme applies to partnerships as well as those self-employed.

More information about the Self-employment Income Support Scheme is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

The government has announced that all UK VAT registered businesses that have a VAT payment due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 have an option to either the defer the payment until a later date or pay the VAT liability as normal.  If you decided to defer no charge interest or penalties will be incurred.  You do however still need to submit your VAT returns.

If you have cashflow issues deferring VAT is the best option.  If you normally pay your VAT to HMRC by direct debit, cancel your direct debit as soon as you can.

More details about deferring VAT are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-through-deferring-vat-payments

The government has announced a business rates ‘holiday’ for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020-2021 tax year.  MRS is lobbying government that these provisions should be extended to include any sector where facilities are used for assembling people such as viewing facilities, training facilities, etc.

More details about the existing scheme for business rates holidays is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-retail-hospitality-and-leisure-businesses-that-pay-business-rates

The government has provided additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses.  This grant will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.   To access this the business must be in England, you must be the business that occupies the property and you must be already receiving small business rate relief or rural rate relief as of 11 March 2020.

More details about business relief are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-that-pay-little-or-no-business-rates

 The government is due to introduce legislation to allow small and medium-sized employers to reclaim up to 2 weeks’ Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for staff absent due to Covid-19. 

The conditions for the scheme include:

  • Businesses with fewer than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020
  • Employers can reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP as a result of Covid-19
  • Employers need to retain records of staff absences and payments of SSP – but not a GP fit note

More details about this scheme are due to be announced, but current information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-who-are-paying-sick-pay-to-employees

The Government has announced a moratorium on lease forfeiture to protect commercial tenants who, because of coronavirus, cannot pay rent falling due within the next three months.

The measures were included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill, which was granted Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and became the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The legislation applies to all commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The initial “relevant period” runs from 26 March 2020 (being the day after the day on which the 2020 Act was passed) to 30 June 2020, with an option for the Government to extend the period if needed. The June quarter day falls within the initial period.

Yes, unless the landlord expressly waives its right to it. Tenants will still be liable for the rent after the end of the moratorium and interest will accrue in the usual way on any unpaid amounts.

For the purposes of the legislation, “rent” includes any sum payable under a commercial lease, e.g. service charge, insurance rent, interest, VAT and costs.

A note of caution where a landlord’s obligations to deliver services are conditional on the tenant’s paying the service charge: the landlord may use that provision to cut back on services and facilities management costs and avoid its own cash flow issues. Likewise in respect of insurance if the premium falls due during the moratorium. However, from a risk perspective, it is less likely that a landlord would choose not to insure than to deliver certain services.

Yes, a tenant is responsible for business rates for as long as its lease continues. Any relief will be a matter between the tenant and the local authority. However, the Government has introduced a number of measures to help ratepayers absorb the impact of Covid-19. These include the business rates holiday for certain types of premises (see earlier FAQ on this topic).

That is very unlikely. We would recommend cancelling any standing order in favour of the landlord so that, depending on the circumstances at the time, the June quarter payment can be made manually if needed, rather than being made automatically.

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