Chancellor under fire for “failed attempt” to correct his Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which still leaves many thousands of job switchers penniless in pandemic crisis

Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant has issued a fresh call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make further changes to his Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allows businesses to claim state money for employee salaries.

Under the scheme, employers can apply for cash grants online and put employees on furlough, meaning their job is put on hold and they do not work, but they are still employed.

The state then finances 80 per cent of furloughed employees’ 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 today 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. The HMRC and Treasury can validate proof of employment to ensure these applications are not fraudulent.”

It is the second time this month that Mrs Grant has raised the issue in writing with the chancellor.

She said: “These people have been left disappointed and angry. They have worked for years without any interruption. They have never asked for anything from the government and now, the one time they need it, the help is not there. This is a national scandal. I would urge the chancellor to step in now and bring these people into the scheme.”