Forum praises HMRC, but says real test is still to come

The Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum has hailed the “speed and efficiency” of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme rollout – but says the real test will be if all claims are paid on time.

The specialist body said the successful launch by HMRC last week could provide a “vital lifeline” to companies across the country.

Since the HMRC portal opened on Monday 20 April, more than 140,000 companies employing around a million workers have applied to the furlough scheme. The cost of about £1 billion is expected to rise significantly as more companies take up the offer.

Vaughan Hart, Managing Director of Forum member Scottish Building Federation and chair of the Forum Employment sub-group, said: “The Forum wishes to record its appreciation of the intense amount of work that has been undertaken behind the scenes by HMRC to so effectively address a situation that, just a few short weeks ago, nobody could have envisaged.

“Fears that the system might be overwhelmed seem unfounded as the rollout and handling seems to have gone smoothly so far.

“Feedback also seems to suggest that payments are now being made as scheduled, so fingers crossed this continues and a vital lifeline is successfully delivered.”

Andrew Renwick, Managing Director of Caltech Lifts, and also a member of the Forum Employment sub-group, said: “The Revenue has taken on a mammoth task and seems to have made a really good start, demonstrating admirable speed and efficiency.

“The circumstances have been unprecedented and it is very gratifying to see the importance that government attaches to the small businesses which are the lifeblood of the economy.

“However, the job is still only half done, and the real test will come over the next week or so when it will become clear if funds are paid out on time to those who need them most.”

The scheme means that employers who cannot maintain their current workforce because their operations have been severely affected can “furlough” employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance and pension contributions.

The scheme is temporary, in place for four months starting from March 1, 2020, but it may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme at any time during this period.

The CICV Forum has already played a major role in clarifying conflicting information for the sector and issuing practical guidance for companies, clients and employees. It has now established a series of influential sub-groups dealing with mission-critical aspects such as Health and Safety, Skills, Communication and Future Planning.

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