The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for individuals receiving direct payments

12 June 2020

As widely documented, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme on or before 19 March 2020 can utilise the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to ‘furlough’ employees, but how does this work for direct payment holders?

The Department of Health and Social Care guidance relating to the CJRS for direct payment holders explains that any of those with a PAYE scheme on or before that date can utilise the CJRS where appropriate, but it is generally expected that the use of the CJRS to furlough employees will only happen in exceptional circumstances.

If at all possible, care should be delivered and paid for in line with the standard arrangements. Where it is appropriate for employers to access the scheme, they should follow the step-by-step guide to apply for the CJRS.

There is no doubt that care services, including the role of Personal Assistants (PAs) and carers will continue to be a vital part of the response to COVID-19. It is expected that employers, including direct payment holders, will keep the majority of staff working in order to maintain these services. This does not, however, mean that employers and direct payment holders in the sector are prohibited from furloughing staff completely. 

A list of some of the scenarios are provided to highlight where furloughing would be appropriate.

A PA or carer needs to shield

Some PAs and care workers will have been contacted by the NHS to advise them to ‘shield’ for a minimum period of 12 weeks, and these individuals should not work. It would therefore be appropriate for direct payment holders to use the CJRS here, especially if they need to seek temporary paid care from elsewhere at no additional cost.

A PA lives with somebody who is required to shield

For PAs and care workers who have not received a letter instructing them to ‘shield’, but who are living with someone who has, and is categorised as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, direct payment holders should enter into discussion with them. Although guidance on ‘shielding’ means that household members of a person required to ‘shield’ do not have to themselves ‘shield’ then furlough would not necessarily be the first option but employers should recognise the difference circumstances of employees, and in some scenarios, use of the CJRS may be appropriate. The example provided online is as follows:


June employs three PAs through her direct payment: Mary, Dolores and Samira.

Dolores and Samira have agreed to carry on working through the coronavirus pandemic and June has provided them with the PPE required to work safely.

Mary is unable to continue working for June because her son John has been advised to shield for 12 weeks. John has Crohn’s disease and is currently receiving a treatment of chemotherapy. Mary is the main carer for John and therefore has no choice but to shield alongside her son.

Samira and Dolores have agreed to work additional hours to cover the period Mary cannot work, ensuring that June receives the care and support she needs.

June has heard about the government’s (furlough) Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and wants to know if she can access it to cover some of Mary’s wages while she is shielding.

Having read the guidance and spoken to an adviser, June has been advised to furlough Mary while she’s shielding and has successfully applied to the CJRS to cover 80% of her wages.

Once it’s viable for Mary to return to her work, June has agreed that Dolores and Samira’s hours will be returned to normal, enabling Mary to take up her previous employment.

When a PA or carer has caring responsibilities

Some PAs and care workers may need to stop working because they have caring responsibilities for somebody who is dependent on them. It would be appropriate for the direct payment holder to use the CJRS here. An illustrative example is provided:


Syed is a personal assistant (PA) for Louise and also has caring responsibilities for his son, Abdul, who has severe learning disabilities. Syed receives no financial payment for caring for his son and is his unpaid carer.

Usually, Abdul attends and receives support from day centres. Given these day centres have temporarily stopped running, meaning Abdul can’t attend, Syed is now providing more care to Abdul than he previously did.

Syed is therefore temporarily unable to continue to deliver care and support for Louise. Louise and Syed discuss this and decide that the best course of action is for Louise to apply to the CJRS on behalf of Syed. The application is successful, meaning Syed will continue to receive a wage, while also enabling him to fulfil his unpaid caring responsibilities at home.

o ensure Louise continues to receive the support she requires in Syed’s absence, she contacts Barry, a PA who used to work for her. Barry, who is familiar with Louise’s needs, agrees to provide temporary cover for Syed until he’s able to return to work.

It is expected that these scenarios will not frequently occur.

Using the CJRS if the direct payment holder doesn’t want their PA entering their home during the coronavirus crisis

Some direct payment holders may not want their PA or paid care worker to continue to provide care and support during this time. Eligibility for the CJRS will depend on each different circumstance, but the following examples are included, which do not cover all of those situations:


John has a direct payment and uses that to employ Emily as a part-time PA. Recently, John has received a shielding letter.

Previously, Emily supported John to access community classes, exercise and visit the supermarket. Given John has now been advised to shield, some of this is now not possible. Furthermore, given John is susceptible to infection, he would prefer that Emily doesn’t enter the home, to minimise the risk to him. John also believes some of the tasks that Emily did support him with in his house could be done temporarily by family members who live with him.

John therefore decides that using the CJRS would not be appropriate in this instance. He therefore continues to pay Emily her full wage, despite Emily not providing the usual care and support during this period. John’s family members voluntarily provide the care and support that Emily usually would, without pay.

Emily has also heard of another direct payment holder, Lamar, who would like some temporary additional PA support and has the funds in his budget to do this. Emily therefore provides Lamar with this care and support on a temporary basis, until John would like her to return to employment.


Brett has a direct payment and uses that to employ Nazeen as a part-time PA. Recently, Brett has also received a shielding letter from the NHS and has been categorised as ‘high risk’.

Nazeen is usually employed to provide Brett with personal care in his house. Given Brett’s categorisation, he would prefer Nazeen not to provide him with personal care for the time being. Instead he would prefer his brother, Oliver, to provide that for him to reduce any risk of transmission.

Oliver is happy to do this for Brett ‒ he already provides Brett with a lot of unpaid care and support. However, for the extra work, Oliver would like to be paid a contribution to do it.

Brett agrees to this, on the basis that he is comfortable with Oliver, and knows that he mostly stays in the house, which reduces the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Brett’s LA have given him the flexibility to use his budget in a way that meets his needs and keeps him safe. However, the budget does not allow for full pay to Nazeen and Oliver.

Brett therefore discusses this with Nazeen, and they agree to put her forward for the CJRS. This suits Nazeen, who has caring responsibilities that she will need to spend more time doing, when her husband is taken off the CJRS by his employer.

The application for the CJRS is successful, and Nazeen therefore receives 80% of her normal wage. Brett also agrees to pay Oliver a fixed wage per hour, with this drafted into Brett’s contingency plan. Nazeen, Oliver and Brett have all agreed that this is just a temporary arrangement until the risk to Brett is reduced, and he’s happy for Nazeen to return to work on a permanent basis and when Nazeen feels able to return to work permanently.


The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication. For all the latest information, news and resources on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting payroll professions, visit our Coronavirus hub.