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Paying employees early at Christmas

Under Real Time Information (RTI), you must report payments made to employees and associated deductions to HMRC on a Full Payment Submission (FPS) at or before the time at which you make the payment to your employee. However, special rules apply which modify this rule if you pay your employees earlier than usual over the Christmas period. This may be the case if you shut down over Christmas and New Year.

Use your normal payday

Even if you pay your employees earlier than usual in December, you should use the normal payday as the payment date on the FPS, and submit the FPS by this date. In this instance, the FPS may well be submitted after the date that you paid your employees. However, as the submission deadline is the normal payday, as long as you send your FPS in by that date, it will not be treated as being late.

For example, if you normally pay your employees monthly on the 28Th of the month, but in December you are shut for two weeks and pay them on 17 December 2021 instead, when you send the FPS to HMRC, you should still enter ’28 December 2021’ as the payment date. You must ensure that you send the FPS to HMRC by 28 December 2021; although it will probably be more convenient to send it on 17 December 2021 when you do your payroll and pay your employees, you do not have to submit the FPS by this date.

Impact on Universal Credit

It is important that you follow the rules set out above if you pay your employees early at Christmas to ensure that any employees who receive Universal Credit will receive the correct payments. You should also use the normal payment date if you pay employees early because the usual payday falls on a bank holiday. Following these rules prevents two months’ payments being taken into account in one Universal Credit assessment period and none in another assessment period, and stops Universal Credit claimants losing out on the work allowance. This is an amount of earnings that the claimant is able to keep before earnings start to be deducted from their Universal Credit entitlement.

As Universal Credit is a means tested benefit, the amount paid is reduced when income rises.

Court of Appeal decision

In November 2020, the Court of Appeal issued a judgment in the case of Johnson and Others. Following the case, where people are paid monthly and as a result of a payment being made earlier than usual (for example, at Christmas), two payments are made in one assessment period and none in another, one set of earnings is taken into account in each assessment period so that the claimant does not lose the work allowance.

The reallocation of earnings only happens where people are paid monthly. Where people are paid weekly, fortnightly or four-weekly, there will always be assessment periods where additional payments of earnings are taken into account. For example, employees who are paid four-weekly will normally only receive one payment in a Universal Credit assessment period, but in one period each year, two payments of earnings will be taken into account as employees who are paid four-weekly receive 13 payments each year. Moving earnings to another period would simply change the assessment period in which two payments are taken into account.

Contact us

If you will be paying your employees on a day other than your usual payday in December and are unsure how and when to report the payments to HMRC, please get in touch. We can help.