The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been introduced to protect jobs during the Coronavirus crisis. Our specialist Employment law solicitors answer your questions about how furlough leave works and furloughed employees’ rights.
This article was updated on 8 July 2020.
The scheme covers full-time, part-time, employees on agency contracts, employees on flexible, fixed term or zero hours contracts as well as apprentices.
On 4th April 2020 there was an update to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance which clarified that workers such as Office holders including company directors and salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships were included as were workers who provide personal services and are not working on their own account and are paid through PAYE. Non-UK nationals can be furloughed by their UK employer.
Where an employee has more than one job their respective employments will be treated separately for the purposes of furlough and the reimbursement rules applies to each employer individually.
Company directors will only have the grant applied to their salary and not dividends. The decision to furlough must be considered by the board and formalised as a decision of the company.
The cut-off date for being furloughed for the first time was 10 June 2020.
Yes, if you are paid through Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
Yes, the scheme applies to full-time, part-time, zero-hours employees and apprentices. It will also apply to Executive Directors in relation to the PAYE/employee element of their contract.
Furlough is a “leave of absence” from work for an indefinite period. As part of its package of measures to protect businesses and employees during the Coronavirus the Government has offered to re-imburse companies 80% of furloughed employees’ salaries up to £2,500 a month.
Your employer must obtain your written agreement to the arrangement otherwise they are likely to be in breach of your employment contract.
It depends on your employer’s situation and in particular the work they have available. Refusal might mean your employer will make you redundant.
No. Employers can claim national insurance and basic pension contributions in addition to the £2,500. This changes on 1 August 2020 when your employer will need to start paying your national insurance and pension contributions.
Apart from the Government re-imbursing your employer 80% of your salary, your contract of employment is otherwise unaffected by the scheme and your entitlement to other benefits will continue unless you agree otherwise with your employer.
Yes, if you were dismissed on or after 28 February 2020, your employer can, but has no obligation to re-instate you and then put you on furlough leave.
It will depend on a number of factors such as whether or not the original decision to dismiss you could be considered to be unfair.
Your employer can claim the higher of 80% of salary in the same pay period last year or an average of salary over the whole of the 2019/20 tax year. The grant reduces to 70% from 1 September 2020 and reduces to 60% on 1 October 2020.
No, employers are not obliged to top up the 80% grant. However, when the grant reduces to 70% and 60% on 1 September and 1 October your employer will have to top up to make this 80% of salary.
Currently, you cannot do any work at all for your employer but you can receive training or carry out volunteering. On 1 July flexible furlough starts and your employer can bring you back to work on a part time basis and top up with the furlough grant.
No. Emergency Volunteering Leave is unpaid although there may be some compensation for travel and subsistence.
If you work for more than one employer you can receive up to 80% pay for each job.
There is no obligation on your employer to offer you furlough leave. They may have work for you to do which can be done safely within the current guidelines. It is however permissible for an employee to move from SSP to furlough leave so it is an option which is available to your employer.
Only if you are ready, willing and able to work. Your employer can only legitimately be able to claim 80% of your salary if you meet this criteria.
Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment and if risk cannot be avoided through adjustments to your working arrangements then they should suspend you on full pay. If your employer believes that with adjustments – such as home working, distancing and additional hygiene measures – the risk can be avoided and you refuse to come to work anyway there is a risk of disciplinary action and ultimately dismissal. In this situation, it is unlikely that any dismissal would be automatically unfair on health and safety grounds.
The latest guidance from the Government has confirmed that “shielded” individuals (which includes pregnant women) can benefit from furlough leave which means that the Government will re-imburse 80% of their wages even if the business has sufficient work for them to do.
Apart from in the first two weeks following the birth of your child (4 weeks if you work in a factory) you are entitled to give your employer notice of your intention to return to work. You and your employer can agree to waive or shorten the notice period so that you can benefit from the scheme. You should be aware however that you cannot go back on to maternity leave if the furlough scheme ends before your maternity leave would otherwise have ended. If you are concerned about this you may wish to consider switching from maternity leave to shared parental leave which is more flexible.
No, the guidance indicates that National Minimum Wages only applies if you are working and if you are on furlough leave you are not working.