Last week we published our Furlough FAQ for Employers, but it is not only employers who have been affected by the Government Job Retention Scheme. In this article we clear up some of the questions we have been getting from employees who have been furloughed.
This guide has been created in partnership with Activate-HR, a management consulting company based in Scotland.
What does it mean?
The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme has been introduced by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It allows employers to ‘furlough’ any staff on a PAYE scheme. This means they are temporarily unable to work for their company, without being laid off without pay or made redundant.
Payments can be backdated to 1st March 2020 as long as employees met the eligibility criteria at the time. The scheme will run until at least 31st May.
The government will support furloughed employees by providing 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. The employer can supplement this support by making it up to the full salary, but they are under no obligation to do so.
What is Furlough?
Furlough means that an employee is required to take a compulsory temporary leave of absence where they are unable to attend or undertake any work for their employer. The employee is retained on the payroll during the furlough period.
Why has the government introduced Furlough?
Furlough is designed to support organisations that have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and are a direct alternative to layoff or redundancy.
As an employee can I request to be furloughed?
No, the decision to furlough lies with the employer. Employees cannot request to furlough.
When does the furlough start?
Furlough starts from the day after the employee finishes work to the day before they return to work.
Which employees are eligible for furlough?
Any employee who has been added to the PAYE payroll on or before the 19th of March 2020. Employers will not be able to reclaim expenses for employees who were added to payroll after this time.
Interruption Loan Scheme which offers up to £5m with no interest for the first 12 months.
Can you volunteer if you are on furlough?
If you are furloughed, you can volunteer for a different organisation.
According to government guidance: ‘a furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work, if it does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation.’
In short, you can support other organisations but you cannot engage in any work, voluntary or otherwise, for the company from which you are furloughed.
Can you do paid work for another organisation?
Yes, furloughed staff can work for another company and be paid for it as long as their employment contract allows, and they get agreement from their main employer.
Any employer who takes on a new employee who is furloughed from another organisation should ensure they correctly complete the New Starter checklist form, completing Statement C.
How will I receive my wages as a furloughed member of staff?
It is your employer’s responsibility to submit your information to HMRC and claim your wages back through the online portal which went live on the 20th April.
It is expected that employers must pay their employees first and claim back the money later. They should pay you on the usual agreed date and any change to this due to issue with cash flow must be agreed by both employee and employer.
What does this mean for someone who is on sick leave or maternity leave?
The usual rules around parental leave and pay still apply.
If you are currently on maternity pay, you are not entitled to claim furlough support for your normal salary. The only way to do so is to end your maternity leave early and request that your employer put you on furlough. Keep in mind that once you end maternity leave, if you are not furloughed you will be expected to return to work and cannot return to maternity leave.
Find more information here.
If you are suffering short-term illness or self-isolating due to coronavirus, you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Furlough should not be used as an alternative for short-term absences.
Employers are entitled to furlough staff who are on long-term sick leave, it is up to them to decide if they want to do so. Government advice states that: ‘You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time. When an employee is on furlough, you can only reclaim expenditure through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and not the SSP rebate scheme.’
How should I contact my employer during furlough?
Details of how you will stay in contact should be outlined in your furlough agreement.
How long will the furlough scheme run for?
The scheme will run until at least 30th June 2020.