1) What does furlough mean?
“Furlough” means to grant leave of absence to employees, instead of resorting to the extreme step of lay-off. The employees keep such employers on the payroll but don`t have any work to be assigned to them.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) if the employee has been categorised as furloughed, they can`t take up any work for you (the employer) for the time he/she is furloughed. The period of furlough shall be of 3 weeks or more.
Remember, changing the status of employees is subject to employment law and, depending on the employment contract and it may be subject to negotiation. For detailed guidance, visit the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service website.
2) Can an employee request to be furloughed?
Yes, an employee can ask the employer to furlough him/her, however, only employers, company directors, or someone in a similar position can decide to furlough the employees of the company.
3) Can I furlough someone who's sick/pregnant/self-isolating?
If your employee is unwell from coronavirus, needs to take days off work and must self-isolate for 10days then, he/she will be entitled to normal sick leave and sick pay. If you (the employer) do not offer sick pay, then the employee may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
If your employee is pregnant, your workplace is still open, but your job cannot be made safe and if the employee cannot work from home, then YOU must suspend the employee on full pay. Or you can put your employee on furlough and claim support for the cost of the salary while the employee is unable to work safely. However, you cannot ask your employees to take sick leave, unpaid leave or to start maternity leave before the 36th week of pregnancy because there are health and safety risks at work.
It is your responsibility as an employer to make reasonable adjustments, otherwise you have failed as an employer to assess the risks in pregnancy, leading to pregnancy discrimination and must provide your employee with furlough and/or health and safety protection.
If the employee wants to self-isolate, even if he/she does not have coronavirus then the employee can ask you (the employer) to furlough him/her.
You can check the guidance as it explains who can be furloughed under the rules of the scheme. If you as an employer refuse to furlough or the employee is not eligible, then he/she can:
- use some of the annual leaves to take paid time off
- take unpaid time off
- And the employee must also check what benefits he/she can get.
You should also be flexible in demanding proof of sick leave from employees. Click on the ACAS website for help, on your employment rights during the coronavirus outbreak.
4) Can self-employed workers be furloughed?
Self-employed workers do not qualify for furlough under the CJRS, they still might be eligible for it in the form of the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SIESS). This scheme has been set up to support self-employed workers whose businesses have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
5) What are part-time furlough rules?
You (the employer) can either place employees on a full-time furlough or you may allow them to work part-time and be furloughed for hours they don't work. You would have to pay salary at the normal rate for the hours they serve. The furlough pay can only be claimed for the hours for which the employee did not work.
6) Can I furlough zero-hour staff?
Yes, you can furlough zero-hour staff. Any employee may be furloughed as long as their job has been seriously impaired by covid-19, is on PAYE, and you hired them before 28 February 2020.
Regardless of any type of contract, whether zero hours, flexible hours, part-time, or full-time they can be furloughed.
7) What are the changes made in the Furlough Scheme?
The extension of the Furlough Scheme i.e. (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) has been made until 30th September 2021.
Employers must contribute 80% of the regular salary to the employees up to £2,500 per month – or higher if negotiated with the employee or worker.
8) How to maintain the Furlough agreement?
Agreement between the employer and the employee during new furlough arrangements is very crucial and be put in writing. It should include:
- The date the furlough starts
- How much will the furloughed employee be paid?
- When will furlough be reviewed?
- How to keep in contact at the time of furlough
- Maintain the agreement for 5 years
- Maintain a written track of how many hours the employees were working and how many hours they are furloughed (not working).
9) Can I be furloughed if I was made redundant or if I left my job on or after 23rd September 2020?
You can be re-employed by your employer and be put on furlough.
However, you must have been:
- On the employer’s payroll on 23rd September 2020, and
- Included in a “Real-Time Information” (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20th March and 23rd September 2020.
10) Who can be furloughed?
You (the employer) can furlough your employees as long as they were employed on or before 30 October 2020. Even if they have not been furloughed before.
Following are the individuals who can be furloughed, whether they work full-time or part-time:
- agency workers
- those on zero-hours contracts
You can also furlough those who are temporarily unable to work because:
- if the doctors have advised the person to stay at home because of an underlying health condition.
- the employee has childcare responsibilities
- the employee is caring for a vulnerable person in their household.
“From July will I (employers) be asked to contribute more?”
Until 30th June, the state will pay 80% of salaries for hours not worked, while as now you as an employer will be asked to cover only National Insurance and Employer pension contributions.
But in July the state will cover only 70%, and you will have to pay the remaining 10% of the employee’s reduced income, in September the state will reduce their contribution to 60% and you (the employer) will be liable to pay 20%.