Given the ongoing spread of the Coronavirus, we are providing generic guidance for members.See below for more information on the government’s job retention scheme.
We are updating this regularly in line with government advice and guidance.
Last updated 17/07/20.
A guide to flexible furlough
From the 1st July, furloughed employees can go back to work, for any amount of time and any shift pattern. They can continue to be furloughed for the remaining hours not worked.
That means there is no longer a minimum period for you to be furloughed, for any new period of furlough you start.
If you started your most recent period of furlough before the 1st of July, then the minimum period of three weeks furlough still applies, even if it finishes after the 1st July, but after the 3-week minimum period of furlough you can then move on to flexible furlough.
What can employers claim for under the Job Retention Scheme?
Your employer can claim under the job retention scheme for any hours you have been on furlough. They must pay you in full for the hours you are working.
Your employer can only furlough you and make a claim, if they had previously done so before the 30th June. In other words, you can only be furloughed now if you have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks between the first of March and the 30th of June.
That means if you had not already been placed on furlough for the first time by the 10th June, you cannot now be placed on furlough as a new applicant. Your employer must make their claim for the period up to the 30th June by the 31st July. Some exceptions apply if you have returned from family leave.
How much can be claimed?
Your employer must pay you 80% of your wages, or £2500 whichever is lower, each month, for the time you are being on furloughed, in order to be eligible for the job retention scheme grant. They must pay you 100% of your wages for the hours that you are working.
Your employer can claim a portion of your wages back through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, for the hours when you are on furlough.
During July, they can claim for the full 80% of your wages that they are paying you, as well as for employers’ national insurance contributions (ER NICS) and pension contributions. There is a cap for the claim of £2500.
The amount they can claim will reduce each month, starting from the 1st August.
As time goes on, the government contribution will reduce.
Depending on how much time you are working compared to being furloughed, the cap for what can be claimed through the job retention scheme are different. For example, if you are placed on furlough for 60% of your normal hours and work 40% then your employer can claim up to 60% of the £2500 cap from the scheme.
How does flexible furlough work?
Your employer can ask you to come in for any amount of time on any shift pattern. Your employer can claim from the furlough scheme for any of your normal hours that you are not working.
You can be flexibly furloughed for any amount of time and can be placed on flexible furlough more than once.
I went on Furlough on the 28th of June- can I be put into flexible furlough straight away?
No, if you started your period of furlough before the 1st of July, then the rules said that you had to be furloughed for a minimum of three consecutive weeks. However, after this three-week period is over, you can then be flexibly furloughed for any period.
What are the rules about placing someone on furlough?
To put you on flexible furlough, your employer would need to agree it with you, or reach collective agreement with your union. They will need to keep a written record of the agreement, which they should hold for 5 years. They should also keep records of the hours you are working and the hours you are furloughed.
Your employer cannot furlough you in a way that breaches employment, equality and discrimination laws.
You have a choice about whether to be furloughed– as your employer must discuss with you any changes to your employment contract. If you are concerned about any changes or how to engage in the consultation process then you can contact your union rep, or the service centre (0800 389 6332)
What can I do whilst on furlough?
Whilst on furlough your employer cannot ask you to do any work that makes money for them, or any other organisation linked to them. You also can’t be asked to do any work that provides services for your organisation or any organisation linked to them. However, you can take part in training. You can also volunteer for another employer or organisation, and, if contractually allowed, work for another employer.
What rights do I have whilst on furlough?
You still have the same rights at work, including statutory sick pay, annual leave, maternity and parental rights, rights against unfair dismissal and the right to redundancy payments.
What happens about holiday?
You continue to accrue annual leave as normal during furlough. Most workers in the UK are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of statutory paid annual leave, which they can’t go below.
You and your employer can agree to vary your holiday entitlement as part of the furlough agreement.
You can take holiday whilst on furlough. If you are flexibly furloughed, then any hours taken as holiday during the period should be counted as furloughed hours rather than working hours. That means your employer can claim for this time under the job retention scheme. However, your employer should not place you on furlough simply because you are on holiday during a particular time-period.
In addition, because you are on holiday, you must be paid at your normal rate of pay for your holiday period. That means that your employer will need to top up your pay so that you receive 100% of pay for the time whilst you’re on holiday.
Your employer can restrict when you can take your holiday, if there is a business need and the correct notice is given.
If your employer asks you to take holiday, they must give you notice of at least twice the length of the holiday. For example, if they ask you to take 2 weeks off, they must give you 4 weeks’ notice.
If you can’t take all your paid holiday because of Coronavirus you can carry over up to 4 weeks to the following year, and you will have 2 years to use it. This applies even if you are not a key worker.
I am a union rep, can I do my duties as a rep whilst on furlough?
Yes, you can, as long as you are not making money for your employer or providing services to them.
What happens about my pension contributions?
If your employer was paying their minimum pension contribution of 3% then the government will pay this during July, but from August, your employer will have to pay this. If your employer was choosing to pay more than the 3% minimum, they might choose to stop paying in the extra amount whilst they are paying you through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
What happens if I have just got back from parental leave?
As was noted above, the rules about claiming for the first time under the job retention are slightly different if you have just returned from maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, or other form of parental leave, then you can still be furloughed even though the 10th June deadline has passed.
The conditions for this are:
If you received maternity allowance whilst on maternity leave, you need to tell jobcentre plus that you are now receiving furlough pay, as you should not receive both furlough pay and maternity allowance.
Can I end my maternity leave sooner and be furloughed?
Yes, you can. However, the guidance about ending maternity leave remains that you must give eight weeks’ notice to end your maternity leave. You won’t be eligible for furlough pay until the 8 weeks is up.
What if I am still on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave?
If you are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, then the normal rules apply and you are entitled to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance. Read more about SMP here.
If your organisation offers enhanced contractual pay to people on Maternity Leave, this is included in the wage costs and your employer will be able to claim this through the Job Retention Scheme. The same principles apply for contractual adoption pay, paternity pay and shared parental leave.
I have caring responsibilities; can I be furloughed?
Yes, if you are unable to work because you have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19, you can be furloughed. That includes if you have children who can no longer attend school.
What if I am on a zero hours or low hours contract?
If you are on a zero hours contract; you meet the definition of ‘employee’ and you are earning more than an average of £118 per week under that contract (known as the Lower Earnings Limit), then you will be on the PAYE system.
The scheme covers everybody who was on the PAYE system through a company on or before 19th March 2020. This means you are eligible for the scheme.
If your pay varies and you’ve been employed (or engaged by an employment business in the case of agency workers) for a full year, employers will claim for the higher of either:
If your pay varies and you’ve been employed for less than a year, employers will claim for an average of your regular monthly wages since you started work.
If you have been working for less than a month, your employer will pro-rata your earnings from that month.
What if I am on a fixed term contract?
Employees on fixed term contracts can be furloughed. Their contracts can be renewed or extended during the furlough period without breaking the terms of the scheme. Where a fixed term employee’s contract ends because it is not extended or renewed the grant will no longer be able to be claimed.
What if I have more than one job?
If you have more than one eligible employer, you can be furloughed by each of them and the cap applies for each employer individually.
Employees can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for another employer and receive their normal wages.
What if I am an agency worker?
Where agency workers are paid through PAYE, they are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through this scheme, including where they are employed by umbrella companies.
Furlough should be agreed between the agency, as the deemed employer, and the worker, though it would be advised to discuss the need to furlough with any end clients involved. As with employees, agency workers should perform no work for, through or on behalf of the agency that has furloughed them while they are furloughed, including for the agency’s clients.
Where an agency supplies clients with workers who are employed by an umbrella company that operates the PAYE, it will be for the umbrella company and the worker to agree whether to furlough the worker or not.
What if I am a ‘limb (b) worker’ (not an employee)?
Where Limb (b) Workers are paid through PAYE, they can be furloughed and receive support through this scheme.
Those who pay tax on their trading profits through Income Tax Self-Assessment, may instead be eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
What if I am an apprentice?
Apprentices are eligible for the scheme. As an apprentice, when you are furloughed you can continue to train for your apprenticeship as long as this does not provide services to or generate revenue for your employer. If you are required to complete training while you are furloughed, you must be paid at least the National Living/Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this means you will be paid more than the subsidy to your wages for that period. In addition to this, training and assessments have been encouraged to take place remotely, and extensions should be granted, where appropriate, to the timetable for assessments.
I am serving my notice, having been made redundant. Can I be put on furlough?
Yes, you can. Your employer cannot use the job retention scheme grant in lieu of redundancy payments. They must still pay you any redundancy amount that you are due.
I am sick, or self-isolating. Can I be furloughed?
If you are sick, or self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus, your employer can furlough you under the Job retention scheme.
The government has asked employers not to use the JRS to manage short term sickness and said that it should not be a consideration when deciding whether to furlough employees. However, if they do so for business reasons, you are still eligible, even if you are sick.
If you are ill, or self-isolating and your employer has not furloughed you, you may be eligible for statutory sick pay.
What do I need to do to be furloughed?
You don’t need to do anything; it is your employer’s responsibility to make a claim from HMRC. They are also responsible for discussing any changes to your contract with you.
Can I earn less than the National Living/National Minimum Wage through the scheme?
You are only entitled to the National Living/National Minimum Wage if you are working. Therefore, for the hours when you are furloughed you will be paid 80% of your salary even if based on your usual working hours this means you would be earning less than the National Living/Minimum Wage.
What if I am self-employed?
If you are self-employed you do not qualify for the scheme. However, you may be able to apply for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. You can find out more about that package here.
It’s important that you notify the Department for Work and Pensions of the change in your circumstances and tell them that it is due to the impact of the Coronavirus. If you meet the relevant eligibility criteria you will be able to access Universal Credit. Apply here.
How much will I get paid?
This table shows some examples of how much would be paid to you in each month, depending on what proportion of your usual hours you will be working. Your wages will remain subject to income tax and other deductions as normal.
Your employer can choose to fund the remaining parts of your wages that are not being paid under the job retention scheme but does not have to. If your wages are reduced as a result of this you may be eligible for additional support through the welfare system, such as universal credit.
See below for the full document or click here for a downloadable version.