Furloughed Workers

June 20 Update: Flexible Furlough

What’s Changing?

The Government has announced that from 1st July, the furlough scheme is changing to a flexible scheme, where employers can bring furloughed staff back to work for any period of time, on any shift pattern, whilst still claiming a grant for the hours not worked.

The Government has also announced that from 1st August, the grant that employers receive will reduce as follows (click here for the Government’s announcement):

  •  For June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours the employee is on furlough, as well as employer National Insurance Contributions (ER NICS) and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work.
  •  For August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough.
  •  For September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.
  •  For October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.

Employers will continue to able to choose to top up employee wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense if they wish. Employers will have to pay their employees for the hours worked.

The Implications And Our Advice

The Government’s flexible furlough scheme is clearly more complicated and the grants are diminishing, which means that many employers will now be considering making employees redundant.

This is clearly a difficult time for both employees and employers and it’s essential that you contact us straight away if you think that you’re at risk of redundancy so we can ensure that you’re subject to a fair process. Our Advice Team is available 24 hours a day to support and advise you. Call us on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1). 

May 20: What’s ‘Furlough’ and the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’?

The Government has introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, under which all UK employers will be able to access grants to continue paying part of their employees’ salaries. It applies “to any who are furloughed by reason of circumstances as a result of coronavirus or coronavirus disease”.

Under the scheme, employers can designate employees as ‘furloughed workers’ (a term used widely in the US to describe people who are told to take unpaid leave of absence), although employees have to agree to the change.

Key Information:

  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs to employers, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Anything which is not “regular salary or wages” must be disregarded, including fees, commissions and bonuses (including tips).
  • Employers can choose to top-up pay to 100%, but it’s not compulsory for them to do so. Please contact the Advice Team on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1) if you need specific advice on your circumstances.
  • Employees who were employed on 19th March 2020 (previously 28th February 2020) are eligible for furlough, provided the employer had submitted real time information payroll data by that date.
  • Updated Government guidance has now confirmed that employees can start a new job if they have been furloughed. This means that potentially, an individual can earn 80% of a salary from a furloughed job and 100% of a salary from a new job. The contract of employment for the first job must permit an individual to work in a new job; please contact the union’s Advice Team on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1) for further advice on this.
  • Employees can undertake training and do volunteer work, as long as they’re not providing services to or making any money for their employer. However, if employees are required for example to complete online training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the National Living Wage / National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.
  • Employers do not need to place all employees on furlough.
  • Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay (unless an occupational sick pay scheme is in place), but can be furloughed after this.
  • Employees who are ‘shielding’ in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.

Advice For Members:

The Government is quite clear that:

“An employee is a furloughed employee if-
(a) the employee has been instructed by the employer to cease all work in relation to their employment,
(b) the period for which the employee has ceased (or will have ceased) all work for the employer is 21 calendar days or more, and
(c) the instruction is given by reason of circumstances arising as a result of coronavirus or coronavirus disease.

An employee has not ceased all work for an employer if the employee works for a person connected with the employer (see paragraph 13.4) or otherwise works indirectly for the employer.”

If you have been furloughed but your employer is asking you to undertake work, perhaps indirectly, please contact the Union’s Advice Team immediately on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1).

The Government also says:

“An employee has been instructed by the employer to cease all work in relation to their employment only if the employer and employee have agreed in writing (which may be in an electronic form such as an email) that the employee will cease all work in relation to their employment.”

Employers need to get agreement from employees before designating them as ‘furloughed’. Staff will need to sign an additional agreement coving information such as when furlough starts and when it will be reviewed. We strongly advise members to send us a copy of the furlough agreement to check before signing. Equally, if you have been furloughed but no agreement exists between you and your employer, please contact the Advice Team on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1).

You may feel reluctant to be furloughed because you’re concerned that you’re only going to receive 80% of your normal salary, but that’s not necessarily the case. Employers have the discretion to ‘up’ the furlough pay by 20% so staff receive their full pay (but it’s not compulsory for them to do so). Members need to ask their employers whether or not they will be making a top-up payment and ask for confirmation of the position in writing.

If you refuse to be furloughed without having a good reason for refusing, you might be made redundant.

If you have any other questions about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, please contact the Advice Team on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1) or email us at 24hours@workaffinity.co.uk.

T 01234 716005
F 0844 7749622
E 24hours@workaffinity.co.uk

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