Important updates Furlough FAQ's

We continue to live in a time of change and unprecedented challenges. To reflect this the government have introduced some changes to the Furlough Scheme. Here we have put together some of the questions we have been asked and would like to share with you.

 

I am a furloughed worker and know that the scheme has changed – what does this mean for me?

 

The original furlough schemed introduced in March was originally supposed to finish at the end of May. It was then extended to the end of June and is now going to continue until the end of July in its current form. After that, there will be changes to encourage staff to work part time and still received a reduced percentage of their salary under the furlough scheme and the remainder being paid by their employer.

Exact details are not yet known but should be announced by the end of May. The scheme is currently due to come to finish at the end of October.

What happens if at the start of August my employer cannot have me back part time?

 

Whilst the exact details of how this will work have yet to be announced, if your employer cannot find part-time work for you they may be able to pay more of your salary. If that is not possible they may, sadly, need to look at more permanent options such as redundancy.

It will soon be the holiday season – what happens to annual leave I cannot take when on furlough?

Statutory annual leave, up to a maximum of 20 days for a full time worker, that cannot be taken due to Coronavirus issues can be carried over for up to two years. Any additional days will need to be taken or may be carried over for a period of time to be agreed with your employer.

Annual leave will continue to accrue whilst you are on furlough and any holiday already booked to take place during that time will generally be treated as holiday by your employer. The issue of pay for that booked holiday is a little unclear but it would be expected that you receive full salary for any time allocated as holiday.

 

Can my employer request that I take annual leave whilst on furlough?

 

Yes. An employer is able to give an employee notice of the need to take holiday to ensure that holiday is used up. An employer has to give twice as much notice as the holiday they want you to take.

For example, if they require you to take a weeks holiday they need to give you two weeks notice at least and for two weeks four weeks notice would be required. As stated above whilst there is no specific guidance on the matter of payment it is anticipated that you should be paid 100% of your salary for this holiday period.

Can I be made redundant whilst on furlough?

 

Being placed on furlough does not necessarily mean that your role will be automatically be made redundant. If your employer does decide to make redundancies they must follow the same process they would do if you were in the workplace. For those employed over 2 years that process has to be a fair as required by law and you should expect to be consulted with as part of this process.

I am on furlough and have been told I will be made redundant – what payments will I receive?

 

If you are made redundant whilst on furlough you will be entitled to receive the same payments you would receive if you were not furloughed. This will be made up of notice pay, the amount payable for your notice period, any accrued holiday and statutory redundancy pay. Notice pay is one week for every completed year (up to a maximum of 12 weeks) or the period in the contract, whichever is greater. If you are only entitled to the equivalent of statutory notice you may be entitled to receive your full contractual salary, in other words, the amount you were paid before being furloughed.

If your notice period is at least one week greater than the statutory notice period, you will only be entitled to receive pay at your furlough rate which may be 80% (or less) in accordance with the furlough scheme.

You will also be entitled to accrued holiday earned up to the completion of the notice period and statutory redundancy pay if you have been employed over two years. Statutory redundancy pay is capped at a rate £538 per week and you can check your entitlement here.

What notice does my employer have to give me to stop the furlough arrangement?

 

When you were placed on furlough you may have signed an amendment to your terms and conditions which may have contained details of the notice your employer has to give to return to work. If there is no such detail your employer should give you notice which is reasonable generally not less than 48 hours.

My employer wants me to work but I don’t feel it’s safe can I refuse?

 

The issue of returning to work is complex. The current guidance is that if you can work from home then you should continue to do so. For those who cannot work from home and are employed by a business which needs to open, the government has issued guidance for safeguards to be implemented in the workplace and they are sector-specific and can be found here. Your employer owes a duty of care to all workers and they will need to comply with guidance and any Health and Safety guidance which can be found here.

The emphasis is very much based on safety, and what measures your employer is putting in place to make sure that the working environment is as safe as possible. If your employer has taken all reasonable steps it is likely you will have to return and not to do so may result in disciplinary action.

I have an underlying medical condition, do I have to return to work?

 

There are a number of issues which concern staff when returning to work and safety is one of those key concerns, not just in the work place in terms of any risk to health travelling to the workplace if that happens to be on public transport. If your medical condition causes concern you will need to discuss this with your employer to discuss if there are any further adjustments to the workplace can be made such as changing working hours or for you to be able to work from home if you have not done so previously.

It is possible for your employer to keep you on furlough during this time but that is a business decision that they need to make. If none of this is possible and you remain anxious about the situation, or have been advised to shield, you should discuss the matter with your GP.

My employer wants me to return to work but I have no childcare, what can I do?

 

The issue of childcare is a difficult one as many schools and nurseries remain closed with a suggested date for re-opening of 1st June and care by relatives is not possible due to social distancing requirements. Your employer should discuss issues with you and where possible allow you to work from home. If that is not possible your employer could allow you to remain on furlough although this may be for a limited period until the end of July when the scheme is due to change again.

You are entitled to unpaid emergency time off for dependants but this is for a very limited time only. If your employer insists you return you may want to discuss this with your GP if causing stress and anxiety issues.

My employer wants me to return to work but my partner/child is in the shielding category – what can I do?

 

As outlined above your employer has a duty to make sure that they provide a safe working environment in line with government guidance and environmental health recommendations. If the changes being made still cause some concern you should discuss possible different working patterns or continuing to work from home if possible. You may also be able to negotiate a period of unpaid leave or further holiday.

However if there are not further changes which can be made, and your employer has taken all reasonable steps required by current guidance, you may be required to return to work. If this is causing anxiety or stress you should discuss this with your GP.

 

* The information on this page is supplied by Law Express who run our legal advice line.

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