The furlough scheme is being extended, but there are some differences.
As the government looks to ease further the restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many sectors and industries remain shut or are operating at a reduced capacity due to some of their staff being furloughed.
But there is some good news! To support employers, workers and industries as a whole, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extension to the furlough scheme.
We understand that this is an anxious time, so here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the furlough scheme:
When has the furlough scheme been extended to in the UK?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ‒ or the furlough scheme, as it's commonly known ‒ has been extended from July to October. Employees can continue to receive up to 80 per cent of the salary to a maximum of £2,500 per month from the government with employers being able to make up the salary to 100 per cent if they want.
How will the furlough scheme change after July?
From the beginning of August, the government is asking employers to start sharing the cost of the scheme. This decision has been taken to support the gradual return of workers by encouraging employers to bring back staff on a part-time basis.
Employers will be asked to pay a percentage of the furlough salary ‒ though precise figures haven't yet been decided.
The plan is that employees will continue to receive up to 80 per cent of their salary to a maximum of £2,500, but with some of this being paid by the employer and the remaining amount coming from the government.
Can my employer ask me to work for them whilst I'm furloughed?
The answer is no. If your employer has furloughed you, they shouldn't be asking you to carry out work, as this goes against the rules of the furlough scheme.
You can undertake training or do voluntary work, but this shouldn't in any way make money for your employer or provide them with services.
By asking you to carry out work whilst furloughed, your employer is placing you in a difficult situation. Our advice is to refer them back to the rules of the furlough scheme on the GOV.UK website so they're clear on what and what not you're both allowed to do.
Can I work for another company whilst I'm furloughed?
Whether you can work for another company whilst furloughed is a bit of a grey area. From what we understand, yes, you are allowed to work for another company as long as it's permitted in your contract and in the furlough letter you received from your employer which stipulates the agreement of the furlough. Another stipulation is that the other company you're working for isn't associated or linked to your furlough employer.
For example, say you developed a side hustle during self-isolation and work a mixture of part-time and freelance. If the company you work part-time for has furloughed you, you can continue to work on freelance projects as long as it adheres to the rules mentioned.
Can my employer ask me to use some of my holiday whilst I'm furloughed?
Yes, your employer can ask you to use some of your holiday entitlement whilst you're furloughed. However, they must provide notice that is twice the length of the holiday leave to be taken. So, for five days' leave, they must provide you with 10 days' notice.
Will I lose my holiday entitlement if I can't use it this year?
The situation businesses and employees find themselves in is unknown, and some employees may not be in a position to use all their holiday entitlement in this current year.
To protect holiday entitlement, the government has passed a new law that allows employees to roll over up to four weeks' paid holiday entitlement into the next two years.
On the other hand, if you've booked time off for a holiday and you can no longer go due to travel restrictions, for instance, your employer can insist you still take the time off.
Can I be furloughed more than once?
The government has confirmed that employers can furlough employees more than once. The minimum amount of time your employer can furlough you for is three weeks. After this, they can ask you to return. But, if after a while, they feel there's no work for you, for example, they can furlough you again. They still must follow the correct procedure.
Can I be made redundant whilst furloughed?
The simple answer is yes, your employer can select to make you redundant whilst you're furloughed.
It's something they won't want to do, but unfortunately, some companies won't be able to come out of this situation untouched, and letting staff go is the only way they can survive.
If you're made redundant whilst furloughed, your redundancy rights remain the same – if you've worked for your employer for more than two years, you can claim for statutory redundancy payment. Or, if you have more than two years of service and you feel you were released unfairly, you may be able to take your employer to an Employee Tribunal.
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Editor's Note: This article was written by Emma Saldanha and originally ran on Glassdoor UK. It is reprinted with permission.