Further Furlough Guidance
On 29th May the government provided some information about the extension of the furlough scheme and in particular ‘flexible furlough’ with the promise that further details would follow. The new guidance has now been released which will be welcome news for employers who are trying to make workforce plans for the coming months.
Key developments include:
- The furlough scheme has been closed to new entrants. It is only available for employees furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1st March 2020 and 30th June 2020. It is now too late for employers to furlough an employee for the first time this had to be done by 10th June at the latest. The only exception to this is for employees returning from family leave, such as maternity leave, where certain conditions are met.
- From 1st July employers will have more choice about how to use furlough to best support their organisation – it will be possible for employees to be on ‘full furlough’ or for employers to use ‘flexible furlough’ to bring back employees part time (see flexible furlough later in this update). Employees will still be prohibited from doing any work which provides services or generates income for the employer or a linked organisation during their furloughed hours (although this will not prevent employees working under flexible furlough arrangements).
- Until 1st July the minimum length of time for which an employee can be furloughed is three consecutive weeks. Where a previously furloughed employee starts a new furlough period before 1st July, this furlough period must be for a minimum of three consecutive weeks even if the period ends after 1st July.From 1st July furlough periods can last for any amount of time, there is no minimum period, however the minimum claim period is usually seven days.
- After 1st July employers cannot make claims that cross calendar months. Although periods of furlough can span more than a month, any claim period must start and end within the same calendar month. This is to reflect the fact that as reported previously the rules for employer contributions are changing each month, starting in August. Employers can only make one claim for any period so must include all fully furloughed and flexible furloughed employees in one claim.
- After 1st July the number of employees an employer can claim for in any claim period cannot exceed the maximum number of employees on furlough at the same time in any period prior to 30th June (there is an exception to this in relation to employees returning from statutory family leave).
From 1st July 2020, flexible furlough arrangements will be permitted and it will be possible to allow employees to work part time. This could involve the employee working on some days (or part days) and being furloughed on other days (or part days). Any sort of working pattern is permitted under the furlough scheme. This new flexibility will be welcomed by many employers, particularly as more businesses start to be permitted to open.
For employees who work under a flexible furlough arrangement, employers will need to pay employees as normal for the hours worked and calculate how much to pay the employee for their furloughed hours in accordance with the government guidance. Employers are able to claim a grant for the hours employees are not working calculated by reference to their usual hours worked in a claim period. The grant and cap will be reduced in proportion to the hours not worked. Government guidance on the furlough scheme can be accessed here
If an employer wishes to flexibly furlough an employee, this will need to be agreed with them in writing. It’s important for all employers to take advice on the facts of their situation before taking any action such as changing an employee’s working hours or placing employees on furlough.
If you would like advice on an employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.