Personal Law

Furlough: What are my rights?

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, Updated, September 11, 2020

As part of its efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, the government introduced a range of measures to protect people’s jobs during the crisis. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows employers to access governmental support to keep people employed. This is to prevent redundancies and lay offs.

Included was the concept of furlough leave for employees whose companies can’t afford to keep them on at the moment.

A furloughed worker is someone who is still contracted to stay employed, but does not have any work to do. Ordinarily, furloughed workers are not paid but the government is currently covering part of their wages while COVID-19 affects the world.

At the beginning of the scheme, it meant the government paid 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month. Employers were able to top up that payment to 100% of your wages but they were not required to. As the furlough period goes on, however, employers will have to start making some financial contributions.

So what are your rights if you find yourself furloughed form work?

When does furlough end?

From 1 July, the furlough scheme became more flexible. This allowed employers to bring workers back on a part-time furlough basis. They had to pay the employees’ salaries for the days they worked, while the government covered the rest.

The furlough scheme will close on 31 October 2020. This is when all financial support to keep people employed will officially end. However, the government has promised it will pay businesses who bring back furloughed employees and keep them employed between November and January a bonus of £1,000 per worker. It is hoped this incentive will encourage companies to keep employees on their books.

What does my employer have to pay?

From 1 August 2020, your employer will had to start making contributions to keeping furloughed workers employed. This will take the form of employer National Insurance and pension contributions.

The rules changed on 1 September, when employers had to contribute 10% towards furloughed workers’ pay. From 1 October, this increases to 20%.

Can I ask to be furloughed?

Not everyone has the ability to work from home. This means that some companies will be considering whether they can afford to keep their workers employed.

You may previously have been able to request to be furloughed from work. However, the deadline for placing new workers on the scheme has now passed. This means that no new employee can be furloughed – and you can no longer request to be put on furlough.

Could I be furloughed against my wishes?

As long as your employer had a good reason for choosing you to go on furlough over someone else, your employer is able to make the decision.

They should have ensured that any process involving furlough is fair and balanced. They should have consulted with you and your colleagues about the process and what would happen.

Initially, they should have asked for volunteers to be furloughed. If there were none – or not enough – your company should have carried out a thorough review of who was going to be chosen.

Can I work elsewhere while I am furloughed?

While you’re being furloughed, you are still technically employed. This means that you’ll have to adhere to the rules set out in your contract. If it states that you cannot take on other work outside of your contract, then you won’t be able to accept another job without risking disciplinary action.

If you do want to take on other work while furloughed – whether it’s temporary, part-time or even permanent – you should contact your employer. They’ll be able to tell you whether that’s allowed under the terms of your contract.

What about redundancy after furlough?

There have been reports that the UK will see a huge rise in unemployment when the furlough scheme ends. This has also raised questions about redundancy pay for workers who have been furloughed.

In response, the government has said that those workers who do lose their jobs will be eligible for redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than the rate they received while on furlough. How much this is will depend on your salary and age, as well as how long you’ve worked for your organisation.

Even after months of lockdown and the furlough scheme being introduced, the situation regarding coronavirus and its impact on employment and the economy is still changing. This is leaving a lot of people in an uncertain situation.

If you need some help at the moment, an employment law solicitor could help to shed some light on your rights and what you are currently entitled to.

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