Personal Law

Furlough: What are my rights?

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 27, 2020

As part of its efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, the government has 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.

It means the government will pay 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month. Your employer can choose to top up that payment to 100% of your wages but they are not required to.

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 covering their wage bills while the coronavirus affects the world.

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

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.

If you’re worried about your employment status – if your company has been laying people off because they can’t afford to keep them – then you might want to consider taking a furlough.

You can ask your employer to put you on a furlough to help them keep their overheads down while making it possible for you to return to your job when the outbreak has died down. Businesses will require workers after this period of crisis so you might find that your employer will be receptive to the idea.

But the decision remains your employer’s – they have the right to deny your request.

Can my employer force me to take a furlough?

As long as your employer has a good reason for having chosen you to go on furlough over someone else, your employer should be able to choose who to put on a furlough.

They should ensure that any process involving furlough is fair and balanced. They should consult with you and your colleagues.

Initially, they should ask for volunteers to be furloughed. If there are none – or not enough – the company should ensure they carry out a thorough review of who should 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 – 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.

The situation regarding coronavirus and its impact on employment and the economy is changing daily. This is leaving a lot of people in an uncertain situation.

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

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