Personal Law

Furlough: What are My Rights?

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, Updated, October 01, 2021

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 (CJRS) allows employers to access governmental support to keep people employed. This is to prevent redundancies and lay offs, particularly in the hardest hit sectors, such as hospitality.

Included was the concept of furlough leave for employees whose companies couldn’t afford to keep them working.

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 covered part of their wages while COVID-19 affected the economy and businesses were forced to shut down or reduce operations.

At the beginning of the scheme, it meant the government paid 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month. This changed throughout the scheme in 2020, but reverted back to the original terms in 2021. However, the scheme then tapered off towards the end, as employers were expected to contribute higher amounts.

In June 2021, 1.9 million people were on furlough. This was down from a high of 28.8% of the workforce in May 2020. In total, according to the government, "11.4 million jobs have been supported by the CJRS at various times".

When did furlough end?

The scheme came to a close on 30 September 2021. This means there is no longer a furlough scheme, with employers now having to take on the financial responsibility for their workers.

In the scheme's final months of August and September, employers had to contribute 20% of employee wages, with the government paying 60%.

What did my employer have to pay?

From 1 August 2020, employers had to start making greater contributions to keeping furloughed workers employed. This took 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 increased to 20%.

But as the scheme was extended in later lockdowns, it has returned to the way it operated in August, with employees receiving 80% of their wage with employers making contributions through National Insurance and pension contributions.

From July 2021, employers had to contribute 10% of wages and 20% from August, until the scheme closed at the end of September.

Can I ask to be furloughed?

You were previously able to request to be furloughed from work. You may have wanted to do so if you were anxious about contracting the virus in your workplace or you had childcare or caring commitments, for example.

But your employer was not obliged to accept your request.

However, now the scheme has closed, workers can no longer ask to be furloughed.

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 was entitled to put you on furlough.

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.

Could I have worked elsewhere while I am furloughed?

While you were furloughed, you were still technically employed. This means that you had 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 wouldn't have been able to accept another job without risking disciplinary action.

If you did take on other work while furloughed – whether it’s temporary, part-time or even permanent – you should have contacted your employer. They would have been able to tell you whether that’s allowed under the terms of your contract.

What about redundancy after furlough?

The Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted that 2021 will see unemployment levels of around 2.2 million people. 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 and now closed, 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.

Contact an Employment Law Solicitor

If you need some help at the moment, an employment lawyer could help to shed some light on your rights and what you are currently entitled to. If you're worried about your employment status after furlough, legal advice may clear up your situation.

Get in touch to talk to our specialist solicitors by giving us a free call, requesting a call back or making an enquiry online.

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