Employers might need to put some or all of their employees on temporary leave ('furlough') during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This means an employee or worker can agree with their employer to be put on:
- furlough to stop work temporarily but stay employed
- 'flexible furlough' to work some of their usual hours and be put on furlough for the hours they did not work
This can be a difficult time for both employers and staff. It's a good idea to make sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.
Extension of the furlough scheme
The furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) was due to end on 31 October 2020. It has now been extended until 31 March 2021.
The following changes also apply:
- the amount employers can claim has increased to 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 each month, until 31 January 2021
- employees and workers who have not been on furlough previously are now eligible
Employers will continue to pay furloughed staff 80% of their usual wages up to £2,500 per month – or more if that's been agreed with the employee or worker.
The government will review the scheme in January 2021 to decide how much employers can claim in February and March.
Who can be furloughed
Any of the following can be put on furlough, whether they work full time or part time:
- agency workers
- those on zero-hours contracts
Employers can also furlough those who are temporarily unable to work because:
- they've been advised to stay at home by their doctor because of an underlying health condition ('shielding')
- they have childcare responsibilities
- they're caring for a vulnerable person in their household
Employees and workers who were not furloughed before 31 October 2020 are now eligible.
Employers may also be able to re-employ and then furlough staff who’ve recently left their jobs or been made redundant.
What furloughed staff can and cannot do
Furloughed staff can do:
- volunteer work, as long as it's for another employer or organisation
- training to keep their skills and learning up to date
Furloughed staff cannot:
- do tasks or activities that make money for their employer or an organisation linked to their employer
- provide a service for their employer or an organisation linked to their employer
If staff are on flexible furlough, they can do work for their employer during the hours they are not on furlough. They must get their full normal pay for any hours worked. An employer cannot claim for hours worked through HMRC's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.