Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees

Furlough and pay

Employers might need to put some or all of their employees on temporary leave ('furlough') during the coronavirus pandemic.

Furlough is where an employee or worker agrees with their employer to stop work temporarily but stay employed. Furlough must be agreed in writing.

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.

Who can be furloughed

Any of the following can be put on furlough, whether they work full time or part time:

  • employees
  • workers
  • agency workers
  • those on zero-hours contracts
  • apprentices

Employers can also furlough those who are temporarily unable to work because:

  • they're 'shielding' (told to stay at home by the NHS because of an underlying health condition)
  • someone in their household is shielding
  • they have childcare responsibilities
  • they're caring for a vulnerable person in their household

Putting staff on furlough

Employers must select people for furlough in a fair way to avoid any discrimination.

They should:

  • get agreement in writing and be clear how much the employee or worker will get paid during their furlough 
  • keep furloughed workers on the employer's payroll and continue their employment contracts
  • make sure furloughs last at least 3 weeks

If someone disagrees with their employer's decision about being selected for furlough or how much they’ll get paid, they should talk to their employer and try to come to an agreement.

Furlough agreements

Any furlough agreements should be in writing. It's a good idea to include:

  • the date furlough starts
  • how much the furloughed worker will be paid
  • when the furlough will be reviewed
  • how to keep in contact during furlough

Download a furlough agreement template.

Extending furlough

Furlough can be extended by going through the process of putting someone on furlough again. Any agreement to extend should be put in writing.

Download a furlough extension letter template.

Ending furlough

Employers should regularly review furlough agreements to decide when to bring furloughed staff back to work.

It can help employers to consider:

  • which job roles and skills are needed in the workplace
  • if all furloughed staff are needed back at the same time
  • if any staff might be kept on furlough because they’re temporarily unable to work, for example if they’re caring for someone or are shielding

To end furlough, employers should give staff notice in writing.

There's no minimum notice period for furlough, but employers should:

  • talk to staff about any plans to end furlough as early as possible
  • encourage staff to raise any concerns or problems about returning to work

Download a letter template to end furlough.

Changing an employment contract

If an employer cannot reach an agreement with an employee or worker, they may want to change the written terms in their contract.

If there are more than 20 people affected, employers will need to consult staff representatives ('collectively consult').

Find out more about changing an employment contract.

Pay during furlough

Pay during furlough could be less than usual, if agreed between the employer and employee or worker.

The employer may be able to get financial support from HMRC’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

Employers can claim for up to 80% or £2,500 of each furloughed employee or worker's usual wages, whichever is lower.

Topping up wages to 100% 

The employer should decide whether they'll top up furloughed employees’ or workers’ wages to 100%, but they do not have to. If the employer decides not to top up the wages, they should explain why.

Minimum wage during furlough

If furloughed staff are paid 80% of their wages through HMRC’s scheme, this might mean they get less than the minimum wage. This is allowed as long as they’re not working.

But if someone does any training for their job during furlough, they must get the current minimum wage for those hours. For example, if an apprentice continues with their apprenticeship while furloughed.

If furloughed staff take paid family-related leave on or after 25 April 2020

Their usual, full pay must be used to work out if they’re eligible for:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Shared Parental Pay
  • Parental Bereavement Pay

If someone is paid less during furlough, it will not affect their entitlement to statutory pay. 

Claiming through HMRC’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

For an employer to claim through the scheme, they must have:

The furloughed employee or worker must have been on their PAYE payroll and included in a 'Real Time Information' (RTI) submission to HMRC on or before 19 March.

Claims can be backdated to 1 March 2020.

If someone was made redundant or left their job on or after 28 February 2020

An employer can decide to re-employ someone who was made redundant or stopped working for them on or after 28 February 2020, then put them on furlough.

This can be done even if the employer does not employ them again until after 19 March 2020.

The employee must have been:

  • on the employer's PAYE payroll on 28 February
  • included in a 'Real Time Information' (RTI) submission to HMRC on or before 28 February

If someone has more than one job

Each job is treated separately. This means they may be able to either:

  • continue to work for their other job
  • be furloughed for both jobs

If they’re put on furlough for both jobs, they’ll be eligible for financial support for each job.

More financial support available for employers

If employers need short-term cash flow support, they may be eligible for a 'Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan'.

As this is a new scheme and the details are still being finalised, the Acas helpline is not able to give further information.

Find out more about financial support for businesses during coronavirus on GOV.UK.

Financial support if you're self-employed

Financial support will be provided by HMRC’s ‘Self-employment Income Support Scheme’.

If you’re self-employed, you can receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly income, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will contact you directly if you're eligible for the scheme. The Acas helpline is not able to advise on this scheme.

Find out more about the Self-employment Income Support Scheme on GOV.UK.

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