Furlough and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Putting someone on furlough

Employers might need to put some or all of their staff 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 do 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.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will run until 30 September 2021.

Pay when someone is on furlough

Employers will pay staff on furlough 80% of their usual wages up to £2,500 per month – or more if that's been agreed with the employee or worker.

The employer can claim for wages through the CJRS.

Find out more about pay during furlough.

Who can be put on furlough

Employers can put someone on furlough, as long as they were employed on or before 2 March 2021 (for claims starting on or after 1 May 2021).

The employer must also have done both of the following between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021:

  • put the employee or worker on their PAYE payroll
  • included the employee or worker in a 'Real Time Information' (RTI) submission to HMRC

The employee or worker does not need to have been on furlough before.

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 put someone on furlough who is temporarily unable to work because:

  • they’re at higher risk
  • they've been advised to stay at home by their doctor because of a health condition
  • they have childcare responsibilities
  • they're caring for a person in their household who is at higher risk

Deciding who to put 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 while they're on furlough
  • keep staff on the employer's payroll and continue their employment contracts

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.

If someone has more than one job

Each job is treated separately. This means someone might be:

  • on furlough for one or more jobs, but continue to work for other jobs
  • on furlough for each job

If they're put on furlough for more than one job, they'll be eligible for financial support through the CJRS for each job.

Furlough agreements

Any new furlough arrangements should be agreed between the employer and the employee or worker, and be put in writing. It's a good idea to include:

  • the date furlough starts
  • how much the employer or worker will be paid when they're on furlough
  • when the furlough will be reviewed
  • how to keep in contact during furlough

Download a furlough agreement template.

Employers must:

  • keep the agreement for 5 years
  • keep a written record of how many hours someone works and how many hours they're on furlough (not working)

Changing an employment contract

If an employer cannot reach an agreement with an employee or worker, they may decide they need 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.

What staff on furlough can and cannot do

Staff on furlough can do:

  • volunteer work, as long as it's for another employer or organisation
  • training to keep their skills and learning up to date

Staff on furlough cannot:

  • do tasks, training 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 the CJRS.

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