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

If the workplace needs to close temporarily

All non-essential premises must now close. This includes cafés, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, and electronics and clothing shops.

This might 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 government will be providing financial support for:

  • employees who are temporarily sent home because there’s no work (‘furloughed workers’)
  • self-employed workers

Financial support for furloughed workers

Financial support for furloughed workers will be provided to employers through the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’. 

This scheme is available to employers who use PAYE payroll from 28 February 2020. This may include:

  • employees
  • workers
  • those who do casual work
  • those who have zero-hours contracts


To be eligible for the scheme, employers will need to:

  • select and tell (‘designate’) the employees affected that they’re furloughed
  • keep employees on the employer’s payroll
  • make sure furloughs last at least 3 weeks

If someone was made redundant on or after 28 February 2020

An employer can decide to rehire them and put them on furlough.

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 furloughed for both jobs, they’ll be eligible for financial support for each job.

Selecting and telling affected employees

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

They also need to get agreement from the employee to do this, unless it’s covered by a clause in the employment contract. They need to clearly explain how much the employee will get paid in total. 

The government will pay employers 80% of wages. The employer should decide whether they'll top up the wages to 100%, but they do not have to. If the employer decides not to top up the wages, they should tell the employee and explain why not.

If an employee disagrees with their employer's decision, they'll need to talk to their employer and try to come to an agreement.

Changing an employment contract

If an employer cannot reach an agreement, they may want to change the written terms in an employee’s contract.

If there are more than 20 employees affected, employers will need to consult staff representatives (‘collectively consult’).

Find out more about changing an employment contract.

Furlough agreements

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

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

Download a furlough letter template.

Financial support

HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers' wage costs to employers, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. 

Payments will be made every 3 weeks. This is because 3 weeks is the shortest period a furlough can last.

Employers will be able to make a claim for the money once HMRC's new system is available. Claims can be backdated to 1 March 2020.

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 will not be able to give further information. 

Find out more about:

Financial support for self-employed workers

Financial support will be provided to self-employed workers through the ‘Self-Employed Income Support Scheme’. 

Self-employed workers will receive a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly income, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. 

HMRC will contact self-employed workers directly if they’re eligible for the scheme.

    Lay-offs and short-time working

    In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.

    If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.

    Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.

    Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' of up to £30 a day from their employer.

    This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.

    Find out more about:

    Using holiday for a temporary workplace closure

    Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to.

    An employer could, for example, shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement.

    Find out more about using holiday.

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