Answering Your Coronavirus and Furlough Questions

Coronavirus and furloughing have had – and will continue to have – a massive financial impact on both SMEs and large business as well as your employees; who may have to have be furloughed.

More than nine million workers are expected to be furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme (JRS) so we thought it would be useful to put together a small guide to help you assist any of your employees who may have been furloughed.

What is ‘Furlough’?

Furlough is a temporary suspension or ‘lay off’ from your job where you will usually get to return to your role when the furlough period has ended. This period can be as brief or as long as an Employer determines necessary.

Employees will remain on the companies payroll even though they aren’t working. It has been designed to support firms who are suffering due to Coronavirus and to stop mass unemployment.

As an employee, you will need to have been on the company payroll since at least 28th February 2020. The minimum amount of time you can be furloughed for is three weeks and you can be furloughed more than once. 

Am I Still Entitled to Sick Pay and Bonuses?

Whilst you are in furlough you still have the same employment rights as you had whilst you were employed. If you become sick, you will be eligible for statutory sick pay and can then be placed on furlough when you recover.

The current government scheme only covers up to 80% of an employee’s core salary – so this wouldn’t include any bonus or commission payments. 

However, if your wages were different from month-to-month, your employer will base your salary on what you earned in the same month the previous year, or calculate an average of your monthly earnings from the previous tax year (whichever is higher) and this figure would include your bonus or commission payments.

The scheme also covers employee’s National Insurance contributions and the automatic enrolment pension contributions made by your employer.

Am I Able to Work or Volunteer if I Have Been Furloughed?

No, you cannot do any work for your Employer if you have been furloughed.

You can only perform work for another Employer if you are not breaching any existing contract you have in place or the restrictions put in place for the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

You can volunteer if you wish to do so and it is encouraged – you can also volunteer for your own employer as long as you aren’t creating any revenue for them. 

What About Training?

Employers who have had to furlough staff are being encouraged to give employees additional training during this time. If employees are required to complete any job-related training whilst on furlough, they should be paid at least the national minimum wage rate.

What if I Have More Than One Employer?

If you have more than one employer, you are entitled to receive furlough from any of them, up to a maximum amount of £2,500 per month, per employer. You are able to continue working for any of your Employers should they still require you.

What about Annual Leave?

Annual leave will accrue for furloughed workers during this period. The exact amount available will vary depending on how much leave you have already taken. 

The government announced on the 27th March 2020 that employees who have not taken all their annual leave entitlement (due to it not being practical for them to take some or all of their holiday that they are entitled to due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak) will now be able to carry it over into the following 2 years leave entitlement.

If an employee has pre-booked holiday during this period but no longer wants to take the time off then it is at the employer’s discretion to determine whether they may or not. If the employer decides to uphold the holiday in the furlough period, it is worth noting that the current thinking is that this should be paid at 100% for holiday that is already accrued. It is not yet clear if the government will reimburse Employers for 80% of the full holiday pay which may be paid to employees for leave taken whilst in furlough. 

Is My Job Guaranteed When Coronavirus and Furlough Ends?

Employers are under no obligation to keep on employees once they stop receiving furlough – the government’s scheme itself will run until the end of the May but, if necessary, could be extended beyond that. 

The end goal for businesses is that when restrictions have been lifted and coronavirus and furlough end, institutions will have adapted effectively and will be able to take on full-time positions and salaries again.

We hope that helps answer some of the legal questions surrounding coronavirus and furlough for employees and for yourself… as an employee of your company. 

But what about your social responsibility as a boss? What should you be doing to help your employees through coronavirus and furlough? Luckily, we’ve got that covered, too!


How Can I Support Staff During Coronavirus and Furlough?

Furloughing staff can lead to a decline in staff morale, both in those that have been furloughed and those that are remaining. It is an important time to lay the groundwork for supporting staff and ensuring their wellbeing during this turbulent period. 

Be Open and Honest

The provision of clear communication is always important, but now without people next to you in the workplace five days a week, it’s more vital than ever. Keep open communications with staff that have been furloughed and ensure they are kept up to date and in the loop. These are anxious times so now is the time to step up to be a leader. Your employees will probably be feeling anxious and will need your help and encouragement. 

Set Goals

Some people out there might see self-isolation for Coronavirus and furlough as a holiday but no one takes a holiday in their own house! Others are (quite literally) treating quarantine as a walk in the park. Others still are binging Tiger King on Netflix and finding ways to “kill time”. 

Here at Kate Underwood HR & Training, we’ve never understood the phrase killing time. Time is our most precious commodity and we could be using this extra time we’ve been given to learn and grow. 

No one knows how long quarantine may last, so it’s vital we all keep ourselves busy and look after our physical health and mental wellbeing.

As a boss, one way to help your employees (and your business) during quarantine for coronavirus and furloughing is by setting goals. 

Now is the ideal time to discuss setting goals with your furloughed staff – for instance learning new skills that they can bring back to their job role when things start getting back to normal. 

Provide Support

If your business has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) then encourage furloughed staff to access this service. EAP can provide valuable services such as access to counselling and advice on financial issues which are especially helpful right now. 

You could set up regular, weekly calls with furloughed staff – whilst they cannot help you with anything work-related, this time is an opportunity to talk about how they are coping and assist with feelings of isolation. 

You can also encourage staff to keep in touch with each other as this can help with the feeling of still being part of the team. Some companies are using virtual team drinks, challenges and activities like pub quizzes to do this. 

Remember, some staff may need support readjusting when they come back to work after Coronavirus and furlough

Discuss Volunteering

Furloughed staff are encouraged to volunteer (if they are able to return to their job role when needed) which can really help with the feeling of mental well being. They are allowed to volunteer for their employer as long as they are not creating revenue for you.

If you should require any further advice on Coronavirus and furloughing or how to support your staff during this period, please do not hesitate to get in touch by phone, by email or by visiting our website. We’re open for business and happily working from home.

Finally, stay healthy and safe out there. 

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