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Coronavirus – being furloughed if you can’t work – Project Empower

Project: Empower

» Coronavirus – being furloughed if you can’t work

11 June 2020

Your employer might be able to use the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to pay you while you’re not working. This is known as being a ‘furloughed worker’.

Your employer might furlough you if they can’t pay you or if there’s no work – for example, if your place of work is closed.

You can also ask to be furloughed. You might want to do this if you:

  • are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and following government guidance to lower your risk of getting coronavirus – known as ‘shielding’
  • live with someone who is ‘extremely vulnerable’
  • are looking after your children while their school is closed
  • are pregnant or have a health condition and you’re worried about coronavirus
  • are over 70

If your employer applies to the scheme, you’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This will continue until the end of October, unless you return to work before then.

Check if you can be furloughed

Your employer will only be able to use the scheme to pay you if either:

  • you’ve already been furloughed before 11 June 2020
  • you’re returning from maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave

If you’re returning from one of these types of leave, your employer must also have used the scheme to furlough other employees.

You can be furloughed full-time or part-time. For example, you could work 3 days a week and be furloughed for the other 2 days.

If you’re working from home you should get your normal pay from your employer.

If you’re an agency worker

If you can be furloughed, you need to ask your agency. They’re the ones who can furlough you, not the place where you do your job.

If you’re self-employed

There’s another government scheme which helps people who are self-employed.

If you’re employed by a business and you’re also self-employed, you can be furloughed and might also be able to use the self-employment scheme.

If you or someone you live with is ‘extremely vulnerable’

Your employer can furlough you if you or someone you live with is extremely vulnerable and following guidance to self-isolate. This is called ‘shielding’.

Check if you’re extremely vulnerable according to the guidance on GOV.UK.

You’re also entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if you’re shielding. Some employers also pay extra sick pay – it depends what it says in your contract. Talk to your employer if you’re thinking of claiming sick pay instead of being furloughed.

If your employer won’t furlough you

Your employer doesn’t have to furlough you, but you can ask them why they’ve said no and ask if they’ll change their decision. 

Check if they’ve seen the guidance for employers on GOV.UK. It explains who can be furloughed under the rules of the scheme.

If you look after someone and can’t be furloughed, you can check what to do if you need to be off work to care for someone.

If you’re pregnant or disabled and can’t work because of coronavirus, your employer’s decision might be discrimination. You should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you’re furloughed

You’re still employed by your employer while you’re not working.

The government will only pay your employer if they have evidence you’ve been furloughed. 

Your employer should have sent you a letter or email explaining you’ll be paid through the scheme. If they haven’t sent you anything, ask for confirmation in writing.  

Your employer might also ask you to reply in writing saying you agree to be furloughed. You can do this if they ask you, but you should still be paid even if you haven’t.

If your employer says they can’t furlough you because you haven’t agreed in writing, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check how much you’ll get

The government will give your employer 80% of your regular pay before tax – also known as your ‘gross pay’. You can’t get more than £2,500 a month, even if 80% of your gross pay is more than this. 

Your employer works out how much you should get before they make a claim. They can’t include tips, and they can only include commission and bonuses if your contract says you should always get them.

If you’re furloughed part-time, you should get 100% of your normal gross pay for the days you work and at least 80% for the days you’re furloughed.

Your employer might decide to pay you the extra 20% so you get 100% of your normal gross pay, but they don’t have to. 

Your employer will take off tax, National Insurance contributions and any other deductions they normally make. 

80% of your regular pay might be below minimum wage. This isn’t against the law, because you’re not working

If your regular pay changes from month to month

If you’ve been employed for a year or more, your employer should claim for whichever is higher out of:

  • the amount you earned in the same month last year
  • your average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started.

If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started. This should also include any overtime you had to do or any commission your employer had to pay you.

If you and your employer pay into a workplace pension scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will pay your employer enough to make the minimum contribution to your pension – this is 3% of your earnings. If your employer was paying more than 3%, they might stop paying the extra amount while they’re paying you through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. 

You’ll still pay your pension contributions from the money you get through the scheme. 

If you have more than 1 employer

You can be furloughed by each employer separately. Each employer can pay you a maximum of £2,500 a month. This means you could get more than £2,500 in total, if your regular pay is high enough.  

If your employer asks you to work while you’re furloughed

If your employer has furloughed you, they shouldn’t ask you to work during any hours you’re furloughed – this includes asking you to work voluntarily. 

Your employer can ask you to do certain types of training – for example, an online course to improve your skills. They can’t ask you to do training if it makes money or provides services for them.

Your employer could be committing a criminal offence if they ask you to work during any hours you’re furloughed. You could complain to your employer – tell them it’s against the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It’s a good idea to complain in writing, for example by text or email – this means you’ll have evidence if you need it.

If your employer still asks you to work, you could also report them to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You don’t have to give your personal details when you report your employer. You can report an employer to HMRC on GOV.UK. Choose the option to ‘report tax fraud online’.

If you want to get another job while you’re furloughed

You can work somewhere else if your contract with your current employer lets you. Getting a new job won’t affect your furlough pay. 

If you get a new job, you should make sure:

  • you can go back to work for the employer who furloughed you when they decide to bring you back
  • your new employer gives you the starter checklist form – you’ll need to complete Statement C

If your employer won’t let you take paid holiday while you’re furloughed

Your employer doesn’t have to let you take paid holiday if they have a good reason. For example they might not be able to afford it, because the law says they have to pay you 100% of your pay when you take holiday.

If you can’t take all your paid holiday because of coronavirus, you can carry over up to 4 weeks of holiday into the next year – you’ll have 2 years to use it.

It doesn’t matter what your job is – for example, whether you’re a key worker or not. All workers can carry over their holiday.

While you’re furloughed, you’ll still build up your paid holiday. You can arrange with your employer when to take it, as you usually would.

If your employer tells you to take holiday

They have to give you notice before the holiday starts and give you 100% of your pay while you’re off.

The notice needs to be twice the length of the holiday. For example, if your employer tells you to take 1 week off, they need to tell you at least 2 weeks before the holiday starts.

If you’re in the UK on a work visa

If you’ve been furloughed, it won’t affect your right to stay in the UK. For example, if your visa requires you to:

  • have a job – being furloughed doesn’t mean you’ve lost your job
  • not claim money from ‘public funds’ – furlough pay isn’t seen as public funds
  • earn a minimum amount – it doesn’t matter if your furlough pay is less than the minimum amount

If you don’t want to be furloughed

If you refuse to be furloughed, you could be made redundant. If your employer makes you redundant, they have to follow the usual rules to make the redundancy fair. 

You might be able to claim benefits, but this will probably give you less money than 80% of your normal pay.

If you’re made redundant while you’re furloughed

You can still be made redundant while you’re furloughed. Your employer has to follow the right process and can’t discriminate against you –  check if your redundancy is fair if you’re not sure. 

You might be entitled to:

  • pay during your notice period
  • pay for holiday time you haven’t taken
  • extra money for your redundancy

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