The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is one of the largest ever State interventions in the labour market, with the intention to support the individuals and businesses through the unprecedented economic challenges currently faced. This scheme known as being ‘on furlough’. But what is it and what does it mean for you?
Key Aspects of the Job Retention Scheme
If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). Your employer could receive 80% of your regular wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, up to a monthly cap of £2,500 to pass onto you as payment.
The scheme was initially put in place for 4 months starting from 1 March 2020 but has since been extended until March 2021. It’s designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy. However, all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government has recognised that different businesses will face different impacts from coronavirus.
Am I eligible?
Provided you were employed on 30th October 2020 and your employer made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20th March and 30th October, they’ll be able to claim on your behalf.
Your employer is responsible for claiming through the scheme and paying you what you’re entitled to. You cannot apply for the scheme yourself. You can be on any type of employment contract, including part-time, full-time, agency, flexible or zero hours contract.
Both you and your employer must agree to put you on furlough – so speak to your employer about whether they can claim. If your employer and a trade union reach collective agreement that is also acceptable, for the purpose of your employer claiming through the scheme. Once agreed your employer must confirm in writing that you have been furloughed to be eligible to claim. Contact your employer if you do not receive confirmation.
When your employer is making decisions in relation to the process, they have to adhere to equality and discrimination legislation in the usual way.
If your employer flexibly furloughs you, they must also keep records of how many hours you work and the number of hours you are furloughed (not working).
What if I have been on sick leave or self-isolating?
If your employer wants to furlough you for business reasons and you are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so as with other employees. In these cases, you should no longer receive sick pay and would be considered a furloughed employee.
If you are on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
Your employer can furlough you if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus or off work on long-term sick leave. It is up to your employer to decide whether to furlough you.
What if I’m sick whilst on furlough?
You retain your statutory rights, including your right to SSP. This means that if you become ill, due to Coronavirus or any other cause, you must be paid at least as much as you would receive under SSP.
Subject to eligibility this includes those self-isolating or clinically extremely vulnerable because of Coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to move you onto SSP or to keep you on furlough, at your furloughed rate.
If you have more than one employer
You can be put on furlough by one employer and continue to work for another. If you’re put on furlough by more than one employer, you’ll receive separate payments from each employer. The 80% of your regular wage up to a £2,500 monthly cap applies to each job.
If you have had multiple employers over the past year, have only worked for one of them at any one time, and are being furloughed by your current employer, you cannot be furloughed by your previous employer.
If you're on Universal Credit
If you’re earning less because you’re on furlough, your Universal Credit payment might change – find out how earnings affect your payments.
If you're on maternity leave or similar
If you’re on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave, normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply.
Although, your employer may need to calculate your average weekly earnings, if you were put on furlough and then started leave on or after 25 April 2020 for:
Your employer can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:
If you're getting maternity allowance
If you’re getting Maternity Allowance while you’re on maternity leave, you cannot get furlough pay at the same time.
If you have agreed to be put on furlough, you must contact Jobcentre Plus to stop your Maternity Allowance payments.
If you agree to go on furlough and end your maternity leave early, you will need to give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice and you will not be eligible for furlough pay until the end of the 8 weeks.
If you're an apprentice
Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and continue to train whilst furloughed.
You must be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage as appropriate for all of the time you spend training, even if this is more than 80% of your normal wages.