Coronavirus: What does it mean if I’ve been furloughed by work?

Coronavirus: What does it mean if I’ve been furloughed by work?

Source:  By Eleanor LawrieBBC News

(Images our own)

17 April 2020

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-521353Until recently, many people in the UK had never heard of furlough.

What is furlough?

Being furloughed means employees are kept on the payroll, even though they aren’t working.The scheme came into effect on 1 March and was due to last an initial three months. It has since been extended until at least the end of June. However, reimbursements to companies will not start until at least the end of April. Coronavirus restrictions mean the work of many firms has come to a standstill. Pubs, restaurants, cafes, travel firms and estate agents are among those hit.

One in four businesses had shut temporarily within the first two weeks of lockdown, an Office for National Statistics survey found, while those that stayed open furloughed an average of 21% of their workforce.

Which companies are furloughing workers?

Businesses can claim 80% of their employees’ wages from the government, up to a maximum of £2,500 per person, per month before tax. The company can top up this pay if it chooses. It must write to affected employees to let them know they have been furloughed.

Furloughing is designed to support firms that have been badly hit by coronavirus, and to prevent mass unemployment. It will temporarily help pay the wages of people who can’t do their jobs, to help companies retain them.

But the impact of coronavirus on the economy means that over the next few months millions of workers will rely on the scheme

High street clothing chains Oasis and Warehouse have furloughed staff after recently falling into administration, while Topshop owner Arcadia has also called on the scheme.

Greggs, McDonald’s and KFC are among food chains that have furloughed staff.

In the travel industry, British Airways has furloughed more than 30,000 staff (80% of its workforce), while TUI has furloughed 11,000 UK staff and EasyJet has furloughed just under half its employees.

Meanwhile, three premier league football clubs – Bournemouth, Liverpool and Tottenham – have made a U-turn on their decision to furlough non-playing staff, who are paid a fraction of leading players’ wages. Newcastle United and Norwich City have announced their intention to use the scheme.

Potentially yes, if your company can’t give you work to do because of the coronavirus outbreak.This includes full-time and part-time workers, and employees on flexible, zero-hour or agency contracts.

If you have been made redundant since 19 March, your former employer can choose to rehire you under the furlough scheme. But employees hired for the first time after that date are not eligible for it.Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including for workers who are foreign nationals.

But in practice it will mainly be private sector businesses and charities that make a claim.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees, and still continue their training. And an individual can furlough an employee, such a nanny, but only if they are paid through PAYE.Anyone placed on furlough has the same employment rights as before. If you are ill you are eligible for statutory sick pay and can be placed on furlough when you recover.

The government will only cover up to 80% of a worker’s core salary. So, that doesn’t include any bonus or commission payments. It will also cover the minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions made by your employer, and their National Insurance contributions.

Employers do not have to top up salaries that no longer reach the minimum wage. You can’t do any work for your employer if you have been furloughed.

You can also continue working for any that still need you. You can do work for a new employer, provided you are not breaching any existing contracts or the coronavirus restrictions.

Of course, many firms haven’t furloughed staff but have asked them to work reduced hours for reduced pay, which they will have to fund as normal.

Companies are under no obligation to keep on any employees when they stop receiving furlough, although they cannot use these payments to subsidise redundancy packages.

The hope is that by the time furlough ends, restrictions will have been lifted and businesses will be able to stand on their own two feet and start paying full salaries again.

The scheme currently runs until 1 June, and the government has indicated it will be extended beyond that if necessary.

Is my job guaranteed when furlough ends?

You can volunteer to help with the efforts to curb the virus – and are being encouraged to do so. You can also volunteer for your company as long as you aren’t creating revenue for them or providing a service. Employers are encouraged to use this time to give employees additional training, but must top up furlough payments if they do not reach minimum wage.

If you have more than one employer, you can receive furlough from any of them, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month per employer.

Can I work or volunteer if I’ve been furloughed?

If your wages differ from month to month, your company should base your salary either on what you earned in the same month the year before, or on your average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year, whichever is higher.

If you are shielding because of health concerns or have childcare or other caring responsibilities, you are also eligible for furlough. Staff on maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave will continue to receive statutory pay from the government.

Will I still get sick pay and a bonus?

Most public sector organisations will be providing essential public services or helping with the response to the outbreak in a different way, the government says.

Many people have complained the scheme does not extend to those who had already signed a contract or switched jobs after the cut-off date.

The minimum amount of time you can be furloughed for is three weeks, and you can be furloughed more than once.

Initially the scheme only supported those on an employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, but the cut off date was extended to 19 March. People who had left their job before the 28 February, or were in the process of switching employer, had complained the original cut-off unfairly penalised them.

Can I be put on furlough?

You can’t do any work for your employer if you have been furloughed.

If you have more than one employer, you can receive furlough from any of them, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month per employer.

You can also continue working for any that still need you. You can do work for a new employer, provided you are not breaching any existing contracts or the coronavirus restrictions.

You can volunteer to help with the efforts to curb the virus – and are being encouraged to do so. You can also volunteer for your company as long as you aren’t creating revenue for them or providing a service. Employers are encouraged to use this time to give employees additional training, but must top up furlough payments if they do not reach minimum wage.

Of course, many firms haven’t furloughed staff but have asked them to work reduced hours for reduced pay, which they will have to fund as normal.

 

Source: BBC news

Images our own