Are there any limitations on who can be furloughed?
Employees on any type of employment contract including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero hours and foreign nationals who are eligible to work in the UK on any visa can be furloughed subject to the following excluded categories:
- Anyone who was not employed prior to 30 October 2020
- Anyone for whom you haven’t made a PAYE Real Time Information submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020.
- Employees who are working but on reduced hours or for reduced pay
- Employees currently receiving SSP (see FAQ on SSP and self-isolation below)
- Public sector employees
- Employees of businesses or organisations in receipt of public funding for staff costs (except for those who are not primarily funded by the government and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the Covid-19 response)
It is unlikely that an employer can place such a requirement on staff without infringing the employee’s privacy. If the employee is acting in accordance with the rules, limiting their activity would likely be considered unreasonable.
From 1 July 2020 the furlough scheme has been operating more flexibly.
The key changes from 1 July 2020 were:
- All furloughed employees are subject to the new flexible furlough rules and the new basis for calculating claims
- Furloughed employees can be brought back to work on a part-time basis for any amount of time and can work any work pattern
- Employers can claim for the hours not worked compared the hours the person would normally have worked in that period
- There must be a new written furlough agreement in place to record the agreement with the furloughed employee to return to work part-time
- The new agreement (including a collective agreement) must be made before any period of flexible furlough begins but it may be varied at a later stage if necessary. The agreement must be incorporated into the employee’s contract of employment, either expressly or impliedly
- Employers must keep a record of this agreement until at least 30 June 2025, and they must also keep a record of the hours the furlough employee worked and the hours that they were furloughed
- Employees can be furloughed from 1 July 2020 for any amount of time and more than once
- However, if you re-furloughed an employee after 10 June but before 1 July 2020, they had to be furloughed for an initial period of three consecutive weeks
- Claims for payments under the scheme must not cross calendar months so if you are claiming for the initial three week period of a re-furloughed employee who was furloughed on 12 June for example, you must submit separate claims for the dates in June and July
- Although flexible furlough agreements can last any length of time, you should only submit a claim to HMRC once a week.
The FCA’s test case in the Supreme Court ruled overwhelmingly in favour of policyholders. However, business interruption cover generally has the prerequisite of physical damage or loss to the property (or in some circumstances, the presence of a notifiable disease at the property or within a certain radius of it), to recover losses caused by the interruption to your business. The onus is on insurers to re-assess those claims which are impacted by the Supreme Court’s judgment and to make contact with the policyholders regarding next steps. If you have not already made a claim, in the first instance the terms of any policy should be checked carefully to see whether business interruption cover is provided.
The Flexible Furlough Scheme was introduced from 1 July 2020 and is due to come to an end on 30 September 2021.
Employers have a statutory right to require employees to take annual leave at their direction, subject to providing staff with notice equal to at least double the length of the leave that you are directing them to take (e.g. 10 days’ notice for five days leave). However, this measure is not likely to achieve any urgent cost savings or alleviate immediate cash-flow pressure as holidays would need to be paid.
Clearly, annual leave can be taken on furlough so you could have staff on furlough and annual leave.