Last week Boris Johnson announced that the furlough scheme (or Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) is to be extended until March 2020. This is good news for those businesses who are still facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic and will provide additional breathing space for both employers and staff whilst local and national lockdown restrictions continue.
So, as an employee, what do you now need to do?
The furlough scheme applies to full-time, part-time, agency, flexible and zero-hours contracts, but your specific arrangements will depend totally on your current state of employment.
If you are one of the 2 million workers still believed to be on furlough then it’s effectively ‘more of the same’. Your current arrangement will continue, and the Job Support Scheme (the planned replacement for furlough) will be postponed until March 2021. Whilst the extended furlough is more generous for your employer than before – they will now be paid the whole 80% rather than the previous government top-up of 60% - you should see no difference at all.
If you were not previously furloughed but have now been informed that you are, then you must check with your employer if you are required to work part-time. Employees can be brought back on a part-time basis whilst being furloughed for the remainder of their hours. With regards to taking on other employment whilst on furlough leave, this is something which should be clarified with your organisation as it mustn’t breach the rules of your existing contract.
If you were not previously furloughed due to not having met the initial criteria you now may be. For example, if you had only just started with the employer or continued to work through the pandemic (not having stopped for any 3 consecutive weeks before 1st July), you would not previously have qualified but eligibility has now changed. Provided that you were on your employers PAYE payroll before midnight on 30th October and they have submitted notification of this to HMRC, they can now extend the furlough scheme to you too.
If you have only recently been made redundant (i.e. were still on the payroll as of 23rd September) there is a possibility that you could be re-employed and included in this latest furlough scheme. Again, as employers are taking a little time to fully understand the rules of the extended scheme, communication of this may take some time and it should be noted that they are under no legal obligation to rehire.
As has been the case throughout this pandemic, the Government has had to react to a rapidly-changing landscape. Whilst this latest announcement provides us with an idea of how things will look until March next year, we must now wait to see how the Job Support Scheme (the planned replacement for furlough) takes shape after this time.
Rest assured, EHL Solicitors will endeavour to share the information as, and when it becomes available. If you are still in doubt about your own situation and would like some friendly, positive support, simply contact your local branch.
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