Furlough (CJRS)

This page was last updated on 24 December at 13.15


The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was due to end on 31 October 2020. It was then extended through to 31 March 2021 and has now been further extended to 30 April 2021.

The concept of ‘furlough’ does not exist in UK employment law, so for everyone involved (trade unions, workers, employers, lawyers) it is an untested area.

  • It is unlikely to apply to public sector employers (such as councils, schools and other local authorities), nor does it seem to apply to private companies where they continue to receive public funds for the service
  • It is a change to your employment contract so can only be done with either your consent or through a collective agreement with the trade union(s). It is not clear what would happen if you refuse to accept furlough; it could mean that you would be made redundant but there is a risk you could forfeit any redundancy pay.

As this is a new area of employment law, and as there are many unanswered questions, it is really important that you contact us for advice if your employer is proposing to move you on to furlough.

Can I be furloughed under the extended CJRS?

The government has confirmed that you can be furloughed under the CJRS if:

  • You were on the payroll between 20 March and 30 October 2020
  • You are unable to work because your workplace has closed, or there is no work available for you
  • You are shielding in line with public health guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • You have caring responsibilities that arise from Covid, i.e. you need to look after children

You do not need to have been furloughed under the previous scheme to be able to access the extended scheme. So long as you were employed on, or before, 30 October you can take part in the CJRS.

What will I be paid?

You must continue to receive at least 80% of your normal pay whilst on furlough, regardless of how many hours you are working and regardless of how much your employer has to contribute to the scheme.

Your income during the period of furlough will be subject to the usual deductions such as national insurance, income tax, student loan payments etc.

Can I be furloughed if I am off work sick?

Not really. The government has said that the CJRS is not intended to cover short-term absence due to sickness (including if you have Covid symptoms, or test positive for Covid). However if there is a business reason for you to be furloughed, your employer can do so. In addition, if you become ill whilst on furlough you can remain on the furlough scheme.

I was made redundant before the furlough scheme was extended – can i get my job back?

Although the extension of the CJRS is welcome, it came too late for many workers who were made redundant in anticipation of the original scheme coming to an end.

If you were employed on 23 September and were made redundant between 23 September and 30 October you can ask your employer to reinstate you and put you on the furlough scheme.

This also applies to anyone who was on a Fixed Term Contract, which expired between 23 September and 30 October.

You should talk to your old employer straight away, and if you have any problems please contact us for support.

What about annual leave?

You will continue to accrue annual leave (both statutory and any additional contractual entitlement) during any period of furlough.

In most cases, your employer can ask you to take annual leave during furlough. If you are asked to take annual leave you should be paid at 100% of your normal earnings during any period of annual leave.

What about my pension?

If your employer is entitled to claim under this scheme, the government will cover up to 80% of the usual monthly wage costs including the employer’s national insurance contributions. However, they will only cover the minimum pension automatic enrolment contribution which could be as little as 3%. If you have an occupational pension scheme you could lose a significant amount of your monthly pension contribution. We advise members to contact us for advice if you are asked to agree to be furloughed.

How long can I be furloughed for?

Under the extended CJRS from 31 October there is no minimum period that you have to be furloughed for.

Your employer can furlough you more than once, so they can bring you back to work and then furlough you again at a later date (with your agreement).

What if I am employed by an individual (such as through the Direct Payment Scheme)?

You can be furloughed in the same way as any other employee, so long as your employer meets the relevant requirements of the scheme.

Do I keep my continuous service?

Yes. Being furloughed means you remain ‘on the books’ so you remain employed and your continuous service remains. Any benefits associated with your continuous service (such as annual leave entitlement, or occupational sick pay) remain.

Can I work while I am furloughed?

From 1 July your employer can ask you to come back for any amount of time or any shift (so long as it is within the terms of your employment contract). Your employer will then be able to claim for the balance between the hours you have worked and the hours you would normally work (up to 80% and a cap of £2,500 per month).

Can I do voluntary work while I am furloughed?

Yes. A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work as long as it does not providing services to, or generating revenue for, or on behalf of your employer.

I am an apprentice, can I be furloughed?

Yes, if you would otherwise have been made redundant. You must continue to be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage, or National Minimum Wage for all the time that you are training even if this is more than 80% of your normal wage.