Furlough (CJRS)

This page was last updated on 7 September 2021

England is now in step 4 of the government’s roadmap. This means that most legal restrictions have been lifted.

However, the government advises that:

  • Employers should gradual phase in returns to workplaces where staff have been working from home.
  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test, you should have a daily test.
  • You should continue to isolate if you have a positive test.
  • You should consider wearing a face covering in crowded areas.
  • You should continue to minimise social contacts.

Employers still have a legal duty to keep workplaces safe and to keep their employees safe whilst at work and when travelling to work.

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.

Furlough 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). If you refuse to accept furlough you could 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.

When does the furlough scheme come to an end?

The government has confirmed that the furlough scheme will end on 30 September 2021.

What happens when the furlough scheme ends?

From 1 October 2021 your employer must either return you to your normal contractual pay, or make your redundant in accordance with any statutory or contractual redundancy arrangements and payments.

If you are currently on furlough and are not sure about what your employer is proposing to do when the scheme comes to an end, please contact us.

What will I be paid?

You must continue to receive at least 80% of your normal pay (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month) 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.

View the changes to the employer contribution rates from 1 July 2021

Can I be furloughed if I am off work sick?

Only if your sickness started after you were put on furlough. 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 whilst you are off sick, your employer can do so.

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?

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?

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.