Furlough: Where do you stand as an employer/employee?

The past month has been a strange one – I’m sure you’d agree! Millions of workers in Britain have been forced to learn a new word, of which has come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where businesses are rushing to cut costs and save their company. This word is “furlough”.

We’ve all heard this word – but many are finding the meaning and regulations behind it somewhat ambiguous. Well here at CoLaw, we are here to help you understand furlough in the simplest way possible, including what it means and the do’s and don’ts whilst you or your employee is furloughed.  

What is the meaning of Furlough?
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary. It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy. However, all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government recognises different businesses will face different impacts from coronavirus.

In order to receive a grant under the scheme, employers will need to make a claim for wage costs through the scheme. Guidance makes it clear that, to be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation, including providing services or generating revenue.

All UK businesses are eligible for furlough, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

So, what can myself or my employees do whilst furloughed?

Out of Offices
An ‘out of office’ should be on the emails of any employees that are not present within the workplace for whatever reason. However, we would suggest that employers shouldn’t stipulate that the employee is not present because they have been furloughed.

Voluntary Work
A furloughed employee can take part in any voluntary work, as long as this does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation. The organisation that they work for can agree to find furloughed employees new work or volunteering opportunities as long as it’s in line with public health guidance.

Finishing outstanding tasks
A lot of people have been questioning if furlough is with immediate effect, especially if they have unfinished tasks. This will depend on what the employer is stipulating and the reasons for having to furlough employees. The safest option is to furlough employees in advance and before the start of their next working day.

Talking to furloughed employees
It may be tempting during these uncertain times, to reach out to your employees and ask questions about work. However, the guidance stipulates that no work can be undertaken for the employer whilst an employee is furloughed. So, getting in touch with an employee really does depend on the nature of the call.

Furloughed workers are expected to still be contactable during this period in order for the company to keep them updated on their status as a furloughed worker but not to undertake work. Getting in touch with furloughed workers to discuss work-related matters that amounts to ‘work’ is not prohibited. You CANNOT ask your employee to do any work that: makes money or provides services for your organisation.

Promoting the company on social media
If social media posting is part of your job role e.g. if you work in a marketing or communications department, then this would be classed as ‘work’ of which you cannot undertake. However, if social media is not within your role and the employee is resharing information on their own personal profile then this shouldn’t be an issue.

How can we help?
Here at CoLaw we can guide you through the COVID-19 crisis by responding quickly and sharing updated advice. We are constantly creating bespoke letters (including furloughed letters), reviewing contracts of employment and producing guidance notes on a regular basis to ensure our clients are kept updated on this matter.

If there is something that you would like more information on, or there’s a question that we haven’t covered in this blog – then please get in touch! Our friendly team are here to help during this tough time.

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.

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