The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) launched back in March has helped to save many jobs and businesses through this pandemic. The latest in the evolution of this scheme is flexible furlough.
On 4th July, restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, holiday rentals and other similar businesses can reopen, granted they abide by government safety guidelines.
This reopening of businesses will mean that more people can return to work from furlough.
Depending on how busy these businesses are, and how many staff or customers are allowed on the premises at a time, flexible furlough may be a reality for these workers, as well as those who haven’t yet returned to work at all.
On 1st July, flexible furlough will begin.
Essentially, the flexible furlough means that employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed, for any amount of time and any shift pattern.
For any hours not worked in line with their contracted hours, employees can still claim the CJRS grant for their normal hours not worked.
To make things clear, we have listed the key changes that are coming into place, so that you know where you stand if you are currently, or have previously been, furloughed.
- The number of employees that you can claim for in any single claim period starting from 1 July 2020 must not exceed the maximum number of employees that you claim for under any claim ending by 30 June. For example, if you had previously submitted three claims between 1 March and 30 June 2020, in which the total number of employees furloughed in each respective claim was 30, 20 and 50 employees – the maximum number of employees that you can now furlough in any single claim starting on or after 1 July is 50.
There are some exceptions to this for employees, for example, those returning from maternity leave.
- From 1 July 2020, employers must keep a written record of how many hours their employees work, and the number of hours they are furloughed (i.e. not working).
The Guidance states that the employee does not have to provide a written response, however we would advise that you get a written email response from your employee confirming their agreement to the hours that they will be working and the hours that they will remain furloughed.
- From 1 July 2020, you are able to bring your employees back to work for any amount of time and for any work pattern.
If you are changing an employee’s hours of work, our advice is that you should obtain the employee’s consent to the same, to ensure that both parties confirm they agree with the arrangement.
Keep records of all furlough agreements so that it is clear how many hours have been worked and how many are furloughed. We would advise that employers keep these records for five years.
- Employers can continue to fully furlough employees if necessary (and with the employees’ consent).
For employees continually furloughed (or for flexible furlough employees’ non-working hours), these individuals cannot undertake any work associated with their employer during time that is recorded as them being on furlough. The employee, can, however, take part in training, carry out volunteer work or work for another employer, if contractually permitted to do so.
- Until 1 July 2020, an employee had to be furloughed for a minimum of three consecutive weeks. From 1 July, agreed flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time. Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once.
(NB when a previously furloughed employee starts a new furlough period before 1 July, this furlough period must still be for a minimum of three consecutive weeks, regardless of whether this three week period ends before or after 1 July. For example, a previously furloughed employee can start a new furlough period on 22 June. This still has to last three consecutive weeks, ending on or after 12 July. After this date, the employee can be flexibly furloughed for any period. But, after 1 July, the employer cannot make claims that cross calendar months, so the employer will need to make a separate claim for the period up to 30 June.)
- Although flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time, unless otherwise specified, the period that you can claim for must be for a minimum claim period of seven calendar days.
Please contact our Head of Employment, Tracey Guest, for advice on preparing robust flexible furlough agreements. Our employment team can provide on bringing your employees back to work, or maintaining furlough agreements.