Late on 12 June, the Government updated its guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to provide more detail about how the revised Scheme, which begins on 1 July, will operate. The revised Scheme provides for flexible furloughing from 1 July, however, the level of grant available to employers will be slowly tapered from 1 August.
Some key points from the latest updated guidance are as follows:
Restrictions on who can be furloughed after 1 July
- From 1 July, only employees that you have successfully claimed for under the Scheme will be eligible to be furloughed. This means that they must have previously been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks taking place at any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020. The last day an employee could have started furlough for the first time was 10 June.
- The number of employees you can claim for in any single claim period starting from 1 July cannot exceed the maximum number of employees you claimed for in any claim ending 30 June. For example, if you had previously submitted three claims between 1 March and 30 June, in which the total number of employees furloughed in each respective claim was 30, 20 and 50 employees, then the maximum number of employees you could furlough in any single claim starting on or after 1 July would be 50. There are some exceptions relating to employees returning from family leave where this cap may not apply.
- For claim periods starting after 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and on any work pattern, while still being able to claim under the revised Scheme for the hours the flexibly furloughed employee does not work referable to the hours they would normally have worked in that period.
- If you flexibly furlough employees, you will need to agree this with the employee (or reach a collective agreement with a trade union) and keep a written record that confirms the new furlough arrangement. Flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time. Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once.
- When claiming for employees who are flexibly furloughed, you should not claim until you are sure of the exact number of hours they will have worked during the claim period. You will therefore need to work out, and record, your employees’ normal working hours and their furloughed hours before you calculate how much you can claim.
- During hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, you cannot ask them to do any work for you.
- You can continue to fully furlough employees if you wish, rather than flexibly furloughing them, as long as they have previously been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020.
- Where a previously furloughed employee starts a new furlough period before 1 July this furlough period must be for a minimum of three consecutive weeks. This is the case regardless of whether the three consecutive week minimum period ends before or after 1 July.
- After 1 July, you cannot make claims that cross calendar months. Where a previously furloughed employee’s three consecutive week period ends after 1 July, you will need to make separate claims to cover the days in June and the days in July, even if the employee is being furloughed continuously. Claim periods starting on or after 1 July must start and end within the same calendar month.
- Although flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time, unless otherwise specified the period that you claim for must be for a minimum claim period of seven calendar days. This may mean that your claim periods will differ from the pay periods you use.
- You can only claim for a period of fewer than seven days, if the period you are claiming for includes either the first or last day of the calendar month, and you have already claimed for the period ending immediately before it.
Calculating your claim
- The updated guidance sets out, in significant detail, the steps you need to take when claiming from 1 July onwards and how to calculate your claim, whether or not flexibly furloughing employees. It includes a number of example calculations. HMRC will be providing a file upload template to complete for claim periods starting on or after 1 July.
Flexible furloughing enables you to bring the workforce back in a staggered way while continuing to receive financial support under the Scheme. However, you will need to plan carefully. For example, you will need to:
- think about the hours and shift patterns that you want employees to work on their return;
- communicate and consult with previously furloughed employees;
- agree any contractual changes and confirm them in writing;
- consider the impact the financial tapering will have; and
- decide your claim period.
We suggest that you familiarise yourself with the revised guidance and our FAQs and associated documents, which we will be updating over the next few days. Please be aware that more Government guidance is expected at the end of June.
How we can help
Not all your previously furloughed employees will be able, or willing, to return to work. How to handle reluctant returners and new types of absence, such as self-isolation, shielding and quarantine may become a challenge. Click here to book on our webinar, ‘Reluctant Returners and absence management in the context of Covid-19’, in which we look at the 'new' types of absence you might see arising in your organisation as a result of Covid-19 and explore whether your current absence management policies and procedures are fit for purpose.
If, despite the revised Scheme, you are considering the prospect of redundancies, you may find our webinar, Redundancies in the context of Covid-19, helpful. Click here for more information and to book.
Our Coronavirus ‘back to business’ support pack, put together by our HR advisers and lawyers, Health and Safety consultants and Business Growth specialists, includes helpful checklists and webinar materials on getting your business running again and is valuable resource.
During the Covid-19 crisis, we are offering non-members access to the Coronavirus ‘back to business’ pack for a one-off fee and access to our HR and Employment Law Helpline on a monthly subscription basis. To access the support pack, or sign up for a one month subscription, call us on 0808 168 5874.