The government furlough scheme has allowed millions of people to keep their jobs during the coronavirus lockdown, while being paid 80 per cent of their salary. However, with the exit from lockdown likely to be slow and staggered over the summer, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been asked to extend the scheme. Find out what the new rules will be.
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Furlough: what are the new rules?
Sunak has just made the announcement that the Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of October, with a few crucial changes to be made to the scheme after July. Namely, employers will then be asked to contribute more towards furloughed employees' salaries, and will be able to hire workers back part-time in order to do so.
Until the end of July, however, the government will continue paying 80% of furloughed workers' wages, up to £2,500 a month.
What does furlough mean?
A furlough is basically an unpaid leave of absence where an employee technically keeps their job but isn't working or getting paid for a period of time. During the coronavirus crisis, furloughing has become the necessary procedure for employers to access government grants via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, so the unpaid aspect of the furlough is replaced with the government funding. The main difference here is that you will be kept on payroll, whereas in cases of unpaid absence you may not be.
If you've been furloughed, don't panic: this isn't because your employer is planning to fire you; quite the opposite. For many small to medium businesses, this is the only route to retaining their staff.
When can my employer apply for the Coronavirus Retention Scheme?
Now: the online portal for applications is open and can be access via the official gov.uk page. An employe will need their government gateway ID and password in order to apply.
My employer fired instead of furloughing me: what can I do?
It all depends on when it happened: if you were made redundant after 19 march, you can ask for your old employer to re-hire you and furlough you so that you can still get 80 per cent of your wages.
It is also possible to do this if you found a new job since but your new employer can't now afford to keep you (under the current rules, employers can't furlough someone they hired after the 19 March). Ask your old employer if they're willing to take you back. If the answer is no, and you can't keep your new job either, you'll need to find out how to apply for Universal Credit.
What does the new cut-off date mean for furloughs?
In response to growing criticism of the previous cut-off date of 28 February, the government has extended the payroll cut-off date to the 19 March (the day before the Job Retention Scheme was announced). In practice, it's important to pay attention to the word 'payroll' here: the new cut-off date will benefit those who were on payroll between 28 February and 19 March. If you got paid within that period, then you can be furloughed.
This extension still leaves those who started a new job or were made redundant after the 19th March ineligible and needing to apply for Universal Credit.
Can I be furloughed if I work part-time/have other responsibilities?
Yes, you can still be furloughed if you work part-time or are a contractor. You can also be furloughed if you are currently on unpaid leave and were placed on it after 19 March.
Furloughing can also be used if the coronavirus lockdown has meant that you now have full-time childcare responsibilities and can't continue working.
If you are in a Covid-19 vulnerable group and can't work from home, then furlough is again the correct route to protect your job.
How can I convince my employer to furlough me?
If your employer is hesitant, it may be because they are reluctant to deal with unfamiliar paperwork – after all, a furlough constitutes a change of employment contract. If this is the case, direct them to the free furlough letter template developed by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
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