Furlough Update 8th January 2021

A change to which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

HMRC has sought to clarify some outstanding issues with the furlough scheme. They have updated their guidance today to state that employers can if they choose, furlough employees whose health has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other conditions, including if they are unable to work from home, or working reduced hours. parents can also be furloughed to provide child care where the child or children are home schooling. If your employee is off sick or self isolation and for business reasons you want to furlough them then you can, but furlough is not meant to cover short term illness or self isolation.  Please see the changes in more detail below.

If your employee’s health has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other conditions

Your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed, if they are unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours because they:
•are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance
•have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household

If your employee is self-isolating or on sick leave

If your employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus, they may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness.

Short term illness/self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. If, however, employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.

Employers can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees. An employer does not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand or be closed to be eligible to claim for these employees.

You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time. When an employee is on furlough, you can only reclaim expenditure through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and not the SSP rebate scheme. If a non-furloughed employee becomes ill due to coronavirus, needs to self-isolate or shield, then you might qualify for the SSP rebate scheme, where you can claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee.

If your employee becomes sick while furloughed

Furloughed employees retain their statutory rights, including their right to SSP. This means that furloughed employees who become ill, due to Coronavirus or any other cause, must be paid at least SSP. Subject to eligibility this includes those self-isolating or clinically extremely because of Coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.

If a furloughed employee who becomes sick is moved onto SSP, employers can no longer claim for the furloughed salary. Employers are required to pay SSP themselves, although may qualify for a rebate for up to two weeks of SSP if the sickness is related to coronavirus.

If employers keep the sick furloughed employee on the furloughed rate for the period that they are sick, they remain eligible to claim for these costs through the furloughed scheme.

If your employee is on or has recently returned from leave

If your employee is on or has just returned from statutory parental leave

Ending maternity leave early to be furloughed

If your employee decides to end their maternity leave early to enable them to be furloughed (with your agreement), they will need to give you at least 8 weeks’ notice of their return to work, but you can agree to shorter notice in certain circumstances. You will not be able to furlough them until the end of the 8 weeks, or the date that you have agreed they can return to work.

We appreciate that this is a stressful and worrying time for us all, and we hope that you find the guidance contained in this blog useful. If you require specific advice and would like to know more about the services we offer, please contact Iain Lock on 01920 463777 or ilock@qandalaw.co.uk.

This blog and is a summary of the law and the latest government guidelines. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Iain Lock




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