The Covid-19 pandemic has been a life changing event for all of us in both personal and work lives. From a personal perspective for me we are not a family that are used to staying at home, we are always out doing something whether it be an activity or visiting friends or family, so it has been a complete change. Home schooling a 4 and 8-year-old has also made me realise I am not cut out to be a teacher! From a work perspective it has not been hugely different for me as I am used to working from home, however, I’m not used to having my whole family around whilst I work, so that has been a challenge. However, no matter the challenges we all know that these measures are in our best interests, so we just need to make the best of what we have.

For many of my clients, these are tough times and I have been doing as much as I can to support them. Many businesses who will be trying to survive will be questioning whether to furlough staff or not. But what should you consider when you are thinking about furloughing staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme:
• The scheme is currently running until the 30th June 2020.
• The scheme is open for all businesses except public sector organisations or where public funding is received for staff costs.
• You can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020.
• It is the employer’s decision whether they choose to furlough staff, not the employees.
• The scheme is not limited to those employees who would otherwise be made redundant. It applies to any employees/workers who are furloughed “by reason of circumstances as a result of coronavirus or coronavirus disease”.
• You can claim the grant for 80% of the individuals wage plus associated employer NICs and minimum auto enrolment pension contributions on that wage.
• Those who are shielding or have childcare responsibilities can be furloughed.
• The scheme can be used for all those paid through PAYE regardless of the type of contract they are on.
• Contractual elements (contractual commission for example) should be included in the pay to be claimed back not discretionary elements.
• It should be used where there is no work available to the individual.
• Staff cannot work at all during furlough with the exception of training
• Staff should be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks for companies to be able to claim the grant.
• As a company you do not have to top up wages to 100% but you can do if you wish.
• Staff can use annual leave whilst on furlough as long as you top wages up to their ‘normal’ pay i.e. 100%
• If any bank holidays fall within the furlough period and the individual usually works the bank holiday then they can be paid at 80% as the leave for that bank holiday should already be included in their holiday allowance.
• If a bank holiday falls within the furlough period and an individual usually has bank holidays off, then pay should be topped up to 100% or they should receive a day off in lieu for the bank holiday.
• You can request staff come back immediately if you need them to return to work (as long as you have not stated that you’ll give them so much notice).
• An individual can be furloughed more than once, you just need to ensure that each furlough period is at least 3 weeks.
• If you don’t need to furlough all staff, you could ask for volunteers for staff to be furloughed.
• If you don’t need to furlough all staff, you can rotate furlough around staff to ensure fairness.
• You need to ensure you avoid any risk of discrimination (i.e. due to a protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.
• You need to ensure that you are following existing employment legislation and therefore, agree any variation of contract to furlough staff if this was not covered in your existing contracts of employment.
• You can extend probationary periods if they are due to end during the furlough period and you should confirm this in writing.
• You should write to staff confirming furlough and that they are not able to work for the company during this time (with the exception of training) and get their consent via writing (an email will suffice). You should keep this record for 5 years.

You should also consider the guidance available on the scheme:
Work out 80% of your employees’ wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
• Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
• Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
• Claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) A step by step guide for employers

If you need any help or advice or a template furlough agreement, please do not hesitate to contact me for advice on louise@unearthreality.com or 07841706203. Stay safe during these challenging times!