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Government job retention scheme mark II: flexible furlough

On Friday 12 June, the government released more detailed guidance on how the job retention scheme is changing.

While it would have been less frustrating to have the information releases in a single easy-to-read document rather than the somewhat piecemeal approach, this is nonetheless an important update for any employer that plans to rely on the scheme from 1 July.

Much of this has been trailed earlier by the chancellor including the gradual imposing of employer contributions (commencing 1 August) but here are some of the other highlights —

  • To be eligible, an employee must have been previously furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks at any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020 (as opposed to having to be furloughed as at 30 June). Accordingly the scheme is closed to new entrants
  • The maximum number of furloughed employees an employer can claim for in any claim period from 1 July cannot exceed the maximum number of employees furloughed in any period up to 30 June. So there's a new cap
  • There are exceptions to both the eligibility rules and the new cap in the case of employees returning from maternity, shared parental, adoption, paternity or parental bereavement leave — if the leave began before 10 June 2020 and the return was after that date
  • Thirty-first of July is the deadline for employer claims for any period ending on or before 30 June
  • After 1 July, employers cannot make claims that cross calendar months. They will need to make a separate claim for the period up to 30 June
  • From 1 July, claim periods must be for a minimum of seven calendar days
  • For furloughs commencing after 30 June, employers will be able to “flexibly furlough” employees by splitting their normal working hours into periods of furlough and periods of paid work. Employers should keep accurate records of the work pattern
  • From 1 July there is no minimum period of furlough. The three-week rule no longer applies if the furlough begins on or after that date

Lots to consider, but the new flexibility and removal of the three-week rule will be particularly welcomed by many employers. However any change to an employee’s hours of work, and any return to furlough, should still be agreed with the employee.

Please remember that the agreement should be captured in writing.

Kirk Tudhope

Inverness-based partner Kirk Tudhope heads the firm’s employment law team, he regularly represents employers, including private and public sector organisations, at employment tribunals.

Posted, 16 June 2020 by Kirk Tudhope
Categories: Coronavirus | Coronavirus and employment law | Employment | Insights