Flexible Furlough: What benefits for employers and employees?

On 29 May the Government announced that businesses will be given the flexibility to let furloughed employees return to work on a part-time basis from today, 1 July 2020.

Employers will responsible for paying employees in full for days worked and can claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in the normal manner for days not worked. Businesses will be able to decide the hours and shift patterns that employees should work, to ensure a safe return to work for employees and re-opening of businesses to customers.

Employers will have to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and the actual hours worked. The minimum period that can be claimed for is one week. The Government has been keen to remind employees who believe they are not getting their 80% share that they can report any concerns to the HMRC fraud hotline and that action will be taken against any employer found to be abusing the CJRS.

Many organisations had been lobbying for flexible furloughing to be introduced, both to ‘dip a toe in the water’ to gauge business need generally and to enable them to respond flexibly to fluctuations in demand for products and services. Without the ability to flexibly furlough, there was a real risk that businesses would choose to take a cautious approach to re-opening.

The introduction of flexible furloughing should also be welcomed by employees, many of whom are likely to have concerns about returning to work. The opportunity to return for an initial period of one week will also give employees the opportunity to test their commute to work and the measures that their employers have put in place to ensure their health and safety.

Employees who refuse to return to work for an initial one week period are likely to find it more difficult to claim that they are acting reasonably in doing so, especially where their employers have consulted with them in relation to the health and safety aspects of Covid-19 and clearly communicated the changes they have made to the workplace to enable and support a safe return to work.

NB: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has closed to all new entrants on 30 June 2020. This means that the last date for employers to furlough employees for the first time was 10 June 2020, allowing for current 3-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June.

For more info, you’re welcome to read our FAQs on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or to get in touch.