As lockdown continues to be eased, there are various reasons why you may be looking to take employees off furlough. You have more work than you had initially predicted or you need temporary cover for anyone who has become ill or needs to self-isolate. You may even be looking to implement a phased return in anticipation of resuming business as normal.
Remember the three-week minimum
You need to put your employees on furlough for at least three weeks to claim grants from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). If you bring someone back earlier, you forfeit the right to your funding. Obviously, if you need staff to come back to work urgently, then you may decide that this is commercially viable.
Check the written terms of any furlough agreement
You should have signed a furlough agreement when your employees went on furlough as this is a requirement for claiming from HMRC. Check whether there is a specific notice period to be given to an employee to return to work. You can try to renegotiate an earlier return to work. It is sensible to be flexible if possible, as some employees may need time to make childcare or other arrangements to facilitate their return to work.
How to choose who to bring off furlough
You obviously want to bring back employees from furlough based on the needs of your business, but you must also consider the welfare of your employees. Those who are shielding in line with government advice should not return to the workplace. Likewise, some employees may be at greater risk than others, such as those with caring responsibilities for highly vulnerable people. You also need to be careful about breaching the laws regarding discrimination, particularly disability discrimination.
Tell staff in writing that their furlough is ending
Once you’ve spoken to your staff and decided to bring someone back from furlough, you should send a return to work letter confirming their start date. If your employees are coming into the workplace, then you should also conduct a COVID-19 secure risk assessment. As furlough grants are paid retrospectively, you do not need to inform HMRC that your staff have returned to work. However, you do need to keep accurate records on the length of your employees’ furlough periods as HMRC will expect to see this info during an audit.
Can we make furloughed workers redundant?
Yes, provided the dismissal is fair and lawful and you have followed the required redundancy process.
Will furloughed employees be gaining continuous service while on furlough?
Yes. Furloughed workers’ employment contracts remain in place, meaning temporary cessations of work do not apply.
Can you unfurlough staff and later re-furlough?
Yes. You should provide a further written furlough agreement that needs to re-signed and dated. Any further furlough period will need to be for a minimum of 3 weeks to enable you to claim under the CJRS.
It is important to bear in mind that you cannot partially furlough workers under the CJRS, even to carry out part-time work from home, although this may change in the future. Make sure that that employees do not work for your business while they’re on furlough as HMRC has the right to retrospectively audit your business if they suspect you’ve brought staff back to work while still claiming grants.
If you have any questions regarding furlough, redundancy or any other employment related matters then please contact Justin Sadler at [email protected]
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Justin deals with all aspects of Dispute Resolution for both businesses and individuals, including including Contentious Probate, Employment Law ( for both businesses and individuals) and Commercial Litigation. This means that he is familiar with the many different courts and tribunal as well as the many different methods for resolving disputes, including alternative dispute resolution such as adjudication and mediation.