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On Friday 12 June the government published its latest guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This latest guidance now includes information how the “flexible furlough” scheme will work from 1 July 2020.
From 1 July it will be possible for employees to work on some days (or parts of days) and be furloughed for others. For example, an employee who previously worked 9 - 5, Mondays - Fridays, could work on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays but be furloughed on Thursdays and Fridays.
Furlough scheme closed to new entrants
Firstly, it’s important to note that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or ‘furlough scheme’ is now closed to new employee entrants. This means that employers who have not previously used the scheme will now not be able to do so. The only exception to this is if an employee returned from family related leave (for example, maternity or paternity leave) after 10 June and was then furloughed for the first time. This only applies if you've used the scheme before.
- There are no restrictions on employees working patterns
- There are no minimum limits on the amount of time that flexible furlough must last
- Furlough no longer has to last for 3 weeks, for example an employee could now work for two weeks and be furloughed for 2 weeks
- If an employee had been on furlough for less than 3 weeks on 1 July, they cannot move to flexible furlough until after the end of that 3 week period.
Claiming for flexible furlough
Unfortunately, calculating the grant for flexible furlough is quite complicated. Whilst the concept of flexible furlough will be exceptionally helpful to businesses, the calculations and rules are complex and may be a challenge for some.
There are a number of variables that you will need to ascertain. The actual calculation essentially depends upon:
- Whether you were previously calculating the furlough grant for a given employee on the basis that he/she was “fixed salary” or “variable pay”;
- The employee’s previous “usual” hours; and
- The employee’s actual hours worked.
We recommend looking at the government worked examples available here.
Putting employees on flexible furlough
You will need to put a new flexible furlough agreement in place with any employees you want to put on flexible furlough and this should be in writing.
The rules haven’t changed in regards to what employees can and can’t do on furlough, so it is still the case that if an employee is on furlough, they cannot do any work for you.
What are the record-keeping requirements for flexible furlough?
You are under a specific obligation to keep, for six years, records of the usual hours worked by each employee (including your calculation to ascertain “usual hours”); as well as the “actual hours” worked from 1 July.
Do I have to use flexible furlough?
Just because flexible furlough is now an option doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use it.
You are still able to furlough employees in the same way as before, with no part-time working requirement (as long as they have been furloughed before 10 June), or leave them on furlough. However, you will be able to bring people back from furlough quicker as the 3 week restriction has been lifted – but note the point above about completing any periods of furlough which began prior to the 1 July.