Coronavirus - being furloughed if you can’t work
Your employer might be able to use the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to pay you while you’re not working. This is known as being a ‘furloughed worker’.
If your employer uses the scheme, you’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This will continue until the end of September 2021.
You can still be furloughed if you’re:
- on a temporary contract
- on a zero-hours contract
- an agency worker
- employed by more than 1 company - each one can use the scheme separately
Your employer should have sent you a letter or email explaining you’ll be paid through the scheme. If they haven’t sent you anything, ask for confirmation in writing. The government will only pay your employer if they have evidence you’ve been furloughed.
Check if you can be furloughed
The rules are different depending on when you started working for your employer.
If you were working for your employer by 30 October 2020, you can be furloughed at any time on or after 1 November 2020. You count as working if you got your first pay from your employer on or before 30 October 2020.
If you started work between 30 October 2020 and 2 March 2021, you can be furloughed at any time on or after 1 May 2021. You count as working if you got your first pay from your employer on or before 2 March 2021.
If you started work after 2 March 2021, you can’t be furloughed.
You might want to ask to be furloughed if you:
- have a health condition or disability which makes you ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ - check if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable on GOV.UK
- care for someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable
are looking after your children while their school is closed
You can be furloughed full-time or part-time. For example, you could work 3 days a week and be furloughed for the other 2 days.
If you’re working from home you should get your normal pay from your employer.
If you’re an agency worker
If you can be furloughed, you need to ask your agency. They're the ones who can furlough you, not the place where you do your job.
If you’re self-employed
There’s another government scheme which helps people who are self-employed.
If you’re employed by a business and you’re also self-employed, you can be furloughed and might also be able to use the self-employment scheme.
If your employer can’t or won’t furlough you
Your employer doesn’t have to furlough you, but if you’re eligible you can ask why they’ve said no and ask if they’ll change their decision.
Asking your employer to change their decision
You should check if they’ve seen the guidance for employers on GOV.UK. It explains who can be furloughed under the rules of the scheme.
If you look after someone and can’t be furloughed, you can check what to do if you need to be off work to care for someone.
If your employer still won’t furlough you or you’re not eligible
If you don’t want to go to work, there are other things you can do. For example, you could ask your employer if you can:
use some of your annual leave to take paid time off
take unpaid time off
You should also check what benefits you can get.
If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you could ask your doctor for a fit note to say you can’t work. You should check if you can get statutory sick pay (SSP).
If you’ve been made redundant while you’re furloughed
You can still be made redundant while you’re furloughed. You employer will take you off the furlough scheme when you start your notice period. They'll still have to pay you any money you're owed and follow the right process. They can’t discriminate against you - check if your redundancy is fair if you’re not sure.
You might be entitled to:
- pay during your notice period - you can check how much notice pay you should get
- pay for holiday time you haven’t taken - you can check how much holiday pay you should get
- extra money for your redundancy - you can check how much redundancy pay you can get.
Check how your furlough pay is worked out
The government will give your employer 80% of your regular pay before tax - known as your ‘gross pay’. You can’t get more than £2,500 a month, even if 80% of your gross pay is more than this.
Your employer will calculate your furlough pay using the amount you earned in your last pay before 19 March 2020 if you were on the payroll on 19 March 2020.
If you started your job between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, they’ll use the amount you earned in your last pay before 30 October 2020.
If you started your job on or after 1 November 2020, they’ll use the amount you earned in your last pay before 2 March 2021.
Your employer works out how much you should get before they make a claim. They can’t include tips, and they can only include commission and bonuses if your contract says you should always get them.
If you’re furloughed part-time, you should get 100% of your normal gross pay for the days you work and at least 80% for the days you’re furloughed.
Your employer might decide to pay you the extra 20% so you get 100% of your normal gross pay, but they don’t have to.
Your employer will take off tax, National Insurance contributions and any other deductions they normally make.
If your furlough pay is below minimum wage
This isn’t against the law, because you’re not working. If you won’t have enough money to live on you can:
If your pay varies or you do paid overtime
Your pay might vary because you:
- don't have fixed hours in your contract
- get commissions or bonuses based on performance
- get a fixed salary but do 'significant' paid overtime
How your employer calculates your furlough pay will depend on when you started your job and when you were furloughed.
If you were on the payroll on 19 March 2020
Your employer should claim for whichever is higher out of:
- the amount you earned in the same month in the 2019-20 tax year
- your average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year
If you started your job on or after 20 March 2020
Your employer should claim for your average monthly earnings. They’ll use the amount you earned between the day before you were furloughed for the first time and:
- 6 April 2020 if you started your job before that date
- the date you started your job if it was after 6 April 2020
If you get a fixed salary but have done paid overtime
Your furlough pay should reflect any 'significant' overtime you have done. This means frequent overtime where you often got extra pay.
If you've only done occasional hours of overtime, this won't be included.
If you have done a lot of overtime, ask your employer to include your overtime in their calculations.
You can show them the guidance about calculating furlough pay on GOV.UK.
If you and your employer pay into a workplace pension scheme
Your employer still has to make the minimum contributions to your pension - this is 3% of your earnings. If your employer was paying more than 3%, they might stop paying the extra amount while you’re furloughed.
You’ll still pay your pension contributions from the money you get through the scheme.
If you have more than 1 employer
You can be furloughed by each employer separately. Each employer can pay you a maximum of £2,500 a month. This means you could get more than £2,500 in total, if your regular pay is high enough.
If you’re having problems getting your furlough pay
For example, if you think your employer is keeping your furlough pay or you think you're getting the wrong amount. If you need money urgently, you can:
If your employer asked you to work while you're furloughed
If your employer furloughed you, they shouldn’t have asked you to work during any hours you’re furloughed - this includes asking you to work voluntarily.
Your employer can ask you to do certain types of training - for example, an online course to improve your skills. They can’t ask you to do training if it makes money or provides services for them.
Your employer could be committing a criminal offence if they ask you to work during any hours you’re furloughed. You could complain to your employer - tell them it’s against the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It’s a good idea to complain in writing, for example by text or email - this means you’ll have evidence if you need it.
If your employer still asks you to work, you could also report them to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You don’t have to give your personal details when you report your employer. You can report an employer to HMRC on GOV.UK. Choose the option to ‘report tax fraud online’.
If you’re worried about what could happen to you if you report your employer, you can:
- get advice from Protect, a charity that helps people who want to report their employer for doing something wrong - known as ‘whistleblowing’
- talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice
If you want to get another job while you're furloughed
You can work somewhere else if your contract with your current employer lets you. Getting a new job won’t affect your furlough pay.
If you get a new job, you should make sure:
- you can go back to work for the employer who furloughed you when they decide to bring you back
- your new employer gives you the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) starter checklist form - you’ll need to complete Statement C
Taking holiday while you're furloughed
You can ask to take holidays in the usual way, if your employer agrees. This includes bank holidays. You should be paid in full for any holiday you take.
Your employer might also ask you to take holiday - they have to give you enough notice.
If your employer won’t let you take paid holiday while you’re furloughed
Your employer doesn’t have to let you take paid holiday if they have a good reason. For example they might not be able to afford it, because the law says they have to pay you 100% of your pay when you take holiday.
If you can’t take all your paid holiday because of coronavirus, you can carry over up to 4 weeks of holiday into the next year – you’ll have 2 years to use it.
It doesn’t matter what your job is - for example, whether you’re a key worker or not. All workers can carry over their holiday.
While you’re furloughed, you’ll still build up your paid holiday. You can arrange with your employer when to take it, as you usually would.
If your employer tells you to take holiday
They have to give you notice before the holiday starts and give you 100% of your pay while you're off.
The notice needs to be twice the length of the holiday. For example, if your employer tells you to take 1 week off, they need to tell you at least 2 weeks before the holiday starts.
If you’re in the UK on a work visa
If you’ve been furloughed, it won’t affect your right to stay in the UK. For example, if your visa requires you to:
- have a job - being furloughed doesn’t mean you’ve lost your job
- not claim money from 'public funds' - furlough pay isn’t seen as public funds
- earn a minimum amount - it doesn’t matter if your furlough pay is less than the minimum amount
When you’re furloughed, you need to agree to the change in your contract with your employer. They might try to change something else in your contract at the same time.
If you’re not happy with the other changes, ask your employer if you can refuse them and still be furloughed.
You can check what to do if your employer tries to change something in your contract. If you need help talking to them you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.
If you don’t want to be furloughed
If you refuse to be furloughed, you could be made redundant. If your employer makes you redundant, they have to follow the usual rules to make the redundancy fair.
You might be able to claim benefits, but this will probably give you less money than 80% of your normal pay.