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Coronavirus - being furloughed if you can’t work

This advice applies to England

Your employer can use the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to pay you while you’re not working. This is known as being a ‘furloughed worker’.

Your employer might tell you you’re being furloughed if they can’t pay you or if there’s no work - for example, if your place of work has closed.

You can also ask to be furloughed. You might want to do this if you:

  • are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and following government guidance to stay at home for 12 weeks - known as ‘shielding’
  • live with someone who is ‘extremely vulnerable’
  • are looking after your children while their school is closed
  • are pregnant or have a health condition and you’re worried about coronavirus
  • stopped working for your employer after 28 February and they agree to rehire you

You’ll need to meet some criteria to be eligible for the scheme - these are to do with how your employer pays you.

If your employer applies to 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 government ends the scheme or you return to work.

Your employer can claim money to pay you for any time you stopped working after 1 March 2020. This is called ‘backdating’ your pay.

Check if you can be furloughed

Your employer will only be able to use the scheme to pay you if you were on their PAYE payroll on 19 March 2020. This includes if you’re:

  • a casual worker
  • on a zero-hours contract
  • on a temporary contract
  • an agency worker
  • an apprentice
  • on a fixed-term contract - including if your employer extended your fixed term since the scheme started

You can only be furloughed if you’re not working. If you’re working from home you should get your normal pay from your employer.

You have to be furloughed for at least 3 weeks.

If you’re an agency worker

If you want to be furloughed, ask your agency. They're the ones who can furlough you, not the place where you do your job.

If you’re also 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.

Find out more about the scheme for self-employed people.

If you started work between mid-February and 18 March 2020

Your employer had to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about your first pay by 19 March 2020. It’s worth knowing they do this by sending HMRC a ‘real time information’ (RTI) report.

If you or someone you live with is ‘extremely vulnerable’

Your employer can furlough you if you or someone you live with is extremely vulnerable and following guidance to self-isolate for 12 weeks. This is called ‘shielding’.

Check if you’re extremely vulnerable according to the guidance on GOV.UK.

You’re also entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if you’re shielding. Some employers also pay extra sick pay - it depends what it says in your contract. Talk to your employer if you’re thinking of claiming sick pay instead of being furloughed.

If your employer won’t furlough you

Your employer doesn’t have to furlough you, but you can ask them why they’ve said no and ask if they’ll change their decision. 

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 you’re pregnant or disabled and can’t work because of coronavirus, your employer’s decision might be discrimination. You should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you need money because you can’t be furloughed

You can:

If you're being furloughed

You’re still employed by your employer while you’re not working.

The government will only pay your employer if they have evidence you’ve been furloughed. 

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.  

Your employer might also ask you to reply in writing saying you agree to be furloughed. You can do this if they ask you, but you should still be paid even if you haven’t.

If your employer says they can’t furlough you because you haven’t agreed in writing, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check how much you’ll get

The government will give your employer 80% of your regular pay before tax - also 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 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.

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. 

80% of your regular pay might be 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 you’re waiting to get your furlough pay

You can find out what to do if you’re having problems getting furlough pay.

If you need money urgently, you can:

If your regular pay changes from month to month

If you’ve been employed for a year or more, your employer should claim for whichever is higher out of:

  • the amount you earned in the same month last year
  • your average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started.

If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started. This should also include any overtime you had to do or any commission your employer had to pay you.

If you and your employer pay into a workplace pension scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will pay your employer enough to make the minimum contribution 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 they’re paying you through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. 

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 your employer asks you to work while you're furloughed

If your employer has furloughed you, they shouldn’t ask you to work while 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 while 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:

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 starter checklist form - you’ll need to complete Statement C

If you can’t take paid holiday because you’re furloughed

You can carry over up to 4 weeks of paid holiday into the next year and 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 furloughed 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 made redundant while you're furloughed

You can still be made redundant while you’re furloughed. If you’re entitled to redundancy pay, it will be calculated using the amount you earned before you were furloughed. You can check how much redundancy pay you can get.

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

If you were told you were being made redundant or told to stop working

Your employer might not have realised they could use the scheme, or just used different words when they told you not to work. What you do next depends on what your employer told you. 

Your employer might have told you:

  • you were being laid off - this means you’re still employed but you’re suspended without pay because there’s no work for you
  • you were being made redundant - this means you’re no longer employed because there’s no work for you
  • just to go home because there was no work or pay for you

Some employers wrongly use the term ‘laid off’ when they mean they’re making you redundant. 

If you’re not sure, check with your employer whether you’re still employed or if you were made redundant. If you were made redundant, there are some extra steps. 

If you’re still employed

Ask your employer whether they’re using the scheme to keep paying you. You should also remind them they can backdate your pay to 1 March 2020. If they say no, ask them to give you the reason in writing and contact your nearest Citizens Advice

If you were made redundant or left your job before 28 February 2020

You won’t be able to use the scheme. You should check what benefits you can get.

If you were made redundant or left your job on or after 28 February 2020

You’ll need to challenge your redundancy or ask for your old job back before your employer can pay you using the scheme. 

Write to your employer asking them to rehire you. Explain that the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme says if they rehire you, they can treat you as a ‘furloughed worker’ and claim money to pay you. 

It doesn’t matter if you weren’t on your employer’s payroll on 19 March 2020 - they can still rehire you and pay you under the scheme.

If your employer says they won’t pay you under the scheme or rehire you, you should ask them to give you their reasons in writing.

You might be able to make a tribunal claim for ‘unfair dismissal’. You have to start your claim within 3 months minus 1 day of the date you were originally dismissed. For example, if you were dismissed on 25 March 2020 you have to start your claim by 24 June 2020. Check how to challenge your dismissal.

You might also be able to make a claim if you think the decision to make you redundant was discrimination.

You should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If your employer tries to change other things in your contract

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. If they say no, you should 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.

If you need money while you’re waiting for your employer to pay you

You can check what benefits you can get or check if you can get help with your bills

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