Furlough leave was introduced in the UK back in March 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. As businesses start to reopen and lockdown restrictions are lifted, the Government has now introduced more flexibility to the scheme, allowing employees on furlough leave to be brought back into work part-time from July 1st.

Furlough leave allowed employers to retain employees that otherwise would have been made redundant, due to a reduction in the work available. As the restrictions in the UK are slowly being lifted, employers may find that they need employees back at work – but perhaps not yet for the same amount of time as before the pandemic began. This new flexibility allows employers to bring employees back in to work for the time they need them, while they remain on furlough leave for the time they don’t.

An example of this could be a furloughed employee who, pre-pandemic, worked five days a week can be brought back for two days – and stay furloughed for the other three. Unlike the previous furlough scheme, employees can be placed on this flexible scheme for any amount of time.

Flexible furlough: rules employer’s need to know

You must pay an employee their complete wage for the time they work and this cannot be claimed back from the Government. However, you are still able to claim 80% of their wages for their furloughed time back (subject to a cap).

A furloughed employee being placed on the flexible furlough scheme must have been furloughed for at least three weeks before the 30th June. No ‘new’ employees can be furloughed, except in the case of parents returning to work following maternity/paternity/shared parental leave.

You must get written agreement from employees when changing their furlough agreement.

Upcoming key dates for furlough leave changes

Employers do not currently have to contribute towards furloughed employees wages, although they are able to top up the 80% the employee receives if they choose to. However, this is set to change as the scheme winds down. The main dates to be aware of are:

From August, employers will have to start making National Insurance and pension contributions.

From September, the Government will only cover 70% of a furloughed employee’s wages and employers will have to pay the additional 10%.

From October, the Government contribution will drop to 60% and the remaining 20% must be covered by employers.

October 31st – the furlough scheme ends.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on employment law – from furlough leave to flexible working. If you’re unsure of anything, get in touch with our employment team today on 01296 318 500 or email law@pandcllp.co.uk.

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