Furlough pay is a safeguard against laying off workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. New research suggests the UK taxpayer could fork out £30bn to £40bn. Under the Job Retention Scheme, employers can receive grants to cover 80 percent of their employee’s wages. So can you request furlough leave?
In its latest update, the British Chambers of Commerce said 20 percent of companies which had responded to its survey were planning to furlough all their staff.
The organisation has said two-thirds of employers intend to furlough 75 to 100 percent of their workforce in the coming weeks.
Resolution Foundation director Torsten Bell said: “Faced with an unprecedented economic crisis, the chancellor has set out a bold and ambitious job retention scheme to limit job losses, and help firms recover as quickly as possible once the pandemic is over.
“By subsidising up to 80% of workers’ wages, the scheme will also help millions of workers who would otherwise face catastrophic hits to their living standards.”
Research from the BBC suggests nearly a fifth of smaller firms plan to furlough all their staff and 50 percent of companies are putting most of their staff into the scheme.
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What is the Job Retention Scheme?
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak introduced the concept of furlough leave in a bid to safeguard Britain’s workers last month.
This relatively unfamiliar term has been popularised in recent weeks and now several workers across Britain are being furloughed.
Under the terms of the scheme, an employer can designate employees as furloughed workers and then apply to receive a grant worth 80 percent of that worker’s salary.
Employers must retain these furloughed workers on their payroll and must be a company which was launched and started on or before February 28.
Companies can receive a grant worth 80 percent of a worker’s wage, up to £2,500 excluding National Insurance, tax and pension contributions.
The scheme can be backdated to March 1 and is initially open for a period of three months.
All workers are eligible for the scheme, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible and zero-hour contracted staffers.
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Can you request to be furloughed?
An employee is completely able to request to be furloughed by their employer.
However, it is entirely up to a business as to whether they wish to accept this option or not.
If you fall into any of the vulnerable classifications (aged over 70, pregnant or underlying health conditions), the Government has urged you to stay at home for three months.
If you are self-isolating because of this, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, or potentially enhanced pay if your company offers that, but you cannot be furloughed.
If you are living with someone who is shielding and wish to be furloughed to reduce your and their risk of exposure, your employer is not obliged to put you on furlough.
What happens while you are on furlough?
Fundamentally, the main rule of furlough leave is that you are not permitted to work for your employer during this time.
You can undertake training or volunteer subject to public health guidance, but cannot make money or provide any services for your employer or any company linked to your employer.
You need to remain on furlough for a minimum of three consecutive weeks.
Your employer can place you on furlough more than one, and one period ca follow straight after an existing furlough period, while the scheme is open.
What happens if an employer wants to put you on furlough leave, but you refuse?
If you refuse to be furloughed upon your employer’s request, then unless your employer has a layoff clause in your employment contract, you will technically be entitled to full pay.
Furlough pay and leave is completely subject to the terms and conditions of your employment contract.
As furlough pay is a variation to your contract, you need to agree to it and therefore your employer cannot force you into it if it breaches your contract of employment.
But you should be sure to assess the risk as you may wish to remain in employment in these uncertain times or retain employment after the pandemic has passed and redundancy consultations can commence again.
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