Seven things employers need to know about flexible furlough

As the lockdown eases the government's flexible furlough scheme will help manage the gradual return to work. Photo: Alex Yeung / Shutterstock

Late last week the government published the first full guidance on the new flexible furlough scheme coming into force on 1 July. Joanne Moseley examines the key details.

Details of the new flexible furlough scheme available from 1 July 2020 have now been published, via updates to existing guides. There are five guidance documents employers will need to read to get up to speed:

1. Who is eligible to be furloughed under the new scheme?

Only employees who have been furloughed for at least three weeks on or before 30 June under the old scheme can be furloughed after 1 July. The only exceptions to this are where parents return to work after taking maternity, shared parental leave, adoption, paternity or parental bereavement leave.

2. Duration of furlough

From 1 July, you’ll be able to bring back previously furloughed employees for any amount of time and on any pattern of work and claim a grant for the hours not worked. For example, if your employee normally works five days a week and you only need them in work for two, you can furlough them for the remaining three days. If business picks up, you might want them to work for three days and be furloughed for two.

The last date anyone could be furloughed for the first time was 10 June. If you furloughed any employee on that date, you’ll be able to move them onto the new scheme immediately from 1 July.

However, it is now clear that if you re-furlough someone after 10 June, you will have to wait the full three weeks before you can move them onto the new scheme, regardless of whether this ends after 1 July. For example, a previously furloughed employee starting a new furlough period today (15 June) must remain furloughed under the old scheme until at least 6 July. After this date, the employee can be flexibly furloughed for any period.

3. Limits on numbers of people you can furlough from 1 July

The numbers of employees you can furlough in any period starting from 1 July can’t exceed the maximum numbers of employees you claimed for under the old scheme – although you don’t include returning parents in this calculation.

This may create some difficulties for employers who have already put in place rotating furlough patterns. For example, if you have divided your 200-strong workforce into two groups of 100 each and rotate them on three-weekly furlough, you won’t be able to put all 200 workers on flexible furlough so that everyone works half a week.

4. Claim periods

You must submit any claims under the old scheme by 31 July. After 1 July, you can’t submit claims that cross calendar months. This means that if you have staff whose furlough spans June and July, you’ll need to submit separate claims for June and July – even if they have been furloughed continuously.

Your claim period is made up of the days you are claiming a grant for. Claim periods starting on or after 1 July must (usually) start and end within the same calendar month and must last at least seven days. You must include all furloughed staff in one claim even if they are paid at different times and the government recommends that, if you can, you should match your claim period to the dates you process your payroll.

One thing to bear in mind is that if you can submit a claim up to 14 days before the end of the relevant claim period. However, if you do this and the number of days your staff work changes, you’ll need to adjust the claim next time. That doesn’t sound too difficult if you’ve over-claimed, but if you’ve under-claimed, you’ll have to contact HMRC for help. The government therefore recommends that you don’t “claim until you are sure of the exact number of hours [your staff] will have worked during the claim period”.

5. Working out pay under the new scheme

If you don’t intend to ask staff to return to work, your pay calculations won’t change, although your contribution will increase from 1 August.

However, if your staff do return to work part-time you’ll need to work out how many hours each employee usually works and off set this from the number or hours they have been furloughed.

First of all, you’ll need to decide if your employee has fixed or variable hours. If their pay depends on the number of hours they’ve worked, or they are not contracted to work a fixed number of hours, use the variable calculation. The government has provided some examples of how to do this which include:

  • Examples of pay periods spanning June/July and July/August
  • Example for someone working a fixed hours
  • Example for someone without fixed hours
  • Example for someone working fixed hours who is off sick or on family related leave on/before 19 March 2020
  • Example for someone without fixed hours based on average in 2019-20 tax year
  • Example for calculating the number of furloughed hours

If you’ve got a decent payroll system, it might make the calculations easier to work out.

6. Keeping records

You’ll need to keep a copy of all records (one version says for five years, and the other for six years) including:

  • the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
  • the claim reference number
  • your calculations
  • for employees who are flexibly furloughed, their usual hours including any calculations and the actual number of hours they have worked.

7. Written agreement

The guidance states that you need a “new written agreement” to confirm the new furlough arrangement. It’s not clear if you need separate agreements each time you flex the furlough period (which would be really cumbersome) or if you can make provision for this in one document which provides for flexibility which would make much more sense.

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Jo Moseley

About Jo Moseley

Jo Moseley is a senior associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

38 Responses to Seven things employers need to know about flexible furlough

  1. Avatar
    Helen Thomson 16 Jun 2020 at 9:12 am #

    Hi Jo, thanks for the really helpful study of the mound of information that was released on Friday. I too have been combing through it and I wondered if you could help with a question to do with actually implementing it. It might be obvious but here’s the thing.

    In the gov.uk documentation it says ‘Claim periods …must last at least 7 days’. So how does this tie in with the working three days, furlough for two days situation? are the days accumulated? would it make sense from a payroll perspective for a furlough period to be the whole month (if they are monthly paid)? are HMRC saying that the minimum period of seven days on furlough is from the start of the furlough to the end for that month and needs to be a claim for at least seven days? it’s not consecutive days surely?

    And you’ve got to make one claim a month yes? for all regular furlough and flexible furlough together, ‘You can only make one claim for any period so you must include all your furloughed or flexibly furloughed employees in one claim even if you pay them at different times’

    Any thoughts on how these two elements work in practice would be greatly appreciated

    I am sure there’s a simple explanation for each of these which I’ve overlooked. I look forward to your answer, thank you 🙂
    Ref for quotes above in here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/steps-to-take-before-calculating-your-claim-using-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#deciding-the-length-of-your-claim-period

  2. Avatar
    Sheridan 17 Jun 2020 at 8:46 am #

    Hi my partner has been made to go back to work working his full hours and no say in if he can change days / hours and they say he is on flexible furlough

    • Avatar
      Shayan 2 Jul 2020 at 11:13 am #

      If somebody in on work that can not be furloughed. The basic concept of furlough is still the same the only amendment is that if somebody is working that has to be paid by the employer & if not working due to Covid related issues it will be termed as furlough and because the condition of three consecutive weeks i relaxed it is termed as flexible furlough. The choice of working hours and days is of employer.

  3. Avatar
    Anneliese Janes 17 Jun 2020 at 6:16 pm #

    Hi,

    Have there been any further updates / solid guidance re: written agreement in the respect of re-agreement for each flex?

    7. Written agreement
    The guidance states that you need a “new written agreement” to confirm the new furlough arrangement. It’s not clear if you need separate agreements each time you flex the furlough period (which would be really cumbersome) or if you can make provision for this in one document which provides for flexibility which would make much more sense.

  4. Avatar
    Mia 17 Jun 2020 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi, if I’m contracted 26hrs, how many hours will I require to work from 1st July when I’m on flexible furlough? Thank you

  5. Avatar
    J 24 Jun 2020 at 10:52 am #

    Hello,

    I have been told by my employer that as of the 1st July I will be on the flexible furlough scheme. They have said that I will need to work within my hours and if there is work to do.. I do it and if not.. then they will claim for these hours.

    However, surely if there is no set days of working agreed ie mon and Tues.. wed, thurs and fri furloughed.. could companies not then abuse the scheme as they have employees sitting at their computers regardless if there is any work to do… for their normal working hours?

    For example I am expected to be at my computer mon – fri for 35 hours that I do… but only to complete work when there is some. Surely being there for those hours would still be classified as ‘working’?

    Please advise?

    Thank you

    • Avatar
      Shayan 2 Jul 2020 at 11:08 am #

      In line with the published details by HMRC. The number of working hours & Furloughed must be decided in advance and must be in writing to avoid abuse of this facility by anyone.

    • Avatar
      Rob Frost 17 Jul 2020 at 2:35 pm #

      If you are working as directed by your employer (and that means sitting at your computer doing nothing, if that is what they direct you to do) then you are working and entitled to be paid in full according to your contract. You should make plain to them that you expect to be paid for the time you work. If you are not at work you are free to do what you will.

    • Avatar
      Jade 6 Aug 2020 at 5:07 pm #

      Hi, i have the same issue, I work in a clinic and am expected to ‘be on call’ to come in and treat clients. E.g. I was due to do a half hour treatment today so I made other arrangements for the rest of the day and then got a phone call asking to come in and do a longer shift. When I said I couldn’t i got an email to say I need to be flexible at short notice. I feel there should be set days/hours agreed and this shouldn’t be able to change at such sort notice.
      Can anyone help, ive tried looking on the Gov website but can’t seem to find anything 😕

      • Avatar
        Donna 13 Aug 2020 at 7:55 pm #

        Following
        We’ve been told we need to make ourselves available at no notice , surely, they need to set out times / days ?

        • Avatar
          Sharon M Telford 10 Sep 2020 at 7:39 am #

          Hi i am a furloughed worker i was told by my manager the company have to give you 48 hours notice on returning to work

  6. Avatar
    Susan Barnett 30 Jun 2020 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi I normally work 3 days a week. I can now go back to work (4th July) but only 1 day due to not being able to get childcare for the other 2 days. My question is can I still get furlough money for those 2 days and be paid by my employed fir the 1 day

  7. Avatar
    Shayan 2 Jul 2020 at 11:09 am #

    If your employer agrees to this arrangement yes you will be paid one day working pay and for rest of two days it will be furloughed pay you will get.

  8. Avatar
    Brian 7 Jul 2020 at 9:45 pm #

    My employer wants me to go from full time furlough to part time furlough, essentially coming back to work a few days a week.
    She has given me a new furlough agreement to sign but in it is a new clause which say that if she can’t claim the furlough money back from HMRC or if HMRC claim the furlough payment back from her for whatever reason then it is me that is liable to pay it.
    This doesn’t sound right to me.

  9. Avatar
    A 7 Jul 2020 at 11:00 pm #

    What is the maximum an employer can claim? If you were to only work one day a week and then furloughed the other 4, would you receive 80% for the 4 days working then 100% for the one day working? Or would you only be able to claim upto 80% of your normal weekly hours?

  10. Avatar
    A 7 Jul 2020 at 11:03 pm #

    Also if you were to work 4 days in a week (so 80% of your normal working hours) can you still claim furlough for the last day of the week that you work or would this been seen as unacceptable due to already receiving 80% of normal pay?

  11. Avatar
    Jacqui 13 Jul 2020 at 11:25 am #

    I work monday to friday, fulltime, I stipulated when I started the job two years ago I would not be available for weekend work due to family life, now under the flexible forlough my employer wants us to work on a saturday, but this is no good to me as I have to travel to see my children at the weekends .. what are my rights, should I ask for redundancy. As my home life would greatly be affected.

    • Avatar
      Vix 18 Jul 2020 at 4:13 pm #

      This is unlikely to be a redundancy situation because the need for the work is still there. You could say that you deem the change to terms and conditions to be an unsuitable alternative and see whether they will consider an exit agreement with you though. Or just talk to them and see if there’s an alternative to working the weekend. Good luck

  12. Avatar
    ian wright 14 Jul 2020 at 11:52 pm #

    i have full time employment mon to friday 39 hours
    been furloughed for months
    now i have been flexible furloughed
    they say i will be working 2 days a week but may be 3 if work demands it
    on the phone the boss said mon tues bla bla
    now talking to the office they say it could be any day that suits them without any notice
    so i am on call 5 days a week without any notice ..
    i thought it would be right next week you work mon tue or tues friday but no its by the way your working today
    this is not right is it ??? looks like they got me on 0 hours when it suits them

    • Avatar
      Lee Paton-Smith 18 Sep 2020 at 4:24 pm #

      Hoping to see a response to this as I have a similar situation with the typical guilt trip that goes with it from work.

      • Avatar
        Jason 24 Sep 2020 at 2:13 pm #

        Also hoping to see a reply for this one, my contract is 5days a week 40 hours a week and on return to work on the flexi furlough for 20 hours its become apparent that they’ve got me in for 4 hour shifts 5days a week , so still having to drive there 5 days a week but losing 20% on half my hours

  13. Avatar
    Tracie 28 Jul 2020 at 10:05 am #

    HI
    I have been flexi-furloughed from 37.5 hours a week to 20 hours, I wanted to book a week’s holiday and applied for 3 days which would be the 20 hours which I should be working, plus the two days I am not working. I have been told that I have to apply for the full 5 days off – is that right, it doesn’t make sense to me or my colleagues.

  14. Avatar
    Jacqui 28 Jul 2020 at 8:16 pm #

    My employer told me she only had saturday work, but she has been taking in other people during the week, when they are zero hour and I have full contract. Bottom line now is I worked on Thursday for them at short notice plus 9 hours on Saturday with no break and travelling around in work car to job having to share with two other people. Totally ridiculous, now I’ve been asked to work Thursday friday and saturday this week, she cant have it all her way, if there was only sat work just now then so be it but if she has work in the week then I believe she has no right to ask me to do the Saturday too, so my only solution now is to hand my notice in, as giving me work one day 3 hours and 9 then next time isnt going to make my wages up either. I’m being forced to resign now as the stress is worse than it was before forlough.

  15. Avatar
    Nick 29 Jul 2020 at 8:51 pm #

    Hi, before the company I work for being forced to close (social club) I worked 2 shifts per week. When the furlough scheme was set up, my employer claimed for my 2 shifts. I work on a zero-hour contract. I have been receiving furlough pay for my 2 shifts up to this week. The social club I work for has just reopened last week, with new trading hours ( was 7 days per week before lockdown ) of 3 days per week. Our employer has given each of it’s 4 staff 1x 5 hour shift each and we were taken off of furlough. When I queried this with my employer as to why I was not still receiving furlough for the other shift I used to work, they said that because their trading times have changed and they don’t know when or if they will be increased they thought that claiming for shifts that now don’t exist would be a fraudulant claim because the additional shift I used to work is no longer a possibility until such time as they may open for more days/hours. I can understand their point on this but is their train of thought correct ? I appreciate that 1 of my 2 shifts that I used to do is currently unavailable and that they have given each of us 1 shift each, but can they still claim furlough for my other shift despite them at present not trading as they were before lockdown?

  16. Avatar
    Abbie 31 Jul 2020 at 1:25 am #

    Hi, I was hoping someone could help.
    I have a question mostly out of interest, I am currently on Flexi furlough and last week my employer over paid me. I made them aware and they told me they would be taking the overpayment out of my next pay packet. I dont earn a great deal each week so I’m also getting the furlough top up… does my employer have the right to take that money from the furlough top up as well as my worked hours?

    This question is more out of interest.

  17. Avatar
    Annon 5 Aug 2020 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi there, I am contracted to do 2 hours a day at 1 of my jobs, the company is only open 3 days so I’m on furlough for the remaining 2 days, my company are making me work 4 hours on 2 days to make up furlough, I can’t commit to the extra hours as I have a life outside of work, they have siade they are stopping my 2 days furlough because I have said no I can’t do the extra 2 hours on 2 days, I’m only contracted to 2 hours a day, I have offered to do my spare days but they are trying to double my day, it says on gov website that this may be scheme abuse, are they allowed to take my contracted hours from me because I’m refusing to work uncontracted hours when them hours are not in my contract…

  18. Avatar
    Victoria Inthavong 6 Aug 2020 at 8:27 am #

    I’ve been on furlough at 80% and now returning to work part time under the flexible furlough scheme. My employer has asked staff to accept 80% wages for the hours worked (as well as 80% for the furloughed time). Is this allowed as the guidance seems to state that hours worked should be paif at the full salary rate?

    • Avatar
      Julie 2 Oct 2020 at 3:46 pm #

      Hello Victoria
      I am in a similar position, have you been able to get any guidance on this?

  19. Avatar
    Noor 9 Aug 2020 at 7:15 pm #

    Hi,

    In my place of work, everyone is on a zero hour contract, but before lockdown, everyone had regular hours they would work. We’ve now returned, but everyone’s shifts have been cut in half, and our employers are refusing to give flexi furlough to make up for the other half. Is this legally allowed? Most of our staff have responsibilities they need to pay for, and refusing to give us the option of flexi furlough seems cruel. Please, help!

  20. Avatar
    Matt 16 Aug 2020 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi I’ve currently gone bk part time furlough was on a Wednesday to start for four hrs now my boss wants mon tue we’d and Friday at two hrs a day my concern is il travel 16 miles per day to work two hrs so il actually be worse off due to fuel cost funny how can get work done in four hrs and now I also tike part time I feel this is been done on purpose to stop me bettering myself find these hrs a joke and I could easily do all of the work in a 8 hr day and yes I have a very poor boss stroke owner of company I feel il have no option but to leave soon as she’s giving me silly hrs ie start at 1pm till 3 pm

  21. Avatar
    Dawn 29 Aug 2020 at 3:13 pm #

    our whole company were on furlough at the beginning of the pandemic, but some of us went back on 18th may and we are now basically in whenever there is work and furlough when not (only 10 of us are in the other 16 have stayed on furlough since it began) my question is should the ones who have been requested to go back to work have received a new written agreement to say we are on flexible furlough ?

  22. Avatar
    Dave Edney 11 Sep 2020 at 6:31 pm #

    Hi

    I have been part time furloughed so that I can only work 10 hours a week (I normally do 20). If I choose to do MORE than 10 hours a week but do not ask for payment for the extra hours worked, is that acceptable?

  23. Avatar
    Zara 4 Oct 2020 at 12:29 am #

    Hi, I am currently contracted to work 30 hours a week 8.30-4.30 I have been furloughed for months and since the beginning of September Flexible furloughed for 2 days and back at work 2 days, this month I have worked overtime that has been outside of my normal contracted hours 4-5 and 6-9 due to mandatory training. My employer is refusing to pay me overtime for this as they are saying I’m being paid for hours that I am not working. So I’ve been paid for 60 hours from my employer and I think 75 hours furlough but I’ve actually worked 78 hours. I am under the impression that they should be paying me the extra as it’s used hours that are outside of my normal contracted hours. I’m hoping this makes sense and someone can tell me if this is right what they are doing.

  24. Avatar
    Cathy 6 Oct 2020 at 5:55 pm #

    Thankyou for this. I was on a full time contract, but furloughed March to June.
    I was brought back in July one day a week on flexi furlough. I asked my employer to state which day this was to be, and he asked me to spread one days work out during the week. This is OK as I am home based and understand the needs of the business. I wanted to put something in my email signature to manage people’s expectations of when I was available, but he told me not to.
    However, I am now in a situation where I am working 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, and still on the one day a week flexi furlough. My employer is paying me for one day but I am working way more than that, even more hours that before Covid, as the business has picked up.
    I am scared of saying anything as I want to be supportive of the business, but surely they are taking advantage of me and the system. They haven even communicated with me and upped my flexi to 2 days,but they know how much work and hours I am doing as they see it from my emails.
    What should I do?

  25. Avatar
    Cathy 6 Oct 2020 at 5:58 pm #

    So just to be clear I get paid one day from my employer and I am furloughed 4 days.
    But I am working more than full time for my employer.

  26. Avatar
    Andrew nicol 8 Oct 2020 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi can anyone help I was put on furlough on Mon 5/10/20 I’m a night shift worker I have now been told to return to work on Mon 12/10/20 so furloughed for 4 days but they want me to go on a 2-10 shift for 6 weeks saying I loose my night shift allowance surely this isn’t right ?

  27. Avatar
    Emma 12 Oct 2020 at 6:30 pm #

    Can you be working full time (40hours week) be on flexible furlough and be paid furlough pay for a/l taken during this time?

  28. Avatar
    honey 14 Oct 2020 at 2:08 pm #

    Hi can someone answer my question please

    i am on flexi furlough — without being asked i was just told i needed to return to work

    i have a 1 year old and i am pregnant and worried about covid as i work with children and parents etc. i am also having trouble with childcare and my back due to being pregnant

    can I ask to be placed on full furlough for the remaining time furlough is accepted or not ?

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