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

12 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.

  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?

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