COVID-19
Knowledgebase

Duncan & Toplis is here to help and support you through the ongoing challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst this is an anxious time for many, it’s important to know that there is help available.

We are summarising the measures, including eligibility requirements, as they are announced and all details can be found here in our COVID-19 Knowledgebase.

CJRS and ‘flexible furloughing’

Where an employer has a requirement for reduced hours, they can now start to bring employees back to work from furlough leave and can ask them to work reduced hours and/or different start and finish times if they wish to do so.

A request by the employer to work reduced hours or to change their start and finish times would be considered as a temporary change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment and would not be covered by the current furlough agreement that you have got with the employee. 

As such, where an employer wishes to bring an employee back to work but on different hours, this change of terms and conditions much be discussed with the employee and they must agree to the temporary change. This temporary change must be confirmed in writing to the employee. 

This written confirmation will likely to need to include:

  • confirmation that the period of full time furlough leave is ending and that the employee will be returning to work on a part time/changed hours basis.
  • statement of the employee’s contractual hours and what their new temporary hours and/or start and finish times are.
  • start date of the new arrangement.
  • anticipated end date of the new arrangement.
  • that the remaining non-worked period of their original contracted hours will be considered as furlough leave and paid as such in line with government guidance.

You may wish to consider how best to utilise different start and finish times of your employees in your business to minimise the number of employees in work at any one time.

If the employer wishes to put an employee back on full furlough, the employer must confirm this new furlough period in writing to the employee, using a new furlough agreement letter.

The employer must consider how they are going to maintain social distancing and appropriate risk assessments must be undertaken to ensure that the workplace is safe before allowing employees back to work.

Our detailed CJRS guidance note is available to download here

How is the calculation to be done?

The government will release guidance on the specific instructions around calculation of furlough where an employee is working and on furlough at the same time.  However, it is clear that whilst the government will continue to pay the furlough grant, the furlough cap [£2,500, £2,187.50 and £1,875] will be proportional to the hours not worked. 

Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.  

If I have no work, can employees remain on furlough?

Yes they can, if you are unable to provide work for some or all of your employees, those individuals can remain on furlough.  We would encourage employers to communicate with employees to ensure that they are up to date what the current position and how their employment may be affected by these changes.

Is there a minimum amount of time that I can flex an employee’s hours?

The employer can decide on the number of hours and shift pattern needed to best suit the work being undertaken and can ask employees to return on reduced hours. Any changes must cover a minimum of one week.

Can I bring an employee back from furlough leave for short periods of work and then re-furlough them?

From the 1 July, the scheme allows employers more flexibility and allows employees back to work, and not necessarily on their contracted hours if the employer can agree with them to change their terms and conditions and provide to them work but over less hours. The only provision appears to be that the change must cover a minimum period of one week. 

By agreeing different working hours and perhaps a different working pattern with an employee to utilise both work and furlough, the employer is able to act flexibly at a time where more flexibility is needed in the business.

In this arrangement any changes to employee’s hours and start and finish times are considered to be a temporary measure and if the employer finds that more permanent changes are needed in the future, a different approach will be required to seek agreement to change terms and conditions on a more permanent basis.

Remember to keep a log of the hours worked by your employee and if those hours change and are likely to change in future weeks, you are required to confirm that change in writing to your employee. You will need to retain records to support your CJRS claim.

Remember that your employee must have already been subject to a minimum of three weeks furlough before the 30 June in order to be furloughed again after 1 July.

From 1 July, is there a minimum furlough requirement of three weeks?

We are waiting guidance from the government on whether the minimum furlough term will change, but for now the 3 week minimum furlough period remains.

Can I furlough an employee after 1 July who has not already been furloughed for three weeks?

The short answer to this question is no. If your employee has not already been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks prior to the 30 June, they will not be eligible to be furloughed  from 1 July and you will not be able to claim for the grant through the CJRS.

I have an employee who is shielding, do they have to return to work?

Any employees who are shielding as a result of government guidelines can continue to be furloughed. The government guidelines on shielding may change so it is important to keep up to date with these so that you can support your employee. At some point in the future you will be required to work with your employee to support them back to work. Your risk assessments will provide a vital framework to support this individual and your other employees back to work. 

I have employees who are already working full time, can I reduce their hours and furlough them for the remainder?

From the 1 July you can only furlough employees who have already been furloughed for three weeks prior to the 30 June. If your employee has continued to work for you and has never been furloughed, you will not be able to furlough them after 1 July, unless you furlough them now for a minimum of three weeks starting no later than the 10 June.

Where you have a changing need for employees to carry out work, you must act in the best interests of the business and your employees. You must also consider the health and safety aspect of your workplace and conduct detailed COVID-19 risk assessments. Detailed guidance relating to this can be found here.

You may have some employees with a particular skill set who you need present in the workplace and in these circumstances, you are perhaps best not to furlough them but only you as the employer can make that final decision. Any decision regarding changes to terms and conditions must be discussed with the employee, agreed and put in writing to them. 


 

If you have any questions or queries that have not been answered above, please contact your usual account manager or submit an enquiry for our team here.

Please note, we are only able to offer advice and guidance from a business perspective and are therefore unable to answer any personal enquiries from individual employees.