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COVID-19: Updated guidance on flexible furlough

Posted on 15 June 2020

In the latest iteration of the furlough guidance, published on 12 June, we learn more about the flexible furlough scheme that will start to run from 1 July. While there were no big surprises, the updated guidance gives a bit more clarity around how flexible furlough will work. These are the highlights:

  • Only employees who have been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks any time between 1 March and 30 June are eligible (with an exception for those returning from long term statutory family leave including maternity, adoption or shared parental leave).
  • Eligible employees can be flexibly furloughed from 1 July. This means that they can be brought back to work "for any amount of time, and any work pattern".
  • Employers can claim the furlough grant for the hours the flexibly furloughed employees do not work, compared to the hours they would normally have worked in that period.
  • During those non-working hours for which the grant is claimed, employees must not do any work but can do training (this is the same rule that applies currently during the furlough period).
  • Employees can still stay on full time furlough, it doesn’t have to be done on a flexible basis.
  • The flexible furlough arrangements must be agreed with the employer in writing and the employer must keep a record of the agreement for five years. A record must also be kept of the hours worked and the hours spent on furlough.
  • An employer can put an employee on furlough any time before 30 June but that period must be for 3 weeks before starting flexi furlough, even if that 3 week period runs into July (however, anyone furloughed for the first time would have had to be furloughed by 10 June at the latest to be eligible - see the first bullet point above).
  • After 1 July employers can't claim for periods that cross calendar months, so in the above example for instance, one claim has to be made for the period to 30 June and another for the post 1 July period.
  • Flexible furlough arrangements can last any amount of time, there is no minimum. However, the period that can be claimed for must be at least seven days.
  • The number of employees in any claim period after 1 July must not exceed the maximum number of employees claimed for under any claim before 30 June. For example, if an employer has previously submitted three claims before 30 June, with a total of 50, 40 and 60 employees furloughed in each respective claim, the maximum number of employees that can be furloughed in any single claim after 1 July is 60 (not including those returning from long term statutory family leave under the specific exemption).

While the process of claiming the furlough grant is likely to become more complex, the flexibility afforded by the new scheme will no doubt be hugely helpful for many employers planning a partial or phased re-opening, and for many employees too who may have the opportunity to gradually ease back to work over the coming months.

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