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17 April 2020

More Key Questions About Furlough Leave

Lysha Holmes of Qui Recruitment talks to Emma Morris of Embrace HR about how Furlough Leave and the latest Government information affects employers, employees and candidates.

For jobseekers who are currently furloughed, can and should they be seeking new employment (in a like for like role) and therefore should recruiters be discouraged or permitted to work with them?

There are two parts to this. Firstly, you can be put on furlough by one employer and continue to work for another, providing your contract allows for it – so in particular you would be looking for non-compete clauses in your contract of employment or where the rules of the contract might mean you would breach your contract by working, for example if it restricts the hours worked for another employer. So the key to this is to check your contract first, or even ask your employer. You also obviously need to ensure any new workplace is following the Government guidelines.

Secondly, if someone does think there’s a risk to returning to business as usual for their current employer once this is all over and they want to seek new work, they are absolutely permitted to do so. An employer can still make employees redundant whilst they are on furlough or afterwards, so some people might feel that this is a good time to review their options. If an individual is offered a new position with a different employer, they would need to follow the normal rules of resignation and inform their employer that they are resigning and providing notice in the usual way.

For employers, how often should you be maintaining contact with your furloughed staff, what is acceptable and what is breaching the rules?

So, the rules are that you cannot ask your employee to do any work that:

However, the employee can take part in volunteer work or training, providing it does not involve providing services or generating revenue for the employer or a linked or associated organisation. In fact, the guidance says that furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training.

Employees must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for 100% of the time spent training, even if this is more than the subsidy.

In terms of maintaining contact, whilst some employees will seize the opportunity to have more free time, some employees will find being furloughed really hard, it can heighten anxiety, affect mental health and make some feel even more isolated, so it is absolutely acceptable (even crucial) to:

For furloughed staff, what tasks are permissible during this time and if your employer is making up the final 20% of your salary, could you legitimately spend one day a week actually working for them?

No, absolutely no work can be done for the employer, whether they are topping up or not. It’s like putting a TV into standby mode – it’s still there and ready to work but it’s not actually doing anything. HMRC have said that they will audit the scheme for up to 5 years so if an employee does do any work for you or a linked/associated organisation, you may have to repay the grant.

Any more pointers?

This situation wont last forever, so think about how to help staff readjust when they come back to work, get them back up to speed and how to boost morale.

Also bear in mind those staff who weren’t furloughed whilst some were – whilst you hope that they were thankful to still be in work and contributing and earning, they might feel resentful about having to carry on and even taken on additional work – think about what you can offer them as a thank you – it can be low cost things like an additional days holiday for each completed 3 weeks worked for example.


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