Last reviewed 25 September 2020

This article provides guidance for managing furlough and the Job Retention Scheme. This information is being continually checked and updated where necessary where Government guidance changes.

The information below is currently under review in light of the guidance released on 12 June 2020 regarding flexible furlough.

Furlough and the Job Retention Scheme

Originally a term typically used in the US, the concept of “furlough” has not existed in UK employment law until now. However, with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic causing issues for businesses across the UK, the Government has implemented the Job Retention Scheme to avoid lay-offs and redundancies.

“Furlough” generally means a temporary leave of absence from work. In short, a furloughed employee is someone who, rather than being dismissed for redundancy by you, or being put on lay off, is kept on the payroll during a period where you cannot offer work for them. For example, if your business has experienced business downturn, or has had to temporarily close, you can furlough employees as a way of retaining them until business can return to normal.

Under the Job Retention Scheme, staff placed on furlough by following the correct procedure will have 80% of their wages guaranteed, up to a maximum of £2500 per employee per month. This means that you can continue to pay them while they are furloughed, and 80% of the cost will be covered through a Government grant. Wages can be claimed from the period starting 1 March 2020 until the end of October.

On 29 May 2020, changes were announced to the scheme which are designed to wind it down before complete closure in October 2020. It is now closed to new entrants, with effect from 30 June 2020. Employers may only furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30 June, save for employees who are returning from maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave, or from a period of mobilisation with the Reserve Forces, which started before and ended after 10 June 2020, where they are returning to work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

Employers must now contribute to furloughed employees’ wage costs.

When to use the Job Retention Scheme

The Government’s guidance outlines that the Scheme has been introduced to help businesses severely affected by the coronavirus. However, most businesses are currently not expected to demonstrate that they had an objective need to furlough their staff, such as if they had no alternative aside from redundancy. Guidance released on 17 April 2020 for employers in education, early years provision and children’s social care refers to a “redundancy” criterion in deciding which employees to furlough, in the general context that the Government does not expect many publicly funded employers to use the Scheme. The HMRC have stated that they may retrospectively audit claims, but it is not clear if this will take into account reasons for making the claim.

In order to make use of the Scheme, the Government has confirmed that companies must have:

  • created and started a PAYE (pay as you earn) payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020*

  • enrolled for PAYE online, a process that can take up to 10 days

  • a UK bank account.

In addition, because of the closure of the current scheme to new entrants from 30 June 2020, employers must ensure that employees who are being furloughed for the first time are furloughed by 10 June, in order for the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June. This does not apply to employees who are returning from maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave in the coming months where they are returning to work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

Provided your company meets the above, it can make use of the Scheme. There is no limit on company size or sector.

Furloughed staff

Before making any decisions to furlough staff, it is important you are aware of which staff can legally be furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme. To be eligible, the individual must be PAYE meaning that you deduct their tax and National Insurance contributions before you pay them and are told how much to deduct through their tax code. Individuals must also have been on the payroll since at least 19 March 2020 and been notified to HMRC through a real time information (RTI) submission on or before 19 March 2020.

Full time, part time, temporary, zero hours and fixed-term staff can all be included as long as they are PAYE, as can apprentices. Office holders, (including directors), salaried members of LLPs, agency workers and those who fall into the employment status category of “worker” can be included.

An employee on a fixed-term contract can be re-employed, furloughed and claimed for if either:

  • their contract expired on or after 28 February 2020 and an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 28 February 2020, or

  • their contract expired on or after 19 March 2020 and an RTI payment submission for the employee was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020.

Employees who started and ended the same contract between 28 February 2020 and 19 March 2020 will not qualify for this scheme. This is not specific to employees on fixed-term contracts, the same would apply to employees on all other contracts.

Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. You can furlough employees on all categories of visa.

*Previous guidance had contained a cut-off date of 28 February 2020 meaning that employers could not furlough, and claim the wages of, anyone who started after this date. The guidance was updated on 15 April 2020 to provide a new cut-off date of 19 March 2020 with the added RTI criterion.

Furlough and employees transferred under TUPE

Government guidance published on 30 April 2020 confirms that employees who were subject to a TUPE transfer after 28 February 2020 can be furloughed and the new employer can claim for their wages, to the prescribed amount, via the Scheme. This reverts the position back to that which had been in place before 15 April 2020, which is when the Government amended their guidance to state that employees who had been transferred after 19 March could be claimed for under the Scheme. For now the position is this: employees transferred after 28 February 2020 can be claimed for provided they are on the “new” employer’s payroll, and an RTI submission made, on or before 19 March 2020.

Choosing staff to furlough

It is up to you who you place on furlough. Decisions should be taken in line with business need and account for any particular challenges that it may be facing. You do not have to furlough all your staff. Where selection does need to take place, it may be appropriate to implement a similar selection period as would be used in a redundancy situation so that the most effective employees remain in work.

Normal rules on discrimination still apply. You should take care not to make any decisions which could be seen to be discriminatory and be able to justify why certain staff have been placed on furlough over others.

Staff can volunteer themselves to be furloughed if they choose to. However, the final decision will rest with you. There is no automatic right to be furloughed.

Placing staff on furlough

How you place staff on furlough depends on what you wish to pay them during this time. If you are only going to pay the 80% that will be covered by the Government, and not top up wages, you will need to obtain their agreement to reduce their pay. The agreement to furlough should be confirmed in writing to the employee and a record kept for five years. On 15 April 2020, a Treasury Direction on the Scheme set out a requirement for employers to obtain agreement in writing that the employee will cease to do all work.

A second treasury direction makes clear that an agreement to cease all work can be either a written agreement between employer and employee, or a written confirmation of agreement from the employer. It must contain the main terms and conditions that apply during the cessation of work and be explicitly or impliedly incorporated in the contract of employment. It must be kept until at least 30 June 2025. A collective agreement between employer and employee will be sufficient as evidence of an agreement to furlough.

If more than 19 employees are to be placed on furlough, and you have pre-existing consultation process in place in their contracts, you may have to follow it. If there is no contractual consultation process in place, and you are not contemplating dismissing 20 or more employees if they do not agree to the change to their terms and conditions, collective consultation is not needed. It will still be required if you are contemplating dismissal, however.

When seeking an agreement with staff, it is important to be open and honest with them and clearly outline why this is necessary. Remember, staff are more likely to agree to it if the alternative is a redundancy.

As stated above, from 1 July 2020, the scheme is only available to those who have been furloughed by 10 June 2020.

  • Letter to send to employees who are eligible for furlough

Furloughing agency workers

Where agency workers are paid through PAYE, they are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through the Scheme, including where they are employed by umbrella companies.

Furlough should be agreed between the agency, as the deemed employer, and the worker, though it would be advised to discuss the need to furlough with any end clients involved.

Where an agency supplies clients with workers who are employed by an umbrella company that operates the PAYE, it will be for the umbrella company and the worker to agree whether to furlough the worker or not.

Furloughing staff on maternity or other forms of family leave

All staff currently receiving maternity pay, or other family leave pay, should continue to receive that as normal. Employees who are on maternity, or other types of family leave, can be furloughed. In addition, current Government guidance does not prohibit individuals returning from their leave early to be furloughed, subject to agreement between yourself and them. However, it is likely that staff will not be able to return to this leave when their period of furlough comes to an end.

Employers can claim contractual maternity pay, etc via the Scheme, but not any statutory payments, eg statutory maternity pay which may be recoverable via existing schemes.

Staff who are planning to take maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or bereavement leave on or after 25 April should have their statutory pay calculated by assessing their normal earnings, and not reduced earnings as a result of being furloughed.

Employees who started a period of maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental, parental bereavement leave in the months before 10 June and will be returning after 10 June, are not subject to the furlough cut-off date of 30 June 2020; they can still be furloughed for the first time after 10 June. Such employees will need to meet all other eligibility requirements for furlough and the employer must have previously used the scheme to furlough employees.

This exemption has been made because of the restricted use of the scheme for employees on these types of leave. Employees who are receiving only statutory payments (SMP, etc) cannot be furloughed because they are not getting 80% pay, and because SMP is recoverable by other existing means. If the cut-off date applied to these employees, for example an employee on maternity leave, they would be forced into making the decision to either end their leave early and return so they could be furloughed (and then risk having to come back to work, once furlough had ended, earlier than they had intended to return to work from maternity leave), or stay on leave, miss the cut-off date meaning they cannot be furloughed and risk being made redundant when they come back because the employer cannot afford to keep them on.

This issue has now been resolved. Employees returning from these types of leave can be furloughed on their return, even after the cut-off date, as long as their employer has previously furloughed employees — this is a requirement of their entry into the scheme.

Furloughing staff who have left the business

You can re-hire and furlough any ex-employees who left after 28 February 2020 if you want to. The ex-employee must have been on your payroll on 28 February 2020 and have been notified to HMRC on a RTI submission on or before 28 February 2020. This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 28 February 2020. You can also re-hire anyone who left on or after 19 March 2020 but they must have been on your payroll on 19 March 2020 and have been notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020. This means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 19 March 2020. Again, this will be entirely up to you; however, you should be careful to make decisions that are non-discriminatory when deciding who to re-hire. You should seek written agreement that the employee will cease to do all work during furlough. Other employees maybe in the position where they are serving out their notice of redundancy but have not yet left the company. Employers may choose to withdraw the redundancy notice and place the employee on furlough instead. On 17 July 2020, the Government confirmed that furlough claims can be made for statutory, and contractual, notice periods. However, grants cannot be used to substitute redundancy payments.

Furloughing staff who are on sick leave or self-isolating

Staff in your company may be receiving statutory sick pay (SSP) for other conditions, or they may be receiving it as a result of the coronavirus. Government guidance details that individuals who have coronavirus symptoms, or live in the household of those who do, need to self-isolate for a period. During this time, they should receive SSP from day one of their isolation if their absence started on or after 13 March 2020.

Staff that are receiving SSP cannot be furloughed at the same time. However, you can take staff off SSP to furlough them, provided you make it clear which option you wish to explore. If you continue to pay SSP, you cannot claim back staff wages under the Scheme.

The Treasury Direction indicates that employees on sick leave when a decision to furlough is made can only be furloughed after they have returned to work. Employers have a choice for subsequent periods of sickness/self-isolation over whether the employee stays on furlough or is placed on sick leave.

The second Treasury Direction clarifies that employees who are on sick leave can be furloughed at any stage, rather than having to wait until the original sickness period has ended.

Furloughing staff who are “shielding”

Some of your staff may have been told to isolate themselves by the Government as they have been deemed at a higher risk from serious illness if they contract coronavirus. You can seek to furlough staff in this position, even if there is work for them to do; however, you should consider if they could feasibly work from home first.

Furloughing staff with caring commitments

Government guidance outlines that staff who have caring commitments, such as those who need to look after children as a result of the coronavirus school closures, can also be furloughed. This is the case even if there is work for them to do, although it is advisable to consider if they could feasibly work from home. Under the first Treasury Direction, employees who are on unpaid leave which started after 28 February can be furloughed. Anyone who started unpaid leave on or before 28 February can only be furloughed once their period of unpaid leave ends.

The second direction provides more flexibility for putting employees who are on unpaid leave onto furlough.

  • Where the unpaid leave period began on or after 1 March 2020, an employer could end the unpaid leave earlier than originally anticipated in order to allow them to be put on furlough provided that the usual eligibility conditions are met and it could be shown that doing so was consistent with the exceptional purpose of the Scheme.

  • Where the unpaid leave began before 1 March 2020, the employee cannot be furloughed until the date it was agreed the leave would end when it commenced. If that date was uncertain because the end date depended on a particular circumstance, completion of a particular purpose, or occurrence of a specified event, the unpaid leave must still end when that circumstance occurs, the purpose is completed, or the event occurs.

  • However, the employer and employee could agree to vary the end date of a period of unpaid leave if that agreement was reached after the unpaid leave began and before 20 March 2020.

  • If such an agreement to vary was reached, the date that agreement was made is taken as the date the unpaid leave began (rather than the actual real date). Therefore, an employee whose period of unpaid leave began before 1 March 2020, but who subsequently agreed between 1 and 20 March 2020 to vary the end date of that leave, is taken as beginning their unpaid leave on the date the agreement to vary was made. This will put them in the category of people who started unpaid leave from 1 March onwards and builds in flexibility to end the leave early and furlough them.

Managing staff on furlough

Staff that were furloughed from the start of the scheme to the end of June could not undertake any work for your company or any linked or associated organisation. If they did, you could not claim the Government grant for their wages under the Scheme. Since 1 July 2020, a flexible furlough scheme has been in place which allows employers to bring back furloughed employees on a part-time basis and still obtain assistance from the Scheme for the hours not worked, up to a certain limit. These employees will still be within the remit of the furlough scheme but the requirement to cease all work will not apply.

Employees are able to undertake training and do volunteer work, as long as they do not provide services to or make any money for you or any linked or associated organisation. If training is done, it is likely that this will need to be online because of the social distancing measures in place. Furloughed employees undertaking training should be paid as normal for the time.

Where the second Treasury Direction is followed, there is no requirement for the training to be directly relevant to the employee’s employment or agreed with them before being undertaken. The first Direction, on the other hand, required the training to be both directly relevant to the employment and agreed with the employee.

Directors are permitted to undertake limited tasks as part of their function without it falling into the category of “work” which cannot be done during furlough. The Treasury Directions provide that work undertaken by a director to fulfil a legal obligation to file company accounts or provide other information relating to the administration of the company is permitted. The second Treasury Direction (which applies to claims submitted on or after 22 May 2020 or before that date if compliant with it) confirms that directors may also make a claim to the Scheme in respect of an employee, and make a payment of salary or wages to an employee without breaching the requirement of the Scheme to cease all work.

While on furlough, employees who are union or non-union representatives may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However, in doing this, they must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

While furloughed, staff may wish to get second jobs. In this situation, your normal rules on employees getting second jobs should still apply; however, you may wish to be flexible in the circumstances. It will be in your best interests to continue any restrictions on other employment which may create a conflict of interest, such as work with a competitor or client.

Staff may also wish to volunteer while furloughed, such as for the NHS. If you do allow your employees to take on other work during their normal working hours, or if they do volunteer, you should ensure that they understand that they must be available for duty when work is available again.

Requesting staff to return to work

It is advisable to provide as much written notice as is reasonably possible. While Government guidance does not outline what should be considered reasonable, employers should consider providing at least one week’s notice. This gives staff time to get their personal situation in order; for example, they may need this time to make arrangements for childcare.

Employers can ask staff to volunteer to come back in off furlough, something that may prove popular if staff have been receiving 80% of their wages. This can be a useful way of managing a situation where employers do not want their staff to all return at once. If too many volunteer, employers should then consider different processes, such as a rota system or asking staff to return part-time. Alternatively, they may also need to implement a selection criteria. Any procedure put in place should be non-discriminatory.

Furlough and disciplinary procedures

Generally, procedures such as a disciplinary can take place during a period of furlough but it may have been decided to postpone them during lockdown. As workplaces reopen, employers may now wish to recommence them. In doing so, they should consider if all parties required, such as managers and witnesses, are available. Although it is understood that furloughed staff can provide witness statements, it may make the process easier to wait for them to be taken back off furlough. If there are any further delays, these should be clearly communicated, in writing, to all parties.

Managing annual leave during furlough

During a period of furlough, statutory annual leave of 5.6 weeks per leave year continues to accrue. Staff unable to take their full statutory leave entitlements as a result of the coronavirus, such as being furloughed, can carry over their leave into the next two leave years. This only counts for statutory leave - it is up to you if you continue to let contractual leave accrue; however, this should be specified when seeking agreement to furlough.

Annual leave can be taken during furlough but you must pay the employee normal pay during it. Please refer to our FAQs on furlough and the Job Retention Scheme for more information.

Calculating furloughed staff wages

For salaried employees’ pay, you should consider what they earned in the last pay period prior to 19 March 2020.

As you remain liable for National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff, the Government will also cover the associated employer National Insurance contributions and minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions on the reduced wage (see Tax, National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff below.

Guidance published on 15 April 2020 clarifies that, if, based on previous guidance, you had calculated your claim based on the employee’s salary as at 28 February 2020 (and that differed from their salary in their last pay period prior to 19 March 2020), you can choose to still use this calculation for your first claim.

The situation for those with variable or irregular pay is different. If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full 12 months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from the previous year, or

  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, you can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

Commission, bonuses and discretionary payments are not included when calculating pay. All elements that you are obliged to pay your employees such as wages, past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments can be included.

From the start of the Scheme until the end of July 2020, you could claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ wages as well as employer National Insurance and auto-enrolment pension contributions.

Keeping employees on furlough from August onwards, whether on “full” furlough or “flexible” furlough means that you need to start contributing to the wage costs.

From August 2020, you need to fund the employer National Insurance and auto-enrolment pension contributions on the furlough wages.

During September, the Government pays 70% of wages up to a cap of £2187.50 for the hours the employee does not work. You pay employer NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2500.

During October, the Government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1875 for the hours the employee does not work. You will pay employer NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2500.

Tax, National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff

Payments made to furloughed employees will be subject to PAYE and National Insurance contributions.

You remain liable for National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees. However, the Government cover, in addition to the 80% of staff wages, National Insurance contributions associated with that (capped) payment, plus minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions in respect of that (capped) payment until the end of July 2020. Liability for these elements has now passed back to employers from the start of August 2020.

Applying for the Government grant

The HMRC online portal to apply for staff wages opened on 20 April 2020. Claims can be backdated to cover staff furloughed since 1 March 2020.

Employers can make one claim every three weeks. Since 1 July, claim periods cannot overlap calendar months. In submitting the claim, you should access the portal and have the following information to hand:

  • your company’s PAYE reference number

  • the amount of staff you have furloughed

  • the National Insurance numbers, names and payroll/works numbers of those being furloughed

  • your company’s self-assessment or corporation tax unique taxpayer reference or company registration number

  • the start and end dates for the period of furlough being claimed

  • the amount that is being claimed as worked out by yourself (see Calculating furloughed staff wages above)

  • your company’s contact details, bank account number and sort code.

You can’t make more than one claim during a claim period, so when preparing to make a claim you need to decide the length of the claim period. This means you should include all the employees that you want to furlough for that claim period, because you won’t be able to make another claim for the same period or one that overlaps, and you can’t make changes to your claim once it is submitted. In deciding what your claim period is, it helps to think about how frequently you run your payroll.

Government guidance states that once a claim is made, it will be checked and the grant paid within six days.

Taking staff off furlough

Staff can be furloughed more than once, depending on the needs of your business. However, each period of furlough had to last for at least three weeks in order for you to make a claim for their wages. You can also rota staff in and out of furlough if you wish. However, an employee who is to be furloughed from 1 July onwards must have been furloughed for a period of three weeks prior to this date. This does not apply to employees who are returning from maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave or a period of mobilisation with the Reserve Forces which started before, and ended after, 10 June where they are returning to work for an employer who has previously furloughed employees.

If you wish to end a period of furlough, you should notify the employee when you expect them to return to work. You should also make clear if this is to be in the workplace or working from home.

Depending on your circumstances, it may also be necessary to extend a period of furlough. Again, notification should be provided to the staff member.

Furloughing staff in early year’s provision, children’s social care and education

There are various types of support open to these industries. However, all relevant organisations should first consider any potential options to reduce their operating cost and secure commercial loans, eg Business Interruption Loans, before seeking to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or seeking specific support from the Department for Education (DfE).

Educational settings that are in receipt of some public funding should only furlough employees if they meet the following conditions:

  • the employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and where their salary is not covered by public funding

  • the employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off

  • the employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded

  • (where appropriate) the employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or vulnerable child

  • the grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would not lead to financial reserves being created.

Early years providers

The Government will continue to pay local authorities for free early years entitlement places for 2, 3 and 4–year-olds to support providers at this time.

A private provider should only furlough employees, and therefore seek support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if they meet the conditions set out above.

If it is difficult to distinguish whether staff are funded through free entitlement or private income for the purposes of meeting the first three conditions, then an early years provider can access the JRS to cover up to the proportion of its pay bill which could be considered to have been paid for from that provider’s private income. This would typically be income received from “parent-paid” hours, and excludes all income from the Government’s free entitlements (or “DSG income”) for all age groups.

In line with the conditions of the scheme, providers should initially use the month of February 2020 to represent their usual income in calculating the proportion of its paybill eligible to be covered by the scheme. Providers should adjust these proportions in subsequent furloughing applications if their income from the Government’s free entitlements changes, but are not expected to make any adjustments in relation to changes in parent-paid income.

For example:

If a provider’s average monthly income is 40% from DSG and 60% from other income, the provider could claim CJRS support for up to 60% of their paybill. This would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary/combined salaries come to no greater than 60% of the provider’s total paybill.

Children’s social care

As placements will continue to be needed, local authorities will continue to pay fees to children’s social care providers so the Government would expect providers not to furlough staff. In the rare circumstances that providers feel they have no choice but to furlough staff, they should only seek support through the Scheme if they meet the conditions above.

Funding for residential care will continue.

Mainstream state-funded schools

The Government do not, in general, expect schools to furlough staff. However, schools may have a separate private income stream (for example, catering, sports facilities lettings, or boarding provision funded by parents in state boarding schools). Where this income has either stopped or been reduced and there are staff that are typically paid from those private income streams, it may be appropriate to furlough staff.

Schools should first seek to make the necessary savings from their existing budget or consider options to redeploy these staff before furloughing them. Only after all other potential options have been fully considered should schools furlough those members of staff and seek support through the Scheme subject to the 5-point criteria above.

Where these conditions are met, schools should receive a grant from the CJRS which is in line with the proportion of its paybill which could be considered to have been funded by a school’s private income.

For example:

If a school’s average monthly private income stream (for example, from parent-paid school meals) provides 4% of the schools’ overall income, the school could claim support through the CJRS for up to 4% of its paybill after exhausting options to meet costs from existing budgets and redeployment. This would be done by furloughing staff (for example, catering staff) whose usual salary or combined salaries are linked with the income lost and come to no greater than 4% of the provider’s total paybill.

Schools are not expected to consider each stream of private income separately so a school should consider its total income from private sources, as a proportion of its overall income, and the pay of all the staff it proposes to furlough, as a proportion of its total paybill.

Supply teachers and other contingent workers in state-funded schools

Where schools are the workers’ direct employer

Schools will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year as usual, regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure. This will ensure that they are able to continue to pay for staff and meet their other regular financial commitments.

The Government expects schools to ensure any employees funded by public money continue to be paid in the usual fashion from their existing staff budgets, and not furloughed.

Where schools have live assignments with contingent workers, and where the school is the workers’ employer, schools should continue to pay these workers from their existing school budgets and not furlough them.

Where schools have terminated contracts with contingent workers due to coronavirus earlier than the original terms set out, and where the school was the workers’ employer under that contract, schools should reinstate these contracts on the terms previously agreed, as long as the contractor is not already accessing alternative support through another Government support scheme.

Where schools are not the workers’ direct employer

Schools are advised to refer to all parts of the Procurement Policy Note 02/20 (PPN 02/20), which provides guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers for the purposes of ensuring the continuity of critical service during and after the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Where schools have agency workers on live assignments who can continue to work, they may continue to make previously agreed payments for the supply of workers in line with the approach set out in PPN 02/20. Agencies who receive money for workers in line with this guidance should not furlough these workers, and should follow the open book accounting rules set out in PPN 02/20 to provide schools with proof that workers are continuing to be paid as normal.

Where schools have agency workers on live assignments who cannot continue to work due to coronavirus (Covid-19), schools and agencies should refer to the guidance set out in Procurement Policy Note 02/20: Contingent Workers Impacted by Covid-19.

The supplier relief guidance covers the length of existing live assignments up to the end date that had been previously agreed. It does not require these assignments to be extended further if the resource will not be required.

Where agency workers are not on live assignments with schools, or where a previously agreed assignment is due to end, schools and agencies should discuss any further demand for the worker. If there is no further demand, the employer can apply to furlough the worker through the Scheme. Once a worker has been furloughed, they become unavailable to work and cannot provide services for their employer for a minimum of 3 weeks. Schools and agencies should bear this in mind when discussing ongoing resource requirements and agencies should keep this under regular review.

High needs funding

High needs funding will continue to be paid to the following types of setting, whether from local or central government:

  • local authority-maintained schools (mainstream, special and pupil referral units)

  • academies and free schools (mainstream, special and alternative provision)

  • non-maintained special schools

  • independent schools, including independent special schools

  • independent alternative provision

  • high needs places in further education (FE) colleges and sixth form colleges

  • special post-16 providers

  • hospital schools.

Teaching and non-teaching staff (administration, operations, maintenance and catering) should not be furloughed where they are funded from continued high needs funding, and where necessary and feasible, should be available for redeployment within settings and in other settings to assist in maintaining provision for vulnerable children and young people, and the children of critical workers.

State-funded residential special provision is delivered in various types of setting, including state-maintained schools, non-maintained special schools, independent schools and special post–16 institutions. While the educational costs will continue to be funded from the DSG, the residential costs are met from social care budgets. Local authorities will continue to receive funding for social care provision and should continue to pay residential costs so that the employment and payment of staff supporting children and young people who require residential provision can continue.

As with colleges, special post-16 institutions may rely on non-grant income for young people with EHC plans. If such income has ceased or reduced, it may be appropriate for special post-16 institutions to seek support from the Scheme to furlough staff who are working on activities relating to those non-grant income streams.

Independent schools

Mainstream independent schools

Independent schools have been asked to remain open for the children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children. Independent schools are, in general, funded by fee income paid by parents. Since schools have closed to the majority of pupils, they, like other businesses, may be facing a sudden and substantial loss of income. These institutions should access support schemes in order to retain staff and enable the school to reopen fully in due course.

However, if there are any activities for which schools continue to receive public funding, such as looked after children placed by a local authority, or local authority support for pupils with EHC plans, the Government expects schools to use that money to continue to pay those staff in the usual fashion and therefore not furlough them or seek support through the Scheme.

Independent special schools

Local authorities will continue to receive their high needs budgets and should continue to pay top-up and other high needs funding to independent special schools, so that the employment and payment of staff supporting children and young people with SEND can continue. Some independent special schools also have pupils who are funded privately instead of under an EHC plan. These institutions should only access support schemes in relation to the proportion of staff that is not supported through public funding, and only to the extent that the school is facing a loss of income because the children have been withdrawn by their parents leading to a loss of fee income.

Further education and apprenticeships

Where the provider is continuing to receive public funding through any of its usual routes they should continue delivering this provision where feasible, including through remote delivery. They should not furlough staff whose salaries are paid from continuing Education and Skills Funding Agency (or any other public) income. This applies to both teaching and non-teaching staff.

The Government recognises that many providers rely on funding from a mix of public sources and other income streams such as fees, employer contributions and commercial income. Where public income has reduced or non-public income has ceased or reduced, it may be appropriate for providers to seek support from the Scheme to furlough staff. Providers should only furlough employees if they meet the five conditions above.

If it is difficult to distinguish whether staff are funded through continuing public funding, for the purposes of meeting the first three conditions, then the total proportion of teaching and non-teaching staff (based on gross payroll) that are retained (for example, not furloughed) should, as a minimum, be equivalent to the continuing public income, as a proportion of all income that the provider usually receives. For example, if the only source of public funding is through a grant, and non-grant income makes up 25% of total income, then this should be the total maximum proportion of staff (based on gross payroll) that could be furloughed.

Where providers consider furloughing staff, they should ensure that they take a fair and reasonable approach to part-time, sessional and temporary staff, reflective of good HR practice and legal requirements.

Higher education

The Government expects that in most circumstances, HE providers will be able to continue paying their staff as usual because HE delivery has largely moved online, and staff are maintaining key services, including those for students remaining on campus.

If HE providers meet the criteria for financial assistance such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) they should consider applying for these. Where those schemes are not appropriate, HE providers are eligible for the Job Retention Scheme. HE providers should only furlough employees and seek support through the Scheme if they meet the 5-point conditions.

If it is difficult to distinguish whether staff are funded through public or commercial income for the purposes of meeting the first three conditions, and some staff will be funded through multiple sources, as a guiding principle, HE providers should not seek to furlough a higher proportion of their wage bill than could reasonably be considered to have been generated through commercial income, including from non-public research grants and contracts. It is likely that decisions on whether to furlough staff will need to be taken on a case by case basis.

Where research work has been paused (for example, where grant holders have requested a no-cost extension to UK Research & Innovation grants) and therefore providers are not able to receive payments towards staff costs for a period, resulting in a loss of income due to ceased or reduced delivery of research programmes, providers should consider their eligibility and apply for the wide range of financial support that HM Treasury has already announced for businesses, including the Scheme in line with the above conditions.

Government steps to avoid fraudulent claims

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated, in his Government briefing on 8 April 2020, that the Scheme had been put together in a way to prevent spurious claims. HMRC’s Chief Executive, Jim Harra, confirmed measures had been put in place to minimise fraud, which were:

  • the requirement for an employer to have already been authenticated by HMRC

  • a four- to six-day payment processing period to allow background checks

  • checks on employers after a pay-out has been made to verify a claim was real.

Payment of the grant will be withheld or repayment required if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information or was found to be fraudulent. A hotline has also been set up on which employees can report employers’ abuse of the system.

The Job Support Scheme

On 24 September 2020, the Chancellor announced a new scheme, the Job Support Scheme, which is set to replace the Job Retention Scheme when it ends on 31 October 2020.

Through use of this scheme, employees will work a third of their normal hours and their employer and the Government will partially fund the rest of the time in which they do not work. The scheme will run from 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021.