How do you unfurlough an employee?
16 April 2020
The queries about the ‘F word’ (furlough!) keep on coming at the moment – there is lots to grapple with in the new scheme (our latest FAQs about it are available here).
One of the queries we have already started to be asked is what happens when it comes to employees being ‘unfurloughed’ or ‘defurloughed’ (i.e. the employer bringing the period of furlough to an end). This might be because the employer has found that there is more work to be done than they had predicted, or perhaps that other staff have become ill or have had to self-isolate, meaning that the furloughed employee needs to come back to work to provide cover.
Also, it will of course apply to many people in due course once the Government brings the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to an end – the current end date for the scheme is 31 May 2020, but many people expect it will be extended beyond that date.
Check the agreement
The starting point when you are looking at bringing furlough to an end is the written agreement with your employee which you used when they agreed to be furloughed. If you did not get a written agreement to furlough them, or if you need help interpreting the terms of your written agreement, then please contact us for advice.
Assuming that you do have an agreement in writing, that should set out how and when you are able to bring the furlough period to an end. For example, are you required to give any notice to your employee that you expect them back at work, and if so how much notice and how should you issue it? (Even if there is no specific requirement to give notice in writing, we would recommend written confirmation so that there is a paper trail in case it becomes needed).
Check the timing
As you are probably aware, (if not then please see our FAQ article here) the rules of the CJRS state that the minimum period of furlough is three weeks. If you are trying to ‘unfurlough’ someone who has been furloughed for less than 3 weeks, then that doesn’t mean you can’t bring their period of furlough to an end, but you do need to be aware that it means you will not be able to claim the grant under the CJRS for the 80% of their pay (up to a maximum of £2,500) for the time they have been furloughed. Therefore if possible, it may be best to let the furlough continue until they have been away for at least 3 weeks if you can.
If after you have unfurloughed your employee, things change again (work levels drop, cover is no longer required), the employee could potentially be put back on to furlough. Again, a written agreement with them will be required (probably an updated version of the previous one) and the minimum period will be 3 weeks. Some employers have decided to rotate employees in and out of furlough as a way of making things fair between different members of staff – if you plan to do this then it is best to make that clear to all involved.
If you are an employer with queries about furlough and the CJRS, then we can help. Please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat, or email us at [email protected]