Introduction

The Government’s ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ provides UK employers with support for paying the wages of staff who may otherwise have been ‘laid off’ as a result of the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The Scheme has been extended until 30th April 2021.

The scheme involves placing staff on furlough leave due to no work being available, or it not being possible to deliver work from home during the crisis and keeping them on the Payroll instead of making roles redundant. HMRC then reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2500/month (plus associated National Insurance Contributions). This will be paid to the University by way of a grant. 

Both full-time furlough and flexible furlough are permitted under the extended scheme and there is no requirement for individuals to have previously been place on furlough.

This guidance has been updated to cover the key points of the extended scheme.

 

Policy Guidance Principles

The following over-arching principles govern the University’s application of the Government’s scheme:

  • The scheme will be applied in full consideration of the scheme rules as set out by the Government
  • The University has consulted with the campus Trade Unions around the use of the Government’s Scheme and will continue to do so around any related policy changes
  • The University will communicate openly with furloughed workers
  • Where there is a reduction in work across a team (but still some work available), managers will decide who is to be furloughed and who will continue to work by considering the skills and knowledge of the team and any preferences as far as possible. It may be appropriate in some areas to utilise flexible furlough arrangements
  • The University will continue to pay 100% of contracted salary for all workers identified as ‘furloughed’, including pension contributions and access to any other benefits (e.g. childcare vouchers)
  • While furloughed, employee wages will be subject to normal income tax and other deductions
  • Staff on furlough leave remain in employment and therefore will continue to accrue annual leave. Annual leave should be taken as normal whilst on furlough leave, otherwise furloughed individuals remain available for work
  • Those on maternity, adoption, paternity or shared parental leave will continue to receive statutory and occupational benefits as normal. The University can claim for enhanced contractual pay elements for such employees
  • There will be no impact on career progression or future prospects for those staff identified as furloughed
  • Furloughed status is primarily a result of work not being available due to the impact of COVID19 or as a result of work that cannot be productively completed from home. It is in no way an indicator of the continuing value of that work during normal University operations. Colleagues identified for furlough leave should be reassured that this will not be a consideration in or pre-judge any future redeployment, promotion or redundancy process.

Scope

There is no longer a requirement for individuals to have been furloughed previously and furlough can be used on but a ‘full’ or flexible basis. Furloughed individuals must however have been on the payroll on 30th October 2020.

The current extension of the scheme is expected to run until the end of April 2021.

Managers will decide which staff to furlough/flexibly furlough or which staff to remove from furlough leave giving due consideration to:

  • employment law, including equality and discrimination legislation.
  • (for planning a return to campus or another location in any capacity) the University’s COVID19 recovery guides, including, in particular, following the steps outlined in the Managers Guide
  • ensuring the best use of knowledge, skills and experience in order to maintain key day-to-day operations within the University
  • minimising any risk to health and safety (e.g. considering vulnerable workers)
  • supporting those with wider caring responsibilities

The following considerations also apply:

  • Employees on unpaid leave cannot be on furlough leave at the same time
  • Employees on sick leave (or self-isolating) should receive sick pay but can be re-furloughed after this
  • Employees who are ‘shielding’ in line with public health guidance can be furloughed (although are unlikely to have been removed from furlough leave)
  • Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities (including childcare) resulting from coronavirus can be re-furloughed
  • Furloughed employees can take part in volunteering work or training (as long as this is not providing any form of service to the University)
  • Essential roles filled by key workers to ensure continuity of essential University operations are not in scope
  • Roles supporting critical research or the national Covid19 effort are not in scope

Furlough/Flexible Furlough

Under the extended scheme, individuals can be furloughed on a flexible basis up to ‘full’ furlough.

Utilising flexible furlough, furloughed individuals are able to carry out some work and the University will be able to claim the grant from HMRC based on any hours not worked.

‘Full’ furlough (i.e. not working any hours) is likely to apply in cases where individuals are unable to work in their normal role due to Government advice (or its related impacts) and where they are unable to carry out any alternative duties (e.g. working from home).

In general, any furlough process will involve following the same typical steps below (as per the previous policy position):

 Identification and Consultation 

1. All roles and funding types can be on scope of the JRS

 - Roles funded from commercial funds are in scope

 - Roles funded by research funding may be in scope depending upon the funder

 - Publicly funded research may not be in scope

 - Roles funded from general funds are in scope to be identified as furloughed and a business case will prepared at a University level to demonstrate how this meets the requirements of the scheme 

2. Test the impact to the work in that role

- Work may not be available/needed at this time, or there may be a reduced need for work at this time 

- Work cannot be productively completed from home (progress to step 4)

- There is a reduction in that type of work overall and a reduced team of people can reasonably perform the work (or the work can be delivered through a reduced number of hours)

3. Understand and agree how the work requirements could be met with a reduced number of staff or individuals working less hours (flexible furlough). 

- Consider the likely duration of any period of furlough

- Discuss the implications of furlough leave and preferences with individual team members and understand the personal circumstances and responsibilities of each individual

- Understand the opportunity for individuals to be redeployed to other critical work

- Discuss the potential for any rotation of furlough leave and agree in principle what this could look like

Note - If any use of flexible furlough would involve a return/partial return to campus (or another University location) then it is important that line managers look first at the University’s COVID19 recovery guides, including in particular following the steps outlined in the Managers Guide.

- Decide how any work requirements will be met until the end of the period by the team and communicate the decision to the team members

Notification 

5. Notify the individual(s) of the intention to place them on furlough, noting any implications and contact arrangements

 - HR then provides written notification and links to FAQs (See section below on Confirming Furlough/Flexible Furlough below for more information on notification requirements)

6. HR records the period of furlough on CoreHR for each individual

7. Finance will provide notification to HRMC

Monitoring

8. Managers and staff members should remain in weekly contact throughout the period

9. Manager will provide notice where possible of a return to work or change to working pattern 

10. HR will provide written confirmation via email of an end to the period of furlough.

Confirming Furlough/Flexible Furlough

The relevant local HR Team will support with issuing the appropriate notification letters for both full or flexible furlough.

For ‘full’ furlough the notification will confirm the furlough start date (and expected duration if known).

Flexible furlough agreements require more detail as they must outline the working arrangements to be followed.

It is accepted that during these uncertain times it may be difficult to know the exact number of hours required over any given period so flexible furlough agreements will therefore confirm approximate hours to be worked subject to operational need (but will not amount to ‘normal’ working hours). Where possible, weekly hours should remain consistent to minimise administration/management of any changes.

Individuals should not work their full contracted hours in any given week whilst on flexible furlough. Where this is required or likely to occur, furlough should be ended as per the section below (whilst retaining the right to place them back onto furlough leave if required during the remaining duration of the Government scheme).

There is no minimum period of notice required for an individual returning from furlough, however advanced notice of any return should be given as far as operationally possible.

Having confirmed the flexible furlough arrangement in writing, HR will update the individuals record in CoreHR time module based on the number of hours per week notified to them.

Ending furlough

Furlough should be ended where a normal level of work becomes available or where work can be productively carried out from home.

Where work does become available and must be carried out on campus, line managers should ensure this aligns with the latest Government advice and that they have considered the University’s COVID19 recovery guides, including in particular following the steps outlined in the Managers Guide to manage the return. Line managers must discuss changes with staff in line with advice outlined in the guide and notify HR of details so that HR can provide written confirmation of an end to the period of furlough.

There is no minimum period of notice required for an individual returning from furlough, however advanced notice of any return should be given as far as operationally possible.

It is possible for individuals to be placed on furlough again if required during the remaining duration of the Government scheme.