COVID-19 FAQs for individuals

Last updated 04/08/2020

Employment

I am unable to take my annual leave this year, what will happen to the days I’m owed?

On 27 March the government amended the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) to allow workers to carry forward unused holiday for up to two years where they have been unable to take it due to COVID-19.

Can I take annual leave while on furlough?

Yes. You will continue to accrue leave in the usual way during your time on furlough. The government have not made it clear what you should be paid but our view is that you should be paid 100% and in line with your salary for the time that you are on leave. Your employer can recover 80% through the HMRC Job Retention Scheme but must top up the 20%.

Can my employer request that I take annual leave whilst on furlough?

The Working Time Regulations allow your employer to require you to take leave. They must give you double the amount of notice that they want you to take as leave. So if they want you to take one week of leave, you would need to be given two weeks’ notice. This does still apply.

So yes, you can be required to take holiday while on furlough but your employer will need to think carefully about this and if doing this means you will  have little or no leave when you come out of furlough, you may want to take advice. Again, you should get full pay while taking holiday even when furloughed.

What is included in the government’s recently announced package of support for the self-employed?
  • If you are self-employed the government will pay a taxable grant worth 80% of your average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2500 per month.
  • This will be available for three months and extended if necessary.
  • You can claim these grants and continue to do business.
  • It is open to anyone of trading profits of up to £50,000.

HMRC will contact you directly and you will have to complete a form. HMRC will then pay the grant directly to bank accounts and the aim is for this to be implemented in June (backdated by three months).

Can my employer temporarily lay me off or reduce my hours?

In order to lawfully exercise lay-off or short-time working, your contract must have a clause allowing your employer to do so. In this situation, you would not receive your normal pay and, depending on the length of the lay-off or short-time working, you may be able to claim for redundancy pay. If your employer wanted to reduce your hours, they would need to consult and reach an agreement with you.

I have been put at risk of redundancy – what happens next?

Your employer should hold meetings with employees informing them that redundancies are possible. Your employer should consider ways of avoiding redundancy but in the circumstances - such as placing you on furlough leave - if there are no alternative options they may be forced to terminate your contract of employment. Your redundancy pay will depend upon your age, weekly pay and length of service.

If you were made redundant after 19 March 2020 (formerly 28 February 2020), your former employer could re-engage you and place you on furlough leave, claiming under the Job Retention Scheme. Ultimately employers should be looking to avoid redundancies by using the scheme.

My employer has told me not to work

To encourage employers not to lay people off or make redundancies, the government initially announced a Furlough Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) that allowed all employers to claim back 80% of an employee’s or worker’s wages subject to a maximum of £2,500 per employee per month.

From 1 July 2020, we have had a ‘flexible furlough’. This change is designed to allow employees to be brought back from furlough on a part time basis. In practice, it means employees can work part time but still be on furlough for the remainder of their contracted hours.

This change will assist those employees that are struggling with being isolated at home and perhaps those that can manage childcare now that some children will be returning to school. Importantly, employers need to ensure that when selecting those that are returning on a part time basis, this is considering objectively and without any discrimination.

August 2020

From 1 August the government will pay 80% of your workers’ pay up to a maximum of £2,500 for the hours the employee is furloughed but employers must pay the employees national insurance (NIC) and pension contributions, these will no longer be recoverable from  the government via the scheme.

September 2020

From 1 September, instead of reimbursing 80% of workers’ pay up to £2,500, your employer will be reimbursed 70% of your pay but importantly, the maximum is reduced to £2,187.50. Employers are required to pay 10% of the workers’ pay up to the £2,500 cap and pay employee’s NIC and pension contributions.

October 2020

From 1 October, the reimbursement will decrease again to 60%. The scheme will pay the maximum of £1,875.  Employers will be required to pay 20% of the employees’ pay up to the £2,500 cap and pay NIC and pension contributions.

The furlough scheme will finally close on 31 October and employees will be released from furlough if they have not been already and employers will have to be ready to take them back to work at the agreed contractual capacity unless consultation has taken place with workers to amend working hours.

My employer has said that I am a ‘Furlough Worker’ – what does this mean?

This means your employer is using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as there is little or no work for you to do. You will still remain employed while you are not working - this is called being a ‘furloughed worker’.

If your employer has selected you to be furloughed, they will need to notify you and obtain your agreement and keep that agreement for five years. If there is no clause in your contract that allows your employer to change your terms and conditions, your employer will need to consult with you and agree this change. There is no requirement to have a response from you in writing but there must be an agreement.

If your employer does not comply with this, there could be an issue in that your wages are being unlawfully deducted and your employer may have a bigger issue in raising a successful claim through the Job Retention Scheme.

You can be furloughed multiple times. In respect to furlough up to and including the 30 June 2020 each period of furlough must be for a minimum of three weeks (21 calendar days). As of 1 July 2020 there is no minimum period of furlough however any furlough arrangement agreed between employer and employee and reported in a claim to HMRC must still cover a period of at least one week.

Can I do any work while furloughed?

You cannot work for an employer that has placed you on furlough leave. You are not allowed to work at all for that employer and you cannot participate in any work that generates income for the business. However, you can complete training.

If you have two jobs and are not furloughed by both employers, you can continue to work for the employer that does put you on furlough. So, you can be furloughed and be paid 80% of your wages but work for another company and receive full pay. If your contract of employment does not allow you to work for another company, you are likely to be in breach of your contract so ensure that you check this first and, if in doubt, take advice.

I am on an apprenticeship scheme – can I be furloughed?

Yes. But your employer must ensure that you are paid in line with the National Minimum Wage. Whilst you are not able to work, you are able to continue with training to further your qualification if possible from home.

I have been advised to self-isolate, what will I get paid?

You will be entitled to SSP (subject to the usual eligibility criteria) if you are self-isolating (your contract of employment may provide for enhanced pay). This also applies to those who are self-isolating as a result of members of their household who have COVID-19 symptoms. You cannot be furloughed while you are off sick and in receipt of SSP but when you are declared fit to return, it is possible for you be placed on the furlough scheme.

The Government launched the new ‘Test and Trace’ system on 28th May 2020 in England. If you are told that you have been in contact with a person that has coronavirus, you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. If this happens to you, you will be entitled to receive SSP.

I have tested positive for COVID-19, what will I get paid?

As long as you meet the usual eligibility criteria for SSP, you will be entitled to the same. You should check your contract of employment as you may be entitled to an enhanced rate of sick pay.

Can I choose to take holiday instead of sick leave?

You may ask to take holiday instead of sick leave however this will generally be at the discretion of your employer who may refuse as annual leave should be used for rest away from work and not recovering from illness. If you are sick, you will be paid SSP or sick pay if you are entitled to it via your contract of employment.

My child’s school has closed and I cannot work– what will I get paid?

In this situation, you would usually be entitled to unpaid time off (time off for dependents). You may request annual leave but this will be at the discretion of your employer. If you are unable to work because you have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19, you can be furloughed but this is ultimately a decision for your employer to make. There is no right to be furloughed on this basis.

If you are struggling to work from home due to caring responsibilities, it is advisable to discuss furlough with your employer but remember, you cannot carry out any work for the business if you are placed on leave.

What are my rights with regards to caring for a sick or elderly relative?

The government has confirmed that employees or workers caring for an elderly or sick relative with coronavirus are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If you need to look after a sick or elderly relative as an emergency you could apply for unpaid leave. If you need to care for a sick or elderly relative on a long term basis you can request to work flexibly or you may request to be furloughed. However, the decision to furlough you will be with your employer.

I am on maternity leave, will the situation have any impact on me?

There is no change to the rules on maternity or paternity leave if you are receiving statutory maternity or paternity pay. If you are entitled to enhanced pay through your contract, your employer can claim 80% of this back through the job retention scheme.

Where can I find further COVID-19 employee information?

The guidance from the Government is being updated regularly. You can find out further COVID-19 information by visiting the UK government COVID-19 employee pages.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.