Frequently asked questions about furlough
Date: 1 June 2020
What does furlough mean?
The term ‘furlough’ is used in the United States to describe a temporary leave of employees due to special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole. The UK’s Chancellor has adopted this term when setting out arrangements to support employers during the Coronavirus outbreak.
The Government has introduced a scheme whereby employers can apply for a grant to cover a proportion of their employees’ wages during this crisis, where the employee’s work is unable to be carried out as a result of Coronavirus. In order to access the scheme, employers need to furlough their affected staff.
Why is the University furloughing staff?
There are a number of roles at the University, all of which are extremely valuable during normal operations, but which are very difficult to carry out when we have been asked to work from home as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. In addition, the activity on campus has scaled back considerably as the majority of students are now studying remotely.
The Government has launched a scheme to help employers reclaim the cost of employing people who are unable to work at home and in order to access it, the University needs to furlough the affected staff.
Why has my post been furloughed?
The decision to furlough roles is not in any way related to the value placed on the role by the University. We have prioritised roles that cannot be undertaken at home and those which are typically funded from external income such as accommodation fees, catering, events and so on.
How has the University decided who should be furloughed and who shouldn’t?
The identification of which roles should be furloughed has been determined by which roles are unable to be carried out remotely. The source of funding has also been another factor, as this is relevant to eligibility for the Government scheme. Where there is room for some discretion, e.g. where a skeleton staff is required, individual skills, circumstances and wishes will be taken into account wherever possible.
What happens if I don’t want to be furloughed?
This is a very difficult time for everyone and the University has a duty to act in a way to protect the interests of all its employees. Therefore decisions on which roles to furlough have been driven by operational need. Where there is some discretion about who should be furloughed, people’s individual circumstances are taken into account as much as possible.
What does this mean for my employment with the University?
Being furloughed has no impact on your employment status at the University. Your continuous service is unaffected and at all times you will remain employed by the University. This also means that the obligations placed on you as an employee, e.g. in relation to confidentiality continue to apply.
Does this mean that my role is redundant?
No. The decision to furlough roles has been taken as a short-term measure to deal with the immediate operational and financial challenges that the University is experiencing.
Does this mean I’m more likely to be made redundant in the future?
No. If there is a need to make posts redundant in the future, decisions will be made on the future needs of the University and not on whether your role was furloughed or not.
Can I do any work while I’m furloughed?
You will not be able to do any work for the University while you are furloughed.
Can I access my emails?
We recognise that some people use their work email for personal matters so you will still be able to access your emails. However, you must not send or respond to any work-related emails while you are furloughed.
Can I still work on my laptop whilst on furlough?
You are not permitted to work while you are furloughed but you can continue to use your laptop.
Can I get in touch with my work colleagues?
Yes, maintaining social contacts with work colleagues is absolutely fine while you are furloughed.
How long will furlough last for?
The minimum amount of time that someone can be furloughed for is three weeks and currently the Government scheme is available until the end of October 2020. We are keeping the situation under review and will keep you updated as the coronavirus crisis unfolds in the coming weeks.
What happens when furlough ends?
You will be expected to return to work on your contracted hours and your existing working pattern. Your manager will organise a re-induction programme to support you in returning to work.
What happens to my annual leave while I’m furloughed?
Any pre-booked annual leave during your furlough will not be cancelled as the normal carry over rules of annual leave still apply.
What happens to my pay?
Your pay will be unaffected by being furloughed. The Government scheme will enable the University to apply for a grant to cover 80% of the pay of furloughed staff (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, per individual) but the University has decided that it will top up employees’ pay so that they will continue to receive their contractual pay as normal.
Will I still pay tax and National Insurance?
Yes, your pay will be subject to the usual deductions.
What happens to my pension while I’m furloughed?
Your pension contributions will continue during the furlough period and the University will maintain the employer contributions also.
Who pays me while I’m on furlough, the University or the Government?
You will continue to receive your pay from the University. The University will apply for funding to cover 80% of your pay (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month) from the Government, but this does not affect your pay arrangements.
Can I get another job while I’m furloughed by the University?
The current rules regarding additional employment which are contained in the Conditions of Service continue to apply. You should seek permission from your line manager before obtaining any additional employment.
Do I have to be available for work while I’m furloughed?
No, you don’t need to be available for work while you’re furloughed. However, you should bear in mind that we may need to ask you to return to work at relatively short notice as Government guidance on dealing with Coronavirus is changing regularly. We will endeavour to give you as much notice as we can.
What notice will you give me to return to work while I’m furloughed?
We will endeavour to give you as much notice as we possibly can but it’s important that you are aware that the response to coronavirus is changing rapidly and so you may be asked to return to work with very little notice.
What happens if I’m ill while I’m furloughed?
As you are not at work while you are furloughed you do not need to follow the usual sickness reporting procedures.
How will you stay in touch with me while I am on furlough?
Your manager will maintain contact with you as appropriate during any periods of furlough. When you return to work, an appropriate re-induction will be carried out to help you settle back into your role.
Are the Unions aware of these arrangements?
Yes, we have consulted with the Unions about the arrangements for furlough.