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Flexible furlough came into effect on 1 July 2020. The information below was last updated on 12 October 2020. 

On 12 June, the Government released further guidance on how the flexible furlough scheme operates from 1 July 2020. This scheme is an adaptation to the original Job Retention Scheme, and has been designed as a way to assist employers bring furloughed employees back into work on a  part time basis while still being able to claim financial assistance from the Job Retention Scheme.

We have set out below some Q&A on the flexible furlough scheme.

Job Support Scheme

On Thursday 24 September 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the Job Retention Scheme is to end on 31 October, to be replaced by the Job Support Scheme from 1 November. Please click here for details. 

What is a flexible furlough?

From 1 July 2020, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern.

You are still be able to claim the furlough grant for the hours your flexibly furloughed employees do not work, compared to the hours they would normally have worked in that period.

How do I put employees on flexible furlough?

From 1 July 2020, only employees that you have successfully claimed a previous grant for are eligible for more grants under the scheme.

This means they must have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020. For the minimum 3 consecutive week period to be completed by 30 June, the last day an employee could have started furlough for the first time was 10 June.

You should have a discussion with employees who you wish to place on the flexible furlough scheme because you will need to agree the arrangements of their part time work. The agreement should be confirmed in writing and you must keep a written record of the agreement for five years.

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. In addition, you can continue to fully furlough employees if you wish.

How long can flexible furlough last?

Flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time. This means that they do not need to last for a minimum of three weeks. However, the minimum claim period is seven calendar days.

Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once.

What do I pay an employee on flexible furlough?

You will pay the employee for the hours they work, along with National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions for those hours.

The scheme will allow you to recover the remainder of wages to a maximum cap which must be paid to the employee i.e. the employee must be paid both full pay for the hours they work and 80% of their wage for their furloughed hours, subject to the maximum cap. Wage caps are proportional to the hours an employee is furloughed. For example, an employee is entitled to 60% of the £2,500 cap if they are placed on furlough for 60% of their usual hours.

The amount that the scheme will cover has begun to decrease from 1 September 2020, with the government  only covering 70 per cent of employee wages for that month. As of 1 October, it decreased again to 6- per cent, meaning you now need to top up the remaining 20 per cent. You are also responsible for all of the national insurance and pension contributions as of 1 August 2020, regardless of the employee being on flexible furlough.

Claims under the new scheme were permitted from 1 July 2020.

When claiming for employees who are flexibly furloughed you should not claim until you are sure of the exact number of hours they will have worked during the claim period. This means that you should claim when you have certainty about the number of hours your employees are working during the claim period. If you claim in advance and your employee works for more hours than you have told HMRC about, then you will have to pay some of the grant back to HMRC.

What records do I need to keep?

You’ll need to keep records of how many hours your employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed during flexible furlough. For example, you will need to record that an employee who normally works for 37 hours a week is actually working for 15 hours and is furloughed for 22 hours.

Can my employees work for me during ‘down time’ in flexible furlough?

During flexible furlough, employees are not allowed to do any work for you or any linked or associated organisation during the periods that you record them as being on furlough.

Employees on flexible furlough can do training during the hours that they are recorded as being on furlough, but must be paid at least national minimum wage for those hours.

How do I calculate normal working hours?

If your employee is flexibly furloughed, you’ll need to work out your employee’s usual hours and record the actual hours they work as well as their furloughed hours for each claim period.

There are two different calculations you can use to work out your employee’s usual hours, depending on whether they work fixed or variable hours.

You should work out work out usual hours for employees who work variable hours, if either:

  • your employee is not contracted to a fixed number of hours
  • your employee’s pay depends on the number of hours they work

Where the employee’s working hours are fixed, or their pay does not vary with the amount of hours worked, the reference period for calculating their hours is the hours your employee was contracted for at the end of the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 2020.

Where an employee works variable hours, you will use the higher of:

  • the average number of hours worked in the tax year 2019 to 2020 and
  • the corresponding calendar period in the tax year 2019 to 2020.

What is the Job Retention Bonus?

On 8 July, the Chancellor announced that employers will receive a £1000 ‘bonus’ for every furloughed employee they bring back to work and continue to employ from the last time that you made a claim to the Job Retention Scheme for them to the end of January 2021, subject to further eligibility criteria. 

Payments will be made from February 2021. Please click here for more information. 

 What is the Job Support Scheme?

On 22 September 2020, the Chancellor announced his Winter Economy Plan which included the Job Support Scheme (JSS). The JSS will begin on 1 November 2020, replacing the Job Retention Scheme when it concludes at the end of October.

The JSS will continue to offer some financial assistance with employees’ wages but will operate in a considerably different way to the Job Retention Scheme. For example, it will only offer a maximum of 22% wage cover and only where employees work for a minimum of one third of their normal working hours.

On 9 October 2020, the Chancellor announced an expansion to the Job Support Scheme to provide assistance to employers who are legally required to close their businesses due to a local, or possibly national, lockdown. From 1 November 2020, employers will be able to claim two thirds of an employees’ wages, to a maximum of £2,100 per month.

For more information on the Job Support Scheme, please see our FAQs