Coronavirus: your questions answered
Clarifications on how to apply furlough in different circumstances
Can I bring back employees who have already been made redundant?
The Government is encouraging employers to re-employ staff that were dismissed for redundancy after 1 March 2020 but before the scheme was announced. It seems that the employer will be able to claim in respect of such employees even in respect of the time they were unemployed. There will, however, be no obligation to take this step.
What do I have to do to bring employees within the scheme?
The guidance published by the Treasury says that employees will need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’ and notify them in writing that you have done so. Written confirmation of this agreement should be kept for five years. The online portal through which claims will be made is still being developed. But essentially the employer will simply need to give its PAYE reference number, specify the number of employees being furloughed, the period over which the claim is being made and the total amount being claimed.
The guidance emphasises that HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of an employer’s claim, hence the need to keep the records for five years.
Do I have to place all of my employees on furlough, or can I be selective?
It is clear that the Treasury does not envisage an all or nothing approach. Some employers will need to maintain a skeleton staff even if the majority of their operations are shutting down. Some will only need to send a relatively small proportion of their employees home while other parts of the business carry on almost as normal. It is clear that employers and employees will be able to benefit from the scheme in either scenario.
Can we change which employees are furloughed at any one time – can an employee be furloughed, brought back to work and then furloughed again?
The guidance makes it clear that the minimum period for which an employee may be furloughed and take advantage of the scheme is three weeks. An employee can also be furloughed more than once, meaning that employers can rotate staff in and out of the scheme provided that each rotation is at least three weeks long. This not only allows the employer to focus on those areas of the business that need attention at any one time, but also allows a fair distribution of work and leave among employees.