Coronavirus: your questions answered

06 April 2020

Furlough, sick pay and maternity questions

Can we place sick employees on furlough or do we have to keep paying them SSP?

The guidance says that an employee on sick leave – or any other form of unpaid leave – will not qualify for furlough. However, once the leave ends the employer will be free to designate the employee as furloughed. Indeed the employer would also benefit from no longer having to pay sick pay. This is something of an anomaly because it means that someone who is actually off sick with coronavirus will actually be worse off financially than a healthy employee who is sent home on furlough. We may see employees declaring themselves fit for work in order to be placed on furlough by their employer. Obviously it is important in such cases that the employee in question does not attempt to actually come into the workplace.

What if a furloughed employee becomes sick?

It is unlikely that an employer would be obliged to notify HMRC if a furloughed employee becomes ill. Indeed as long as the furlough lasts there is unlikely to be any reason for the employee to even tell the employer that they have developed symptoms.

Could someone return early from maternity or adoption leave to benefit from the furlough scheme?

It seems that they could. The operation of maternity and other forms of family-based leave is unaffected by the furlough scheme. An employee on maternity or adoption leave can return to work early provided she gives the employer eight weeks’ notice of the early return (or shorter, if both sides agree). The employer would then be free to place the employee on furlough from the date of her return. Employees should bear in mind, however, that the employer is not necessarily obliged to place them on furlough and may instead find work for them to do

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