Coronavirus: your questions answered
Important explanation of employers' obligations
The furlough scheme does not pay all of an employee’s salary – do I have to top up their pay to the full amount?
The guidance says that this is voluntary – but it is in reality a matter for the contract of employment. For most employees on a salary, or with a guaranteed minimum number of hours the employer remains obliged to pay the employee in full if it is not in a position to offer work. To that extent the furlough scheme subsidises the employer’s wage cost but does not replace the obligation to pay wages.
If there is a clause in the contract allowing the employee to be laid off without pay then the payments made under the furlough scheme will be in addition to the employee’s contractual entitlement and there will be no obligation to top up the employee’s pay to the full amount.
This means that even with the benefit of the furlough scheme the employer may be facing a substantial contractual obligation to employees for whom it can provide no work. One option is to agree a temporary reduction in salary so that the amount paid by the furlough scheme represents the full amount to which the employee is entitled. The employer could make the employee’s consent to such a change dependent on the employer designating them as furloughed rather than making them redundant.