The situation is changing all the time but as far as we are aware the following is correct as we understand it as of Wednesday 23rd March.
Which companies are eligible under the scheme? All UK businesses are eligible, including charitable, non-profit, public sector, local authorities and so on.
Which workers are eligible? All workers on P.A.Y.E will qualify for 80% of their earnings. This is likely to include most workers, apart from the self-employed who have yet to receive any real support from the government.
The scheme will apply to all workers on the payroll on 1st March 2020. This should include new starters.
How will my pay be calculated? It is still unclear if things like overtime will be included or whether you will receive 80% of your basic pay. The likelihood is that it will be based on your contractual pay which in many cases could include overtime depending on your contract of employment.
Pay should be backdated to March 1st.
There is still confusion as to what period will be used to calculate your pay. If your income does not vary from month to month it should be straight forward to work out your pay. However, if your pay does vary it can be more complex. No doubt, the government will announce a set period to calculate pay, for example your average pay for the last 12 weeks or your earnings for the month of February. While awaiting clarification, you should demand that your employer still pays you, for example based on your pay for February or your last pay cheque.
You can still ask your employer to make up the other 20% of lost earnings.
If the loss of 20% of your earnings puts you in financial difficulties you can try to claim benefits.
Can I work if I am laid off or to use the government’s term “furloughed”? As things stand at the moment you are not allowed to work while being furloughed, though this may change.
It is still unclear in regards to the situation if you have two or more jobs. You should ask your employer to be paid under the scheme in any job where you find yourself laid off or “furloughed”. However, if you are laid off in one job and continue to work in another, you should still ask to be paid under the scheme for the job where you have been laid off.
Can my boss ask me to work while I am laid off or furloughed? At present, your boss cannot ask you to work while being furloughed so you can refuse.
Is the scheme voluntary for employers? The scheme is voluntary so your company does not have to participate. However, your employer will get a full refund for any wages paid out, including associated costs. In the meantime, if they are struggling financially they can also apply for a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Therefore, there is no reason why your company should not pay you, other than them being a set of bastards such as Wetherspoons.
Do I have to accept being furloughed? No. You can refuse to accept to be furloughed and request redundancy instead if that suits you. Your employer must ask you if you are prepared to be furloughed, they cannot simply lay you off.
If I agree to be furloughed, does it alter my existing terms and conditions? No, but you should make this clear when you agree to be furloughed. The best way to do this is by email or letter, confirming that you agree to be furloughed but stressing that you wish your existing terms and conditions to continue. This should include continuity of service and leave continuing to accrue during the period that you are furloughed.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE BEEN LAID OFF?
Do not just wait and see what happens. You should contact your employer and request that you be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Also, talk to your workmates, keep in touch with them and get organised. Contact your employer collectively and make demands. Doing nothing will achieve nothing!
SolFed is putting together a template for a letter you can use to contact your employer demanding to be furloughed under the government scheme. It should be ready shortly. For a copy contact us.