Layoffs and hours reduction

Coronavirus poses a threat to many workers’ livelihoods. Whether you are a salaried, fixed contract, zero-hours contract, or self-employed worker, your situation may change rapidly without a lot of warning.

On the 3rd of March 2021, the government announced a further extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), also known as the “furlough scheme”, until the 30th September 2021.

Its aim is to avoid redundancies, and the scheme can offer grants of up to 80% of an employee’s wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

If the business you work for applies for CJRS, they will designate some or all of their employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and will need to notify employees of this change in writing.

If your employer tries to change the terms of your contract or any other status of your employment while designating you a ‘furloughed worker’ please contact us immediately.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is a government scheme which allows employers to ‘furlough’ workers on 80% of their normal pay. This means that instead of sacking you, they can put you on what is called ‘furlough’, so that you remain employed even though you do not work, or work a reduced amount (called “Flexible Furlough”)

If you were on your employer’s PAYE payroll by 30 October 2020 and there is no work or a reduced need for work then your employer can ‘furlough’ you either part time or full time. 

This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being made redundant.

Your employer will claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.

If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

Yes, if you were on your employer’s PAYE payroll by 23‌ September‌ 2020 and were made redundant or stopped working afterwards, you can also qualify be furloughed. 

If you have been made redundant and your employer has not offered to reinstate you and designate you a furloughed worker, please get in touch with us.

Yes, if you have to shield in line with public health guidance, or need to stay at home with someone who is shielding, or have caring responsibilities resulting from Coronavirus, including childcare, your employer can also choose to furlough you.

No, you are still eligible for furlough in all these circumstances.  

Yes, this is called ‘flexible furlough’. So, you will get furlough money for the hours you don’t work and your normal wages for the hours you do work. 

No. If they make you work your normal hours you are not eligible for furlough. 

No, only your employer can apply for you.

Your employer does need you to sign that you agree to be furloughed. 

Technically yes, but your employer should not do this and if they try to make you redundant you should contact UVW immediately.

If you are a member of UVW and are being made redundant instead of being furloughed, you should contact us immediately through our casework form which can be found here.

If you are not a member of UVW you must become one before accessing support. You can join UVW here

Other questions you might have:

Yes – individuals will pay Income Tax and National Insurance on any payments received through this scheme as they are replacement for income in line with normal practise for benefits or grants that replace income.

Yes – employers will be able to apply for a grant to cover the Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions on paying the lower of 80% of regular salary or £2,500 per month.

The CJRS definitely applies to anyone employed through the PAYE system regardless of their employment contract, this can mean salaried employees, those on flexible or zero-hours contracts and agency workers. The scheme can cover part time or full time staff.

The scheme does not apply to self-employed people or contractors.

This scheme aims to support all those employed through the PAYE system regardless of their employment contract, including those on zero-hour contracts.

• Zero-hour and flexible contracts can cover a whole range of working arrangements, and the 80% grant is applied to whichever is higher:

• The earnings in the same pay period in the previous year; or

• The average earnings in the whole previous 12 months (or fewer if they have worked for less time than this, including a part month calculation if they were taken in February).

A worker must be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks for their employer to be eligible to claim under this scheme. This is consistent with the public health guidance seeking to minimise the number of people outside of their homes on a regular basis.

The scheme supports employers asking the maximum number of employees to remain at home during the coronavirus outbreak as possible. A clear minimum period also aids with determining a clear definition of who is and who is not furloughed.

Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this. Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.

If your employer currently has you on SSP, there is no reason you should not be moved to ‘furloughed’ status. If your employer does not approach you about designating you a ‘furloughed worker’ either ask them about the scheme and your applicability, or contact UVW.

If you have more than one job, you can be furloughed by one or more of your employers. Each job is separate, and the cap applies to each employer individually.

Employees can start a new job when on furlough (meaning they might end up earning 80% of the old salary and 100% of a new one). The guidance does say it has to be allowed under the old employment contract, but the old employer should waive that.

This is a difficult question, it is essentially up to your employer which employees are furloughed and which continue working. Any decision to furlough a worker must be consented to by the worker, and equality and discrimination laws still apply to any decisions your employer is making.

If you feel that the decision to furlough certain workers and not others did not comply with equality and discrimination laws, please contact us.

Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed. Again — it is up to your employer to make the decision who to furlough, but you should speak to your boss and make it clear that you would like to be furloughed if possible.

Individuals who are on or plan to take Maternity Leave must take at least 2 weeks off work (4 weeks if they work in a factory or workshop) immediately following the birth of their baby. This is a health and safety requirement. In practice, most women start their Maternity Leave before they give birth.

If you are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance, the normal rules apply, and you are entitled to claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance.

If you qualify for SMP, you will still be eligible for 90% of their average weekly earnings in the first 6 weeks, followed by 33 weeks of pay paid at 90% of their average weekly earnings or the statutory flat rate (whichever is lower). The statutory flat rate is currently £151.20 a week as of April 2020.

If your employer offers you enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay on Maternity Leave, this is included as wage costs that you can claim through the scheme. The same principles apply if you qualify for contractual adoption, paternity or shared parental pay.

You can be furloughed multiple times, i.e. you can be furloughed, brought back to work, then re-furloughed (subject to each furlough period being at least three weeks).

You can find our 9 amendment demands for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme here.

Self Employed Income Support Scheme

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is meant to provide grants for self-employed people for up to 80% of their average monthly earnings over the past three years up to £2,500 a month. You are able to apply for the grant while you continue working.

The government announced it’s third SEISS instalment for profits lost in November 2020 on November 5.

The government explained that the self-employed are “a diverse population” with different profits, and so the scheme will be open to anyone with all of the following:

  • Trading profits of less than £50,000 a year;
  • People who make their majority of income from being self-employed
  • Have a self-employed tax return from 2019

You can access the grant by filling out a form through HMRC.

If you were previously eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme first and second grant, you will be eligible for this one.

You must intend to continue your business, even if you are not working as much right now because of Covid-19 or are not working at all because of it.

The claims window will open at the end of November.

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