Jo answers your furlough questions

As the impact of the latest lockdown takes effect, Jo Moss answers your questions surrounding when an employer can use the furlough scheme.

Questions include the following:

  • Can I furlough someone who is shielding?
  • What about a parent who can’t work due to home schooling?
  • I’m self employed, can I furlough myself?
  • Plus many more!

Furlough Q&A

Over the past few months, there has been uncertainty as to whether employers can furlough employees in specific situations. Jo Moss from Moss HR answers your questions regarding a number of individual circumstances based on new guidance provided by HMRC.

Q. Can I furlough a team member if they unable to work from home?
A. The updated guidance from HMRC states the employers can (but do not have to) furlough employees where something prevents them from taking up work. In this case, if there is a genuine reason why they cannot work from home, you can furlough the staff member.

Q. My employee has been asked to shield because of their high risk, they can’t work from home because of the nature of the job. Can I furlough them or do I pay them sick pay?
A. The latest guidance confirms those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus, should follow public health guidance and stay at home. In these circumstances, you are eligible for the furlough scheme and do not need to pay them sick pay.

Q. There is plenty of work for my team but it can’t be done from home. Are they ok to still come into the office?
A. Yes, as long as you have carried out a thorough health and safety risk assessment and all government guidance for your industry has been carried out. You will need to provide documented evidence to support your decision in case there is a later investigation.

Q. My business has been affected by the latest lockdown but I still have some work to do. I would like my team to work part-time instead of full time. Can they be furloughed for some of their hours or should I renegotiate their contracts?
A. The latest furlough scheme does allow for a reduction in hours. Please contact me to discuss the best way to fairly allocate the workload and to ensure you meet the furlough scheme criteria.

Q. A member of my team has been told to isolate but can’t work from home. Can I furlough them?
A. The latest guidance from HMRC indicates you can furlough an employee whose health has been affected by Covid-19. We understand this includes those who have been asked to isolate and who cannot work from home.

Q. I have a parent who has a school-aged child and they are struggling to arrange childcare now the schools are closed. Should I furlough them or discipline them for non-attendance?
A. The guidance clearly states the furlough scheme includes anyone who has caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus such as caring for children who are at home as their school or childcare setting has closed, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household, who cannot work from home.

Please do not discipline the individual for this reason. If you are struggling to cover the individual’s workload, please call me to review your options.

Q. I’m self-employed and have a new hospitality business. We have had to stop all work. Am I personally eligible for the furlough scheme and how do I apply?
A. It depends how the business has been set up. There is help available for sole traders and grants available for businesses forced to close. These may be more appropriate than using the furlough scheme as Director’s who are furloughed full time cannot undertake any workload. Please call me to discuss your individual circumstances.

In all of the above cases, the guidance states you can furlough your employee. However, you are not under any obligation to furlough. If there is a better solution for your business and your employees, you may decide not to furlough.

I would strongly recommend talking to an expert in HR before making any decisions and also to keep documented evidence on the individual’s personnel file to ensure you comply with any future HMRC investigation or employee enquiry.

For further information regarding the HMRC’s guidance, please follow the link:

HR Solutions, Sudbury, Suffolk, Essex

Please do contact me if you have any questions regarding the furlough scheme. It is easier to do it right first time than to unpick it later.
The information contained in the Q&A is accurate as of today and please remember to keep a record of any decisions you make relating to furloughing your staff

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