This content was last updated 1 October 2021.
When does furlough end?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ended on 30 September 2021. Employees on furlough received 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Under the extension, businesses had the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis or furlough them full-time. Employers are required National Insurance contributions and employer pensions for all hours worked or unworked.
From 1 August 2021, employers had to contribute 20%. For a summary of the change and example calculations, please visit the GOV.UK website.
When is the deadline for September furlough claims?
September furlough pay must be submitted by 14 October 2021.
What is the process for ending furlough?
There is no set process for ending furlough unless the furlough agreement provides one. However, employers should give employees on furlough reasonable notice that they are required to return to work from either full or flexible furlough and details of any new working pattern, or confirmation that they will return on normal working days/hours.
- This should be confirmed in writing.
- Consult with staff in advance.
- Address any difficulties, concerns or anxieties the employee may have in returning to the workplace (and discuss how these could be overcome).
FSB members can access a template letter “Notification of end of Furlough and Request to return to Normal Working Arrangements” on the FSB Legal Hub.
What if my employee returns to the workplace on their existing (pre-furlough) terms and conditions?
This is likely to apply where the employer anticipates good trading conditions or where no changes to the workplace would impact the employment contract. You should consider induction/refresher training/support (particularly if full furlough). Ensure your employee is aware of any changes to workplace procedures.
The employee’s circumstances may have changed, for instance, a new job during furlough or childcare issues, which may result in a flexible working request. You should:
- Check contract of employment
- Can agree informally and record any agreement in writing as a variation to the existing contract
- Deal with request reasonably – you can only reject a request for 1 of 8 business reasons set out in law (e.g. impact on performance)
- Ensure reason for rejecting is based on evidence
What if my employee returns to the workplace on varied terms and conditions?
This is likely to apply where the employer anticipates challenging business conditions or where changes to the workplace impact the employment contract. Changes can be either permanent or temporary. You should consult with the employee and explain the business rationale for proposed temporary or permanent changes.
What kind of changes?
This depends on your business circumstances. You can either introduce where the contract permits the change or the employee agrees to it.
- Reducing employees’ hours/days of work due to downturn in work.
- ”Private” furlough/lay-off/short-time working.
- Hybrid working/staff work from home.
- Consult with employees and explain the business rationale for proposed temporary or permanent changes.
- Confirm agreement in writing within 1 month of the change.
What is flexible furlough?
Furloughed employees could return to the workplace on a part-time basis if the were eligible. For example, you might have been operating at a limited capacity and required your staff to work fewer shifts.
How do I make a flexible furlough claim?
You will need to submit the following details to HMRC:
- The usual hours an employee would be expected to work, based on the number of hours the employee was contracted for at the end of the last pay period.
- The actual hours worked, or which will be worked.
Find out how to report employees’ wages to HMRC using the PAYE Real Time Information system when you’ve claimed wages through the CJRS.
Find out how to calculate claims for an employee who is flexibly furloughed.
It’s important to remember the following:
- When claiming for unworked hours, employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of seven calendar days, unless a claim is being made for the first or last few days in a month.
- Claim periods must not overlap months.
- The number of employees you can claim for in any claim period must not exceed the maximum number of employees you have previously claimed for through the CJRS.
If you’re unsure, FSB members can refer to the flexible furlough factsheet on the FSB Legal Hub for more information.
What are the alternatives to redundancy?
Redundancies are a difficult decision for any small business owner to make. Although redundancies will reduce your immediate employment costs, there are other factors to be aware of, such as:
- Redundancy payments
- Time spent following processes
- The potential risk of unfair dismissal
- Loss of skills
- Costs of recruitment in the future
There are a number of redundancy alternatives you may wish to consider:
- Redeployment: Moving an employee to other areas of the business where there is more demand, either temporarily or permanently.
- Lay-offs: If it’s not viable to keep an employee on the furlough scheme due to contributions, or they aren’t eligible, you may want to discuss the option of unpaid leave.
- Short-time working or reduced hours: If there is a temporary downturn of work, you might want to place employees on reduced hours outside of the furlough scheme and only pay for the hours they work.
- Short-term or long-term pay reductions: Temporary or permanent pay cuts may be agreed upon by staff to avoid redundancies in certain circumstances. It’s important to ensure that this payment is not below the National Minimum Wage.
In all cases, you must have the employee’s written consent unless their existing employment contract allows you to make these changes.
If the period of short-time working or lay-off is over four weeks or more than six weeks in a 12-week period, employees have a statutory right to treat themselves as dismissed by reason of redundancy and are entitled to redundancy pay (unless the employer serves a counter-notice stating otherwise where certain conditions are met.)
More questions about employment?
With FSB Employment Protection, you have access to all the HR help you need to run your business, including contract templates, detailed guides, and a 24/7 legal advice line.
FSB members have access to a detailed factsheet regarding the furlough scheme and all upcoming changes on the FSB Legal Hub.
- FSB Workplace Pensions offers payroll set up and support to help you comply with PAYE and furlough claim requirements
- How to calculate claims for an employee who is flexibly furloughed
- How to calculate wages, National Insurance contributions and pension contributions for claim periods spanning June and July
- How to report employees’ wages to HMRC using the PAYE Real Time Information system when you’ve claimed wages through the CJRS
HR advice you can trust
FSB Employment Protection is your go-to for HR advice, available 24/7. Speak to employment solicitors for advice, download template documents and have peace of mind with employment tribunal insurance.