Furlough: a guide for employees
This article was written on 9th April and published on 14th April. Changes in the law or guidance from the government since that date won’t necessarily be reflected below.
The word “furlough” wasn’t in most of our vocabularies a couple of months ago, and now it’s one of the most prominent things on people’s minds.
Here, I want to clear up any confusion over what furloughing is, and also offer some practical and emotional guidance for any employees who have been impacted in some way, whether it’s themselves or colleagues.
What is furloughing?
Furlough is a temporary leave of absence from your current place of employment. You’ll still be on the payroll and still classed as an employee, but your employer has deemed that either there’s not enough work for you right now, or they’re unable to operate by maintaining the same level of salary rates.
This is not the same as redundancy, which is permanent layoff from your employment. You can read more on your rights with redundancy here.
On furlough from Gov.uk – “This is a temporary scheme in place for 3 months starting from 1 March 2020, but it may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy. However, all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government recognises different businesses will face different impacts from coronavirus.”
What does it mean for your salary?
When on furlough, an individual is entitled to up to 80% of their salary, up to a maximum of £2,500.
It is up to your employer if they are willing or able to cover the remaining 20%.
Wages can be backdated until 1st March 2020.
Tax and National Insurance contributions will still need to be paid.
If you’re struggling financially because of furlough, you may be entitled to support through the welfare system, which includes Universal Credit. More on that here.
If you’re in the position where you need to ask for support or help, or claim benefits, that’s okay. There can be some shame or stigma attached to asking for financial help, but you’ve got nothing to feel ashamed about.
This is a crazy situation for everyone involved, and no one is judging if you need a little help right now.
Is your employer eligible for the furlough retention scheme?
If you want to find out the answer to the above, you can read more here.
If you’re worried about your rent
If you have any worries about your rent, you can find out what government support is available here.
And for information on benefits and Universal Credit – check here.
If you have been furloughed
It feels really important to start by saying that whatever you’re feeling is normal.
Shock, anger, resentment, grief, sadness, guilt, happy, excited, or any other feeling that’s coming up for you – it’s normal.
Don’t beat yourself up for however your feeling – trust that the process, and the way that people respond to that process, will be different for everyone, and that you’ll find your own way of getting through it.
It also feels incredibly important to say it’s not your fault. It’s not your employer’s fault, or the government’s fault.
External forces, that very few people were prepared for, are at blame here, and it’s important you don’t take your situation as being anything that you’ve done, or attribute it in some way to your self-worth.
We’ve got to believe that the majority of people are doing the best they can right now. It’s a weird, weird time for everyone, and there’s no rulebook on how to get this right. Everyone is just looking at everyone else hoping some other company or country has figured it out.
So blaming others right now won’t do anyone any good.
Focus on your immediate situation – financial, mental, physical and any other needs you have right now. Ensure that you have all your basic needs covered to survive.
Slow down, take stock, and give time to let things settle.
There’s also nothing in the rules about not being allowed to work elsewhere while on furlough – this will be down to the discretion of your employer and your contract, so check with them first.
If you haven’t been furloughed
It may be that you are carrying a range of feelings right now, and know that all of them are okay; whatever is on your mind.
Perhaps you feel resentment, or even anger, at colleagues who aren’t needed to work while you have to keep going.
Or, on the flip side to that, perhaps you feel guilty that you’ve been chosen to remain.
Maybe all of this is making you feel angry towards your employer or towards the investors or c-suite of your business.
You might be asking “why can’t they have done more to protect people?”
Or perhaps you’re directing your anger at the government.
But, and to copy myself from the above section: We’ve got to believe that the majority of people are doing the best they can right now. It’s a weird, weird time for everyone, and there’s no rulebook on how to get this right. Everyone is just looking at everyone else hoping some other company or country has figured it out.
So blaming others right now won’t do anyone any good.
Focus on your own situation and trust that your employers are doing the best they can with what they currently know.
If you’re thinking about the future
The word “uncertainty” is getting thrown around a lot at the moment, and it’s probably fair to say that the majority of people are thinking about the future in some way.
If you have been furloughed, haven’t, or you’re not sure if you’re going to be, the future is likely playing on your mind in some way.
The best we can do at the moment is to take each day and each week as it comes. It’s fair to say that, at the time of publishing this, literally no one around the world knows exactly what the future of all of this looks like, and it’s a situation which develops pretty much daily.
Do what you can to control as much of your situation as possible – there’s no harm in speaking to your manager or your boss about your uncertainty around work to see if there is any further information they can give you.
Speak to a friend, family member, colleague or someone else that you trust around how you’re feeling.
Keep up-to-date with government updates around their plans for businesses so that you can stay informed.
Remember – there will be few people right now who aren’t thinking about the future in some way, so you’re not alone.
Stay connected with your team
Furloughing doesn’t mean you need to completely cut ties – whether a colleague has been furloughed, or you yourself have, you don’t need to put yourself into a complete state of distancing from them.
The rules are that those on furlough can’t contribute or be a part of things that will directly impact the revenue of the business.
That doesn’t mean they can’t still be a part of meetings that don’t fall into the criteria above, socials, scheduled “water cooler chat” replacements, and anything else where they just want to catch up with the team.
In fact, it’ll help to keep up a sense of normality within the business.
For a comprehensive article on employment help during Coronavirus, MoneySavingExpert’s guide here is very useful.