furlough FAQFurlough Scheme

The UK’s unemployment rate has hit 5% for the first time in more than four years, according to official figures which suggest over 200,000 people lost their jobs in the three months to November.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also said 828,000 fewer people were on company payrolls through December compared to the pre-COVID-19 crisis month of February 2020.

In new figures released this month, the UK’s unemployment rate has hit 5% for the first time in more than four years. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also said that there were 828,000 fewer people on company payrolls during December compared to the pre COVID-19 crisis month of February 2020.

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) set to end at the end of March, there are concerns as to what further increases in unemployment rates this will cause.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently told MP’s he is to review all the support schemes for businesses and workers when he delivers his budget in March.

He said of the unemployment data: “This crisis has gone on far longer than any of us hoped – and every job lost as a result is a tragedy.

“Whilst the NHS is working hard to protect people with the vaccine, we’re throwing everything we’ve got at supporting businesses, individuals and families.

“Our Plan for Jobs includes grants and loans so that firms can keep employees on, the furlough scheme to help protect jobs, and programmes like Kickstart alongside record investment in skills so that people can find their first job, their next job, or a new job if needed.”

Employment Law Advice and Guidance 

At Larcomes, our specialist employment solicitors are here to help you deal with a wide range of employment issues and provide advice on everything from employment contracts to unfair dismissal. We realise that being put on furlough can be worrying and certain employment law rights or questions may not have been made clear to you.

These are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding the furlough scheme and rights of an employee:

Do my employment rights still stand whilst I am on furlough? 

Yes, you will continue to accrue continuous service whilst on furlough and your rights as an employee still stand. For redundancy, you will still need to have accrued the two years’ service required to claim a statutory redundancy payment for example, however other statutory rights as part of your employment contract will remain in place.

If I have submitted a grievance before my employer placed me on furlough leave, will the grievance process continue?  

Yes, your grievance procedure can continue whilst you are on furlough leave. It may be that you agree with your employer to postpone it, but it will normally be better for it to continue even if the process will have to be adapted or time frames changed if other employees are working from home as it could take slightly longer than normal. Similarly, if you are on flexible furlough, your grievance process could be carried out on the days and times you are working in the office. You also have the right to raise a new grievance whilst on furlough leave, as long as all the correct grievance procedures are followed.

Can my employer start a disciplinary process against me whilst I am on furlough? 

Whilst on furlough, you are still bound by your terms and conditions of employment. Any breach of this could result in a disciplinary process being brought against you even whilst you are on furlough. If a disciplinary process was started before you were placed on furlough, likely, this can still proceed. Under government guidance, an employee is not able to work for their employer whilst on furlough leave. However, this should not prevent you from being asked to attend a disciplinary hearing and therefore the process could still be allowed to continue.

What are my rights regarding pay cuts?

Even during the current Coronavirus pandemic, employment law rights still stand, and you have the right to refuse to take a pay cut. If your employer does this without prior agreement, then this would be an unlawful deduction of wages, resulting in your right to bring a claim in the Employment tribunal. However, if you do not agree to furlough leave, or do not agree to other measures such as continuing to work but at a reduced rate of pay, then an employer may look to make redundancies as an alternative, but the correct redundancy procedures will have to be followed.

If you have any concerns regarding your employment law rights or have any specific queries regarding a current situation in your workplace, we recommend you see legal advice from an employment lawyer.

Employment Law Specialists 

When you are facing difficulties at work, it is natural to have lots of questions and to be concerned about your job security but with our in-depth knowledge of employment law, we will describe all your options to you clearly and simply.

We will explain what rights you have as an employee and help you plan the best route forward to manage your employment law matter.

Remember you can talk to us in complete confidence and gain reassurance from speaking to someone who understands your situation.

If you have an employment query, contact our specialist employment law department today on 023 9244 8100 for fast advice that is friendly and local.

Find out more about the head of our employment law department – Employment Solicitor David Sumner

Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice, it is for general guidance only and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.