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Human Resources

 

Q. What does furlough mean?

The term ‘furlough’ means a temporary leave of absence for employees, during which they are not required to work. The term has been adopted by the Government when setting out arrangements under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to support employers, and employees, in response to the unprecedented situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If an employee is temporarily unable to carry out their work for reasons relating to the coronavirus, they can be classed as being on furlough leave.

The CJRS covers employees and workers (including TES and UPS workers).  For ease of reference, in these FAQs the term “employees” is used to cover all eligible individuals.

Q. Is furlough the same as the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)?

No, but they are related.  The Government has introduced a scheme – CJRS –  whereby employers can apply for a grant to cover a proportion of an employee’s wages (subject to a cap), where an employee has been furloughed by reason of circumstances arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to access the scheme, employers need to place employees on temporary furlough for at least 3 weeks.

The University’s furlough scheme operates on the same principle (a temporary leave of absence for employees, during which they are not required to work) and the University will subsequently decide whether or not to apply for a grant under the CJRS making a determination that considers a number of factors including the way in which the post is funded.  Regardless of whether an application will be made, the University has decided that it will top up employees’ pay so that they will continue to receive their contractual pay as normal.

Q. Why is the University furloughing staff?

There are a number of roles at the University, all of which are extremely valuable, but which are very difficult to carry out when we have been asked to work from home as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. In addition, University activity has scaled back considerably as students are now studying remotely. The University needs to furlough the affected staff in order to mitigate the cost to the University by potentially making a claim under the CJRS. It also hopes that furloughing those staff who are unable to work will provide some certainty and security to those individuals.

Q. Why has my post been furloughed?

The decision to furlough roles is not in any way related to the value placed on the role by the University.

We have prioritised roles that cannot be undertaken at home at the present time.

The identification of which roles should be furloughed has been determined by which roles are unable to be carried out remotely. Where there is room for some discretion, e.g. where a skeleton staff is required, individual skills, circumstances and wishes will be taken into account wherever possible.

Q. What does this mean for my employment with the University?

Being furloughed has no impact on your employment status at the University and you will retain all of your normal employment rights. Your continuous service is unaffected and at all times you will remain employed by the University. This also means that the obligations placed on you as an employee, e.g. in relation to confidentiality, continue to apply.

Q. Does being furloughed mean that my role is redundant?

No. The decision to furlough roles has been taken as a short-term measure to deal with the immediate operational and financial challenges that the University is experiencing.

Q. Does being furloughed mean I’m more likely to be made redundant in the future?

No. In the event that there is a need to make posts redundant in the future, decisions will be made on the future needs of the University and not on whether your role was furloughed or not.  

Q. What happens to my pay while I’m furloughed?

Your pay will be unaffected by being furloughed. Whilst the CJRS will enable the University to apply for a grant to cover 80% of the pay of furloughed staff (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, per individual) the University has decided that it will top up employees’ pay so that they will continue to receive their contractual pay as normal.

Q. Can I do any work while I’m furloughed?

You must not do any work for the University while you are furloughed.

Q. Can I access my emails?

We recognise that some people use their work email for personal matters so you will still be able to access your emails. However, you must not send or respond to any work-related emails while you are furloughed.

Q. Can I still work on my laptop whilst on furlough?

You are not permitted to work while you are furloughed but you can continue to use your laptop for personal use.

Q. Can I get in touch with my work colleagues?

Yes, maintaining social contacts with your work colleagues is absolutely fine while you are furloughed.

Q. I am a researcher. What can or can’t I do while on furlough?

Work that benefits the University is not allowed but development activity is. Therefore, a member of research staff could, for example, read articles to improve their understanding and to stay up to date with their subject, or to learn about related fields, and undertake on-line training courses to develop new skills.  They could not work on papers that are to be published, write briefings or literature reviews to share with their teams or develop ideas or develop future grant applications to be submitted on behalf of the University.

Q. How long will furlough last for?

The duration of your period of furlough will be based on your ability to perform work e.g. where you are unable to work because, for instance, your building is closed, you do not have access to IT equipment/systems, or, you have additional caring responsibilities as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. For research staff, this may also include a change to your funding.

The University has extended the furlough scheme to 31 October 2020, in line with the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Your letter will confirm the initial duration of your furlough period. However, you should be mindful that this could be ended earlier, if operationally necessary. You will be contacted if this is the case.

Only those staff who have had at least one 3 week qualifying period of furlough before the 30 June are eligible for the CJRS in the period 1 July to 31 October.

Q. What happens when furlough ends?

You will be contacted and you will be expected to return to work on your contracted hours and working pattern. Your manager will speak to you about anything that might assist your return and will oversee arrangements.

Q. Do I have to be available for work while I’m furloughed?

Whilst you don’t need to be available for work while you’re furloughed you should bear in mind that we may need to ask you to return to work at relatively short notice as Government guidance on dealing with Coronavirus is changing regularly. We will endeavour to give you as much notice as we possibly can, but if you would like to protect any particular period of time you are advised to request annual leave (see the question below for more information about annual leave during the furlough period).

Q. What happens to my annual leave while I’m furloughed?

You will continue to accrue annual leave while you are furloughed and any pre-booked annual leave during your furlough will not be cancelled. You can request annual leave during furlough and it is advisable that you do so for any days you wish to protect as leave, given that you may be asked back to work at short notice. As with all other staff, you should aim to take all remaining annual leave by the end of the current leave year. We all need to take time to recuperate and recharge, which is particularly important during this time. However, please note that the following exceptional and temporary carry forward arrangements have been put in place in response to the current COVID-19 situation:

  1. Staff that cannot take all of their leave entitlement by the end of the current leave year due to circumstances related to coronavirus will be entitled to carry forward any leave remaining at the end of the current leave year (2019/2020), to use by the end of the leave year 2021/2022. This provision was brought in by the Government as a temporary COVID-19 measure and applies specifically to:
  • Staff that have been asked to defer annual leave to undertake critical coronavirus-related research and, as a result, do not have the opportunity to take all remaining annual leave before the end of the current leave year.
  • Staff that have had to take sick leave as a result of coronavirus.
  1. Where the above does not apply, staff are encouraged to utilise their annual leave in the current leave year wherever possible, so that they can benefit from the break from work. However, in light of the current COVID-19 situation the University has agreed an exceptional and temporary increase to current carry forward provisions, which allows the carry forward of up to 10 days of untaken annual leave from the current leave year (2019/2020) into the next leave year (2020/2021). Any carry over should be prorated in the normal way.

You should discuss annual leave plans with your manager at the earliest opportunity. Your manager will need to ensure that annual leave requests are managed in a fair and equitable way and planned around business critical needs.

Q. Will I still pay tax and National Insurance?

Yes, your pay will be subject to the usual deductions.

Q. What happens to my pension while I’m furloughed?

Your pension contributions will continue during the furlough period and the University will maintain the employer contributions also.

Q. Who pays me while I’m on furlough, the University or the Government?

You will continue to receive your pay from the University. The University will apply for funding to cover 80% of your pay (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month) from the Government where possible, but this does not affect your pay arrangements.

Q. What happens if I’m ill while I’m furloughed?

You should follow the usual sickness reporting procedures.

Q. How will you stay in touch with me while I am on furlough?

Your manager will maintain contact with you as appropriate during any periods of furlough. Please ensure your contact details are up to date on Employee Self Service. When you return to work, an appropriate re-induction will be carried out to help you settle back into your role.

Q. Can I be furloughed if I am absent from work because I am sick or self-isolating?

If you are absent due to long long-term sickness (defined as 4 weeks or more) the University may furlough you (with your agreement) depending on the circumstances. This will be considered on a case-by-case basis and you will be kept informed. 

Q. I am on (or about to take) a form of paid family leave, how does this impact furloughing?

If you are taking, or planning to take, a form of paid family leave during the proposed furlough period you are entitled to take that leave in the normal way (inclusive of any statutory payment, for example maternity pay).  This covers maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. Please ensure that you inform your manager about such absences in the normal way.

However, if you are returning from a period of paid family leave after 10 June 2020, it may be agreed with your department/institute that you start a period of furlough.

Q. What is 'flexible furlough'?

In line with the CJRS, from 1 July staff who are on furlough will, where appropriate and agreed in advance with the University, be able to undertake work on a part-time basis.   Only those staff who have had at least one 3 week qualifying period of furlough before the 30 June are eligible for the CJRS in the period 1 July to 31 October. These individuals will receive a flexible furlough agreement. Departments are required to agree any new working hours or patterns with the member of staff in advance and confirm this in writing to you.

Q. Will I receive my usual pay if I have received a flexible furlough agreement?

Yes, the University will still pay your normal salary and therefore your pay will remain unaffected.

Q. How will my hours be recorded whilst I am on a period of flexible furlough?

Having agreed your hours and work pattern with you, your department/institute will keep a record of how many hours you are working and submit this to the HR Coronavirus team so that this can be included for the CJRS claim that month.