HMRC has published updated guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme including the flexible furlough arrangements.
Up to 1 July
Until 1 July, any employees placed on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum of 3 consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed more than once, but they must be furloughed for a minimum of 3 consecutive weeks each time they are furloughed.
Where a previously furloughed employee starts a new furlough period before 1 July this furlough period must be for a minimum of 3 consecutive weeks. This is the case regardless of whether the 3 consecutive week minimum period ends before or after 1 July.
1 July onwards
From 1 July, only employees that employers have successfully claimed a previous grant for will be eligible for more grants under the scheme.
This means they must have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020. For the minimum 3 consecutive week period to be completed by 30 June, the last day an employee could have started furlough for the first time was 10 June.
If you’re claiming on or after 1 July 2020 for 100 or more employees, you’ll need to upload a file containing all the necessary information. HMRC have provided templates for employers to use during this process. These can be found here.
From 1 July, staff can work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest, in proportions decided between employee and employer.
Employers will need to agree the flexible furlough arrangements with the employee (or reach collective agreement with a trade union) and keep a new written agreement that confirms the new furlough arrangement. This agreement will need to:
- be consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws;
- ensure a written record of the agreement is held for five years
- ensure records are held for how many hours employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed (i.e. not working).
Please seek legal advice if any of the above is unclear.
Agreed flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time and employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once. Employers do not need to place all employees on furlough and they can continue to fully furlough employees if they wish.
Please note that employees cannot undertake any work during time that is recorded as them being on furlough. Although flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time, unless otherwise specified the period that can be claimed for must be for a minimum claim period of 7 calendar days.
Please note that from 1 August 2020, employers will be asked to contribute towards the cost of furloughed employees’ wages.
Calculations and claims will be more complex as a result of these changes but HMRC guidance does include worked examples.
The BDO team can also help you in your calculations.