How can an employer make use of “flexible furloughing” to allow furloughed employees to work part-time from 1 July 2020?

From 1 July 2020, furloughed employees can work on a flexible, part-time basis for their employer (known as “flexible furlough”). The employer can claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the hours that the employee does not work and is recorded as being on furlough.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme states that, if an employer flexibly furloughs employees it must “agree this with the employee (or reach collective agreement with a trade union) and keep a new written agreement that confirms the new furlough arrangement”.

Employers cannot flexibly furlough employees who have not been furloughed before. From 1 July 2020, an employer can furlough an employee only if they have previously been furloughed for a period of at least three consecutive weeks falling any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. There is an exception to this rule for employees returning from statutory family leave and employees who are military reservists returning from active service.

The number of employees included in a single claim, from 1 July 2020, cannot exceed the previous maximum that the employer has included in a claim. For example, if before 1 July 2020 the maximum number of employees that the employer included in any one claim was 50, it cannot make a claim for more than 50 employees from 1 July 2020.

Where an employee is flexibly furloughed, the employer must pay them in full for the time they work. For the time the employee is recorded as on furlough, the employer must pay them at least 80% of their wages (to a maximum of £2,500 per month). The amount that the employer can claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will gradually reduce from 1 August 2020. The HMRC guidance sets out how employers should calculate how much to claim, based on the employee’s usual hours and the hours they work during the claim period.

A flexible furlough agreement can last any amount of time, but each claim period must cover at least one week.

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