COVID 19 and Furlough Leave: All Your Questions Answered

Tom Street’s 20 point Employee guide to Coronavirus/COVID-19 & Furlough.

As the coronavirus sweeps through the UK, it is having a devastating effect on the UK economy.

Naturally, this is having a massive impact on employees and, ultimately, if businesses are undermined by COVID or experience associated cash flow issues, this will inevitably lead to redundancies. 

In order to mitigate these risks, the government has put in place a number of measures, one of which is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, otherwise known as furloughing.

1. What is furlough/furlough?

Furloughing is when an employer temporarily requires their employee to have some time off work. Under UK law, this temporary arrangement is often referred to as a ‘lay off’ although when you are laid off, you are normally not paid, and you can only be ‘laid off’ if there is a clause in your employment contract providing for this.

2. Can my employer force me to go on furlough?

No. It is voluntary. An employer must ask you to go on furlough and you must agree to this in writing. However, if you don’t agree, there is a higher risk that your employer may make you redundant. You could always agree, subject to your employer paying 100% of your wages – and they may well agree to this!

3. I have already been made redundant due to coronavirus.

You should contact your former employer immediately and be asked to be placed on furlough leave.

4. How long can the furlough period last?

This is up to your employer, and ultimately the availability of the government scheme which is ongoing at the moment (April 2020). The minimum period seems to be 3 weeks (as this is the minimum period of time that a claim can be submitted).

5. Can my employer take me off furlough?

Yes, your employer can put you in an out of furlough, on three week cycles, if this suits them.

6. Will I be paid during furlough?

Yes. If you are eligible, your employer can claim 80% of your salary from the government, excluding commission and bonuses. Your employer may top up your salary to 100%. 

7. My pay varies month-to-month.

What do I get? The furlough scheme provides a mechanism for calculating your average monthly basic pay.

8. Is there a maximum monthly wage that the government will pay?

Yes, £2500 plus tax.

9. Do I qualify?

Probably! As long as you have been on pay roll since 19 March 2020 you are eligible. 

10. I am part time. Does that matter?

No. You can be furloughed if you’re full-time, part-time, an employee on an agency contract or an employee on a flexible or zero hour contract.

11. I am currently on sick leave. Does furlough apply to me?

No, if you are on sick leave, then you should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) instead.

12. I am self isolating. What about me?

You should be receiving SSP.

13. I am in a vulnerable group and as such, am ‘shielding’ in accordance with government advice. What about me?

You can be placed on furlough.

14. Can I work whilst on furlough?

No, you cannot work for your employer or for an associated employer. Nor can you work reduced hours. 

15. Can my employer choose who to put on furlough?

Yes, who is placed on furlough is at the employer’s discretion, but of course, your employer cannot discriminate based on protected characteristics (sex, race, disability etc). 

16. Can I volunteer or do unpaid work whilst on furlough leave?

Yes you can, as long as you’re not generating any revenue for your employer.

17. What about training. Can I do this whilst on furlough?

Yes you can. Your employer should, at the very least, pay you at the national minimum wage whilst training though.

18. I am on maternity leave?

Your entitlement to maternity pay is unaffected. However, if your employer offers an enhanced maternity package, then this can be claimed by them as a furloughed wage cost. 

19. Do I need to do anything to be put on furlough?

No, other than to confirm your agreement to it. Your employer / payroll will do the rest.

20. What about holiday pay?

Your holiday pay is unaffected by furlough. As such, if you have booked holiday in the normal way you should received your full salary during this period, as normal. 

If you have any other questions on furlough leave, please leave a comment below or you can email Tom on

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