By Charlotte Heath | January 15, 2021 | 0 Comments

So what can and can’t you do while on furlough?

To help support businesses and employees throughout the winter months the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended to the end of April 2021. This means that if an employee is furloughed they cannot undertake work for or on behalf of the employer’s organisation, or any organisation linked or associated with the employer’s organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue for any such organisation.

So what can and can’t you do while on furlough?

Can employees undertake training whilst furloughed?

Yes, a furloughed employee can undertake study and training, this can be to maintain their skill set or upskill themselves whilst furloughed, as long as the purpose of this training is to improve the employee’s effectiveness in their employer’s business.

If an employee undertakes training, such as completing an online course, they must be paid the relevant national minimum wage, even if this is more than 80% of their wage, as this qualifies as working time for the purposes of the legislation.

Can employees carry out volunteer work whilst furloughed?

Yes, a furloughed employee is entitled to take part in volunteer work whilst furloughed, including volunteer work that has been organised by the employer that has furloughed them. Employers are also permitted to help find their furloughed employees volunteering opportunities whilst on furlough.

Can an employer make contact with furloughed employees generally?

ACAS guidance recommends that any furlough agreement sets out how to keep in contact during furlough, to provide employees with any important updates on how the business is operating.  Employees may be able to be involved in social and charitable events, be informed, and consulted with about changes happening within the business and take part in HR matters, such as giving evidence in disciplinary proceedings. Although the employee must not participate in any work that makes money for the organisation.

Can an employer require employees to attend business meetings whilst furloughed?

No, on the basis that this would arguably amount to providing services to the furloughing employer.

Can an employer require employees to check their emails?

No, this would arguably amount to providing services to the employer.

Can a furloughed employee participate in promotional activity?

No, on the basis that marketing activity is ordinarily carried out with the purpose of generating revenue for the furloughing employer.

What if an employer urgently needs employees to carry out work but they are currently on full-time furlough?

If an employer needs an employee on full-time furlough to conduct certain work that they would usually undertake, and there is no one else that can assist in the absence of that person, they can either take that employee off furlough altogether or place them on flexible furlough.

Can an employee be disciplined for refusing to work whilst furloughed?

No, and it would be unreasonable for an employer to do so.

What if the employee is conscientious and does work without the employer requiring that?

If an employee carries out work even without the employers request or knowledge, this could still amount to providing services and/or generating revenue for or on behalf of the organisation and prejudice the employer’s ability to claim wages under the CJRS.

It is best for all parties if access to such things as emails or company information is removed while an employee is furloughed. 

What about working for another employer whilst furloughed?

An individual who is furloughed from one job can take on a new job, provided this is permitted by their contract of employment. For example, certain contracts of employment will provide that an employee must not work for another employer during the course of their employment. An employee may seek permission and written consent from their furloughing employer specifying that they may seek temporary employment elsewhere whilst the coronavirus pandemic is on-going.


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