How Long Can a Company Furlough an Employee? Employment

According to government statistics, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected 11.4 unique jobs since being introduced in the UK. With so many of us relying on this scheme over the past year, it’s left many people wondering how long they can be furloughed for. In order to give more details on this and explore the furlough scheme in more depth, we’ve put together the following guide.

How long can I be kept on furlough?

Whether you’ve been furloughed by your company for the first time, or for a long period of time, one of your first considerations is often whether this will eventually expire. The maximum amount of time that your employer can furlough you for relies on the length of the Job Retention Scheme itself. For as long as it’s in place, your employer can continue to keep you on furlough. The only restriction in place is that in order to claim on the scheme, your furlough period must be at least three weeks.

Whilst the job retention scheme is currently planned to stay in place until the 30th September, your furlough situation may start to change either during or before July. This is because the scheme is planned to start winding down, with your employer being expected to contribute towards your 80% salary. With this acting as an incentive for employers to bring staff back into the workplace, you may be asked to take part in a flexible furlough agreement, or in some circumstances you could be laid off.

What is Flexible Furlough?

Initially introduced on July 1st 2020, “flexible furlough” allows employees to be brought back to the workplace on a part-time basis. As a part of this scheme, businesses will be expected to contribute towards their staff’s wages as and when they return. For example, if you’re invited to work for three days and then furloughed for two, you will be paid in full for the three days worked and receive 80% of your salary pro-rata for the two.

Whilst you are being flexibly furloughed, your employers are also able to adapt to any changing circumstances by moving you in and out of both flexible and long term furlough.

What Would Happen If I Was Laid-Off?

If you get laid-off, don’t immediately worry as you haven’t lost your job. It may already be a clause written into your contract where if there isn’t enough work, your employer can lay you off or reduce your hours to short-time working. Which of these applies depends on how your shift pattern changes. If you are off work for at least one day, the government website classes that as being laid-off. However, if your hours are cut, they class that as short-time working.

Unlike furlough, you can be laid off for any amount of time. Whilst you are laid-off, you should be paid in full, unless your contract allows for unpaid and reduced pay lay-offs. If this is the case, you should check out our ‘what is the difference between furlough and laid off?’ guide to see what pay you may be entitled to.

Can I Quit My Job While I’m On Furlough?

If you have been on furlough for a long period of time and have lined up an alternative job, you can quit. If this is something that you wish to do, you just have to hand in your notice as you would if you were still working. You will then be expected to wait out the notice period specified in your contract before being free to take up another job.

Due to the uncertain circumstances that we find ourselves in, we do stress that you should fully consider what you’re about to do before handing in your notice. Consider why you’re making the move and have a conversation with your current employer if it is out of fears surrounding job security.

Contact Building Better Opportunities for Furlough Advice

Here at Building Better Opportunities, we understand how difficult this year has been for those affected by the pandemic in any way. If you have been placed on furlough, laid-off or just have some questions, please contact us. Our advocates will be happy to discuss your options with you going forward and provide advice on your situation. In addition to this, you can also take advantage of our drop-in sessions and job clubs. In these, we aim to provide free employment support and welfare advice across Stafford and South Staffordshire.