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Furloughing - Frequently Asked Questions

What does Furloughing mean?

The term ‘furlough’ is used to describe a temporary leave of employees due to special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole. The UK’s Chancellor has adopted this term when setting out arrangements to support employers during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Government has introduced a scheme whereby employers can apply for a grant to cover a proportion of their employees’ wages during this crisis, where the employee’s work is unable to be carried out as a result of Coronavirus. In order to access the scheme, employers need to furlough their affected staff. 


Why is the University furloughing staff?

There are a number of roles at the University, all of which are extremely valuable during normal operations, but which are very difficult to carry out when we have been asked to work from home as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. In addition, the activity in campus has scaled back considerably as students are now studying remotely. The Government has launched a scheme to help employers reclaim the cost of employing people who are unable to work at home and in order to access it, the University needs to furlough the affected staff.

 

Why has my post been furloughed?

The decision to furlough roles is not in any way related to the value placed on the role by the University, nor is it any reflection on staff personally or their contribution. We have prioritised roles that cannot be undertaken at home.  Where there is room for some discretion, e.g. where a skeleton staff is required, individual skills, circumstances and wishes will be taken into account wherever possible. 


What happens if I don’t want to be furloughed?

This is a very difficult time for everyone and the University has a duty to act in a way to protect the interests of all its employees. Therefore decisions on which roles to furlough have been driven by operational need. Where there is some discretion about who should be furloughed, people’s individual circumstances are taken into account as much as possible. In the first instance please contact your line manager and discuss any concerns you may have.

 

What does this mean for my employment with the University?

Being furloughed has no impact on your employment status at the University. Your continuous service is unaffected and at all times you will remain employed by the University. This also means that the obligations placed on you as an employee, e.g. in relation to confidentiality continue to apply. 


Does this mean that my role is redundant?

No. The decision to furlough roles has been taken as a short-term measure to deal with the immediate operational and financial challenges that the University is experiencing.

 

Does this mean I’m more likely to be made redundant in the future?

No. If there is a need to make posts redundant in the future, decisions will be made on the future needs of the University and not on whether your role was furloughed or not.    


How long will furlough last?

The minimum amount of time that someone can be furloughed for is three weeks and currently the Government scheme is available until the end of June, although it may be extended. Your letter will confirm the initial duration of your furlough period. However, you should be mindful that your furlough could be ended earlier if operationally necessary, equally it could be extended.

 

What happens when furlough ends?

You will be expected to return to work on your contracted hours and your existing working pattern. Your manager will organise a re-induction programme to support you in returning to work. 


What notice will you give me to return to work while I’m furloughed?

We will endeavour to give you as much notice as we possibly can but it’s important that you are aware that the response to coronavirus is changing rapidly and so you should be available for work and may be asked to return to work with very little notice. You manager will remain in contact with you and will update you as soon as they are able.  You can also contact your manager whilst you are on Furlough if you have any queries.

 

I have not been furloughed at the moment, does this mean that I will not be furloughed in the future?

You might be furloughed in the future.  Roles which are to be furloughed may change in the future based on operational requirements.

 

I am a union representative and have been furloughed, can I still undertake union duties?

Whilst on furlough, you may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of staff. However, in doing this, you must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation. 

  

Pay and other terms and conditions

 

What happens to my pay?

Your pay will be unaffected by being furloughed. The Government scheme will enable the University to apply for a grant to cover 80% of the pay of furloughed staff (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, per individual) but the University has decided that it will top up employees’ pay so that they will continue to receive their contractual pay as normal.  Your pay will continue to be subject to the usual deductions of tax and national insurance, you will remain on the University’s payroll and you will continue to receive your pay from the University. 


What happens if my pay includes contractual overtime or a shift allowance?

If you are furloughed, you will receive your normal pay including any contractual overtime or shift allowance that is associated with your role.

 

What happens to other deductions that are made to my pay every month?

Normal deductions will continue to be made for such things as student loans, union subscriptions and childcare vouchers (unless there has been a mandate for these to cease).


What happens to my pension while I’m furloughed?

Your pension contributions will continue during the furlough period and the University will maintain the employer contributions also. 


What happens to my annual leave while I’m furloughed?

You will continue to accrue annual leave while you are furloughed. Any pre-booked annual leave during your furlough will not be cancelled and you should continue to plan to take annual leave throughout this period. You can be asked to resume work whilst on furlough and may be given short notice to do so, but you would not be expected to resume work if you are on annual leave and instead would resume work once your annual leave period has ended.  

If I am furloughed, can I carry my annual leave forward into the next annual leave year?

No. Recent government guidance has confirmed that staff that are furloughed can take annual leave while on furlough leave, this means that you should plan to take annual leave as normal over the remainder of the year and the normal rules will apply in that annual leave cannot be carried forward into the next annual leave year. 

I thought that the temporary amendment made to the Working Time Directive allowed me to carry over annual leave if I was furloughed, is that not the case?

While the amendment to the Working Time Directive does allow annual leave to be carried forward into the next 2 holiday leave years because of coronavirus, this would only be in specific circumstances. This may be if a member of staff has not been able to take any holiday as they are a key worker and have had to continue working or they are self-isolating or too sick to take holiday before the end of the leave year. 

When the Directive was amended on 26 March 2020, it was still not clear if furloughed staff could take annual leave however this has since been clarified in recent government guidelines on the scheme (as above).

 

What happens if I am on maternity/family leave – can I be furloughed?

Organisations do have the option to furlough staff currently on maternity/family leave however the University has decided that it will not be furloughing any staff in this position at the moment. You will therefore continue to receive your normal maternity/family pay and benefits. When you return to work after maternity/family leave, a decision may be taken that you are to be furloughed but your manager will be in contact with you to discuss this if this is the case. 


What happens if I am due to go maternity/family leave and I am furloughed?

If you are due to go on maternity/family leave you can still be furloughed. You will still be entitled to statutory maternity pay/statutory paternity pay and any enhanced occupational benefits if eligible. The University can reclaim any enhanced payment above the statutory level, subject to the 80% rule and the £2,500 cap.

 

I am currently on sick leave – can I be furloughed?

Organisations do have the option to furlough staff currently on sick leave however the University has decided that it will not be furloughing any staff in this position at the moment. You will therefore continue to receive your normal sick pay entitlements, until you have been declared fit to return to work.  When you return to work after sick leave, a decision may be taken that you are to be furloughed but your manager will be in contact with you to discuss this if this is the case. 


What happens if I’m ill while I’m furloughed?

If a member of staff becomes ill during a period of furlough leave, the current guidelines from HMRC confirm there is no obligation for organisations to move the member of staff on to sick leave and pay. The University has decided that in these circumstances that if you become ill while you are furloughed, you will remain on furlough leave.  This means that you will not need to submit any self-certificates or medical certificates, however you should still let your manager know if you are unwell so we can ensure the necessary advice and support can be provided to you and your manager knows you are not available for work. Also if you have any Covid-19 related symptoms it is important that these are reported.

 

Communication, Contact and Support 

Can I access my emails while I am furloughed?

We recognise that some people use their work email for personal matters so you will still be able to access your emails. However, you must not send or respond to any work-related emails while you are furloughed.


Can I get in touch with my work colleagues?

Yes, maintaining social contacts with work colleagues is absolutely fine while you are furloughed.

 

How will you stay in touch with me while I’m on furlough?

Your manager will maintain contact with you as appropriate during any periods of furlough. When you return to work, an appropriate re-induction will be carried out to help you settle back into your role. 


How will I know what it happening at the University while I’m on furlough?

Regular organisational updates will continue to be provided throughout the furloughing period by Internal Communications, the Principal and other support services.


Can I continue to access University support and advice while I’m on furlough?

Yes. You should contact your line manager or the appropriate University support service as required including HR and Occupational Health. 


Can I continue to access University resources while I’m on furlough?

Yes. All our online resources will be available to you over this period, including training and development from OPD and ideas for maintaining your fitness and wellbeing from ISE.

 

Other Work and Volunteering 


Can I do any work while I’m furloughed?

You will not be able to do any work for the University while you are furloughed. If you work in more than one role at the University this means that you will not be able to work in these roles either.


Can I get another job out with the University while I’m furloughed?

The current rules regarding additional employment which are contained in the Conditions of Service continue to apply. You should seek permission from your line manager before obtaining any additional employment. 


Can I volunteer while I’m furloughed?

The Job Retention Scheme does not allow you to volunteer for the University, but you can use the time to volunteer for the community. The Scottish Government volunteering campaign has recently been launched and staff can apply to get involved in lots of different ways, including providing practical and emotional support.

 

Last updated 07.05.2020

 

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