Thousands of workers across the UK have been put on furlough as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The UK government introduced the emergency Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in March to help businesses pay 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed staff, up to the value of £2,500 per month.
But what are your redundancy rights if you’ve been put on furlough - and can you be made redundant?
Can I be made redundant?
Furloughed workers are those whose employers cannot cover staff costs due to coronavirus.
As such they have been asked to stop working, but have not been made redundant.
However, your employer can still make you redundant while you are on furlough, or afterwards, but your employee rights are not affected if you have been furloughed.
This includes your redundancy rights.
What are my redundancy rights?
Employers should use a fair and objective way of selecting staff for redundancy, with common methods including:
- selecting employees with the shortest length of service first
- asking for volunteers (self-selection)
- disciplinary records
- staff appraisal markings, skills, qualifications and experience
Your employer has the right to make you redundant without having to follow a selection process if your job no longer exists.
This could involve your employer closing down a whole operation in a company and making all staff working in this area redundant, or if you are the only employee in your part of the organisation.
You cannot be made redundant for reasons relating to sex, gender, race, religion, disability, or age, among others, which would be classed as an unfair dismissal.
If you are made redundant by your employer, you must be given a notice period before your employment ends.
The statutory redundancy notice periods are:
- at least one week’s notice if employed between one month and 2 years
- one week’s notice for each year if employed between 2 and 12 years
- 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more
As well as statutory redundancy pay, your employer should either pay you through your notice period, or pay you in lieu of notice, depending on your circumstances.
How long will I be kept on furlough?
If you have been furloughed by your employer, you will need to remain on furlough for a minimum of three consecutive weeks.
Your employer can place you on furlough more than once, and one period can follow on straight after another while the scheme is open.
The scheme was originally meant to end in June but the Chancellor has now extended it until the end of October.
Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday (12 May) that no changes will be made to the scheme until the end of July, with the three months after this point continuing with more flexibility.
From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.
The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.
What if I don’t want to go on furlough?
If your employer asks you to go on furlough and you choose not to, you could be at risk of redundancy or termination of your employment, depending on the circumstances of your employer.
However, this must be in line with normal redundancy rules and protections.