On 4 January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England was to enter another National Lockdown until at least the middle of February 2021.
As we have previously discussed, the Furlough Scheme was extended in December 2020 to run until at least April 2021 and the Government has now released further guidance in light of the new National Lockdown.
The guidance on furlough in the light of the new lockdown was updated on 5 January 2021, a copy of which can be found here.
The updated guidance makes it clear that employees who are not sick but who are clinically extremely vulnerable and who are following the Public Health England guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (see guidance here), can be furloughed.
Further, if an employee is unable to work because they have caring responsibilities which arise from Coronavirus, such as those who are caring for children at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or if they are caring for vulnerable individual in their household, they too can be furloughed.
The position for staff on short term illness or who are self isolating remains unclear. The Guidance states that short term illness or self isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether or not to furlough an employee but goes on to say “if…employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees”. This is an important point of emphasis; you can furlough staff who are off on short term sickness or who are self isolating but only if there is business reason for doing so, rather than the absence being the reason for the furlough.
Practical Effect of the Guidance
The above therefore provides clarity on the issue of agreeing furlough for carers and parents who, because of coronavirus, are unable to work because of those responsibilities.
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