Last updated: 28 June 2020
Frequently asked questions about furlough related issues, for University of Worcester staff.
What does furlough mean? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
The word furlough generally means temporary leave of absence from work.
On 20 March, the UK government launched the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’. The Scheme allows employers to place staff on furlough leave during the coronavirus pandemic. The Scheme enables employers to access support from the government to fund the salaries of staff who have been furloughed.
The ability to furlough employees is designed to support employers who are severely affected by coronavirus. People who get furloughed must not work for the employer during the period of furlough.
Why is the University furloughing staff?
The University’s normal operations have changed significantly since the Coronavirus outbreak. There are a number of roles at the University, all of which are extremely valuable during normal operations, which are very difficult to carry out while the current government restrictions are in place. In addition, the activity across all University sites has scaled back considerably as our students are now studying remotely.
By accessing the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, the University will be able to access much needed financial support for the payment of staff salaries at a time when there is an impact on their ability to work. To do this, the University needs to temporarily furlough the affected staff.
How will the University decide who should be furloughed and who shouldn’t? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
The Scheme can be applied to staff who were on the University’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020.
The decision to furlough will depend upon whether a member of staff’s normal role can be carried out remotely and whether they are able to carry out all, or a significant amount of, their duties from home. There may also be some roles where the work is still required as normal but that there is a need for fewer staff at this time.
Under the requirements of the scheme, there may be some occasions where it will not be appropriate to furlough due to the nature of funding for that role.
I am a student who also works for the University. Can I be furloughed? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
The University, through discussions with line managers, have identified and written to all student workers who we believe are eligible for furlough in line with the scheme guidelines. Only individuals who have been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks prior to the 30th June can now be furloughed from 1st July onwards. On that basis, if you have not already been furloughed at least once then you will not be able to be furloughed.
How will I know if my role is going to be furloughed? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
You will have been contacted by your line manager if your role is identified as one that is appropriate to be furloughed under the Scheme. Only individuals who have been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks prior to the 30th June can now be furloughed from 1st July onwards. On that basis, if you have not already been furloughed at least once then you will not be able to be furloughed.
What happens if I don’t want to be furloughed?
It is in the best interest of the University and all its staff to apply furlough arrangements where it is appropriate to do so.
If you have concerns about being furloughed or any individual circumstances that you wish to be taken into account, you should raise these with your line manager in the first instance.
If I am furloughed, what does this mean for my employment at the University? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
Being furloughed has no impact on your existing 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 you should continue to adhere to any requirements placed on you as a member of staff, for example, in relation to confidentiality.
How long will furlough last? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
Prior to 1st July, the minimum amount of time that someone could be furloughed for was three weeks. From 1st July onwards however the minimum furlough period the University will apply is one week.
Initially, the Government scheme was made available until 31st May 2020, but it was subsequently extended until 30th June 2020 and then more recently until 31st October 2020.
Currently the University is considering how it may continue to use the Scheme until the end of July 2020. A decision on if and how the Scheme may be applied beyond 1st August 2020 will be taken in due course, but the University has confirmed that it will only continue to use the Scheme for as long as it is appropriate and operationally necessary to do so.
You should be mindful that your furlough could be ended early if operationally necessary and while we would give you as much notice as possible, you may be required to return to work at short notice.
Does being furloughed mean I’m at more risk of redundancy in the future?
No. The decision to furlough is based on the specific circumstances created by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak at this point in time on the ability for certain roles to be carried out.
What happens to my pay and other benefits? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
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 pay as normal (subject to the usual deductions for tax, national insurance and pension contributions) until 31st July, which is when the University’s furlough scheme is currently due to end.
Your pay will be subject to the normal national insurance and tax deductions. Your pension arrangements will also continue as normal.
You will continue to accrue holiday in the normal way while on Furlough Leave. Any periods of annual leave already booked prior to the commencement of your Furlough Leave will remain unaffected and will be honoured as annual leave
Annual leave should be agreed in the normal way and it is expected that the majority of staff will be able to take their full leave entitlement by the end of August. Under the existing University policy, you may carry forward up to 5 days’ annual leave entitlement (pro rata for part time staff) from one leave year to the next, if agreed in advance with your line manager. .
What happens when furlough ends? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
Your manager will be in contact to discuss your return and to provide any key updates. You will be expected to return to work in accordance with your contracted hours and your existing working pattern unless you are told otherwise by your line manager.
Will I be expected to do any work while I am on furlough? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
With effect from 1st July 2020 the government has introduced the option of ‘flexible furlough’. This means that the University now has the option of either placing you on furlough leave full-time (as was previously required under the Scheme), or where appropriate to do so around business needs, your line manager could now ask you to return to work on a part-time basis and then furlough you for the hours for which you are not required to work e.g. if you normally work for 37 hours per week then you could potentially be ‘flexibly furloughed’ and asked to work for 20 hours per week and furloughed for the remaining 17 hours per week.
Your manager will confirm to you whether you are to be furloughed full-time or whether you are to be ‘flexibly furloughed’. The written correspondence you receive from HR will also confirm this.
Whether furloughed full-time or part-time however, it is essential that during any period of time (days or hours) that are classed as furlough leave, you should not do any work for or on behalf of the University. However, please be aware that the University may ask you to return to work at short notice if required.
Can I still access my emails? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
You will continue to have access to emails and IT systems whilst on furlough as we understand that you may wish to remain in contact with colleagues from a social and wellbeing perspective. However, you must ensure that you do not undertake any work during your days/hours of furlough leave, which includes refraining from reviewing or responding to emails relating to your role.
Can I still contact my colleagues? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
Yes, maintaining social contacts with work colleagues is absolutely fine while you are furloughed. If using work email remember that being on furlough leave means that you can’t get involved in work-related topics during your days/hours of furlough leave.
How will the University stay in contact with me if I am furloughed?
Your manager will maintain contact with you as appropriate during any periods of furlough. At the point that you are required to return to work, your manager will discuss how best to manage your return.
Can I undertake volunteer work?
Yes, you can undertake volunteer work during furlough providing it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of the University.
What happens if I am ill during furlough? (UPDATED - 28 JUNE)
If you are unwell during furlough leave and your are on furlough leave full-time then you do not need to formally report this to the University. If you are unwell when you are due to return to work or if you are required to self-isolate, you should follow the standard reporting procedures for sickness absence or self-isolation.
If you are ‘flexibly furloughed’ however then you will need to follow the normal sickness absence reporting procedure for your department and notify your line manager of your absence in the usual way.
I am following an Apprenticeship programme as a University employee and I am taking furlough leave, what happens to the training?
The University will let your training provider know that you’re on furlough leave and they will provide you with advice about how to continue the programme using on-line resources. You should carry on studying while you’re on furlough leave.
Can I undertake any training or development activities during furlough?
You are encouraged to engage in training and development activities during furlough and to use the time to participate in a range of activities, some are listed below and more are listed on the HR webpages:
- Learn new skills and knowledge – make use of Linked-In learning available to all staff to explore new hobbies, e.g. photography, and/or extend your IT knowledge with Microsoft on-line learning.
- Sign up for an on-line course
- You can register to attend any of the staff development workshops on the University staff pages; several have been converted to be delivered ‘virtually’
What support can I access if my wellbeing is affected when on furlough leave?
There are a range of support mechanisms available to staff to access:
There are other forms of support that you might find helpful, some are listed here and more can be found on the HR webpages:
Can I apply for University vacancies whilst on furlough leave?
Yes you may apply for another job whilst on furlough leave. University of Worcester job vacancies, including those restricted to University employees only, can be viewed here.
If you are shortlisted for interview you will be permitted to take part in the selection process whilst on furlough leave.