Last updated: 29 May 2020
Frequently asked questions about furlough related issues, for University of Worcester staff.
What does furlough mean?
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 scheme will reimburse the employer for 80% of furloughed employees’ pay up to a maximum of £2500 per month.
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?
The Scheme can be applied to staff who were on the University’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020.
The University is in the process of identifying which roles are appropriate to be furloughed at this time. 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? (NEW - 29 MAY)
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. If you think that the furlough scheme should apply to you, and you have not received an email to confirm that you are eligible to be furloughed, please contact your line manager or another senior manager within the department for which you have worked. Alternatively, if you are unable to contact a manager, please contact Sam Bateman in HR at email@example.com
How will I know if my role is going to be furloughed?
You will be contacted by your line manager if your role is identified as one that is appropriate to be furloughed under the Scheme.
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?
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.
It is important to remember that while you will remain an employee of the University during furlough, you should not undertake any work for or on behalf of the University during any period of furlough leave that applies to you.
How long will furlough last?
The minimum amount of time that someone can be furloughed for is three weeks. Initially, the Government scheme was made available until 31st May 2020 and staff have been advised of the initial duration of the furlough period.
On Friday 17th April, the Government announced a further extension of the furlough scheme to 30th June and advised that they would continue to keep the scheme under review. This means that your end date for furlough may be extended and you will be contacted by your manager if this applies to you.
You should be mindful that your furlough could be ended earlier 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?
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 May, 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?
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.
Will I be expected to do any work while I am on furlough?
No, you should not do any work for or on behalf of the University while you are on furlough. 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?
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 furlough leave, which includes refraining from reviewing or responding to emails relating to your role.
Can I still contact my colleagues?
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.
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?
If you are unwell during furlough leave, 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.
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.
Further information for staff about the coronavirus, and our response, can be found on our main coronavirus information page.