Top five questions about furlough and zero-hours workers

Our employment law helpline, BrightAdvice, has received hundreds of calls about how furlough and zero-hours contracts work under the Job Retention Scheme extension. Alan Price, HR expert and CEO at BrightHR, answers five of the most frequently asked questions

1. Can I furlough zero-hours workers under the JRS extension?

A. Yes, you can. Any employee can be furloughed as long as their work has been severely affected by Covid-19 and they were on your PAYE payroll by 23:59 30th October 2020.

Employees can be on any type of contract, whether that be zero hours, variable hours, part-time or full-time.

2. Do I need to get a zero-hours worker’s permission to furlough them?

A. Yes, it’s best to discuss your decision with your worker first and make sure you have their agreement before you put them on a period of furlough.

You should also make sure that you put this decision in writing and make it clear that their furlough status is only temporary.

3. All eligible workers are entitled to 80% of their wage as part of the Job Retention Scheme extension. But how is that worked out for zero-hours workers?

A. Good question. If your worker’s pay varies because they’re on a zero-hours contract, then the 80% limit will be based on the same month’s earning from a previous year, or their average monthly pay during the 2019-2020 tax year—whichever is highest.

4. Can I furlough my zero-hours worker if they have another job?

A. If your zero-hours worker currently has more than one employer, they can be put on furlough by one employer and continue to work for another, if it’s allowed in their employment contract.

If they are put on furlough by more than one employer, they’ll get separate payments from each one. The 80% of their normal wage up to a £2,500 monthly cap applies to each job.

5. Some of my zero-hours workers are carrying out training and volunteer work while on furlough. Is this okay?

A. Yes, all employees can carry out training and volunteer work whilst on furlough as long as they are not providing services to, or making money for, your company.

But keep in mind that if your employee is earning less than the National Minimum Wage while they’re on furlough and they spend time in training which attracts the minimum wage entitlement, you’ll need to cover the shortfall for the time they spent training.

About the author

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR is a leading authority on employment law and HR. Follow Alan on Twitter


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Get expert 24/7 advice on furlough and much more

BrightHR gives you everything you need to wrap your head around furlough. You can get expert employment law support whenever you need it through our BrightAdvice helpline.

Plus, our new furlough navigator tool makes it quicker and easier for you to unlock government grants. Use it to log furlough, record staff details, and download furlough reports to speed up your application process.

To find out more about BrightHR, call us now on 0800 783 2806.

Alan Price |Alan Price, HR expert and CEO, BrightHR

Alan Price is a leading authority on employment law and HR, and is CEO of BrightHR, the UK...

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