Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – If it’s not on .gov, it’s not true!

If it’s not on .gov….it’s not true!

I cannot possibly estimate the hundreds of hours my team and I at myHRdept have spent trying to convince employers that they cannot do the things in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that the internet is telling them they can.

I’m thinking of having a badge made ‘If it’s not on .gov it’s not true!’ Let me dispel some of the myths.

  • No, you absolutely can’t furlough and unfurlough at will – your employee must be furloughed for at least 3 continuous weeks, and if they’re not, you won’t be able to claim back ANY of their wages under the Job Retention Scheme.
  • No, you can’t contract employees out of accruing holiday entitlement during furlough, no more than you can do so during maternity leave.
  • And no, you cannot ask employees to do ‘little bits of work’ while they are in receipt of furlough pay.

 

In an earlier iteration of this article we had also said ‘no you can’t force employees to take holiday’ although it later transpired that employers could in fact do so, provided they gave twice as much notice as the holiday required, paid the holiday in full (not at furlough rate) and didn’t otherwise breach the doctrine of ‘reasonableness’ – it would be almost certainly be unreasonable for example to require employees to take their entire annual holiday during furlough leave.

This experience has raised an interesting observation though and I do want to dwell on that for a second. In this internet age it’s clear that people will publish stuff that is speculation or just wrong, and other people will read it and act on it believing it to be right. It’s our job at myHRdept to be ‘in the know’ and that means we know where to look for accurate advice, but others understandably do not.

The government needs in my opinion to make more effort to stress which sites people should look at for accurate information and I believe this is more important than the general release of the information itself. If at the start of this horrible period they had made people more aware of where information could be found, I suspect there would be a lot less misinformation out there. Perhaps the campaign ‘If it’s not on .gov….it’s not true!’ wouldn’t have been a bad idea. I position this as a constructive suggestion rather than as a criticism of a government handling a difficult situation generally well.

For the sake of completeness when it comes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the self employed version of it, these are the key sites you need to know about:

Employers look at:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

and for wider support available look at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Employees look at:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Self employed look at:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

 

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