The Government’s furlough scheme has slightly changed following the third lockdown.
Currently, it is due to expire at the end of April, but discussions are ongoing in Westminster about another extension.
HR and Employment Solicitor Sarah Buxton has been looking at what is changing and what employers should look out for when using the furlough scheme.
What is the current situation and when is it likely to change?
The current furlough scheme is due to run until the end of April, however, it has been reported that in March the Chancellor is going to look to extend this further.
We do not know how long this is going to be in place for.
Currently, the scheme is letting employers claim back 80% up to £2,500, and this is to businesses impacted by COVID-19.
What has changed on the current scheme?
Originally the scheme was meant for businesses that had closed because of lockdown.
That way there was a direct correlation between the pandemic and you having to use the scheme.
When they brought in the most recent lockdown, the Government made slight changes to the guidance.
For example, the scheme can be used where there are childcare issues.
What that means is if you have a member of staff that must leave early, then you can use the scheme.
This is the most common situation because dental practice workers are key workers.
Some have had issues getting their children into schools because some schools do not know the legislation around key workers.
The issue practices are finding is with the after-school clubs not being available for staff to send their children to, so they are having to leave early.
To use the scheme there must be an agreement between the employer and the employee.
The employee cannot demand to use the furlough scheme.
Employers must ensure they have all the documents on what hours have been worked and a signed document to reflect the agreement.
The scheme cannot be used to fund annual leave
You cannot claim on the furlough scheme for annual leave.
If an employee has accrued annual leave during a period and you want them to use it, you can ask them.
That is no different to how things were before.
But with regard to the furlough scheme and annual leave, it is also how it was before.
We will have to wait for the next move
The Government did say that in January they were going to look at a new staggered approach with furlough, such as moving from 80% to 60%.
We were promised something in January but I don’t think we are going to hear anything anytime soon.
All the attention is on the current lockdown and trying to get the vaccines out, so we will have to watch this space.
*The information in this article was provided by Sarah Buxton, an employment law and HR solicitor, and is correct at the time of publication.
Sarah specialises in acting exclusively for dentists, dental managers and dental practice owners in all aspects of HR and Employment Law and is a Director at FTA Law. Sarah often advises dental practices on managing and motivating their staff, dealing with sickness absence, assisting with making changes to employment contracts and, if needed, how to bring the employment relationship to an end. Sarah also has in-depth knowledge of the NHS Regulations and of the Care Quality Commission and how these effect the employment relationship in a dental practice.