We’d all finally gotten our heads around the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) rules and it was (mostly) going OK, so it’s obviously time to change it, just to keep us on our toes.  Why not introduce something far more complex: enter the flexible furlough minefield.

I jest (sort of), but businesses do need to start to return to some sort of normalcy and to do that, from 1 July, it’s all change.

The government have now outlined their plans for paring back the scheme and allowing employees to return to work in some form or other.  But it’s not straight-forward and has baffled some of the brightest employment law minds, let alone regular folk like you and I.

But, I’ve read and watched and listened to, twice in some cases, a whole host of bright sparks and have surmised the following:

Who is eligible?

All staff who have been furloughed for a period of three weeks up to 30 June 2020 are eligible to be furloughed again or for flexible furlough.  EXCEPT!!! (I know), in cases of those on parental leave (this might be maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption or parental bereavement leave) on or before 10 June 2020.  Those returning from parental leave can be furloughed for the first time.  BUT, the parental leave exception only applies if a business has had at least one employee on furlough leave previously – it doesn’t have to have been the parental leave employee.  Make sense?

Flexible Furlough

From 1 July to 31 October, you are able to bring back furloughed staff on a part-time basis.  This means that you can ask staff to work for some of their contracted hours AND continue to claim CJRS for the remaining hours where they are furloughed – what this might look like is up to you and your staff.  But you must:

  • Gain consent to either a variable furlough agreement (recommended) or a set hours furlough agreement (eg two days per week).  If you do the latter and it needs to change, you will have to get a new agreement for each change.  A written agreement is a legal requirement and may be requested if HMRC decide to audit your business.
  • Record hours worked vs usual hours contracted.  You will need these when making claims to HMRC.
  • Ensure staff and managers know that any working time agreed must be adhered to – failure to do this will leave you open to heavy fines.  This means no working during furloughed periods, just as it has been until 30 June.
  • There is no time limit for flexible furlough periods.  Where we previously had a minimum ‘furlough period’ of three weeks, this is no longer the case.  That said, a ‘claim period’ is now a minimum of seven days and can not span different months (ie you can not claim from July to October, it must be done monthly).
  • Keep all evidence for six years – again this may be requested if audited.

My recommendations (depending on your business)

  • If you haven’t already, start talking to staff about returning now (some may be concerned about returning).
  • If your business can’t operate remotely, make sure your workplace is Coronavirus secure and that you have all equipment/protection in place.
  • Get your flexible furlough agreements in place now.
  • Timesheets – especially if you are asking staff to work variable hours – get staff to complete a simple Word doc or spreadsheet which will suffice.
  • Review and forecast staffing requirements regularly and discuss with staff as early as possible.

Note:  you are under no obligation to find work for furloughed staff, you can continue to claim for full furlough as you have been since March.

Making your claims

Helpfully the government has shared some examples and tools to help with calculating your claims.  Unhelpfully, they’re scattered across a number of gov.uk web pages, but I’m sharing some useful links for:

Get in touch if you need further support.


*Information correct at the time of publication, subject to change in line with Government regulations.