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Bank holiday pay and sickness during furlough: what you need to know

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In our latest furlough question and answer series, we find out what happens to your pay on May bank holidays, if you’re sick or if you have concerns regarding social distancing upon returning to work.

As we head into the seventh week of lockdown, millions of employees have been furloughed already; many may be on rotation with other colleagues and for some, they may enter furlough for the first time. spoke to Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, to answer your furlough questions…

May bank holidays and pay

Will I be paid a higher rate if I am on furlough? What if I’m expected to work on the bank holiday following furlough leave?

Annual leave can be taken when on furlough without interrupting it, but employees must receive normal pay. This means that where employers have agreed with employees that pay will be reduced to 80%; pay must be topped up to normal pay for annual leave by employers themselves because the grant via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme only provides cover for 80% of wage costs.

There is no legal requirement for employees to be paid a higher rate than normal for working on a bank holiday, whether during lockdown or at any other time, though some contracts of employment will provide for higher pay.

What happens if I become ill while on furlough?

When an employee becomes sick while on furlough, employers can choose to either keep the employee on furlough, continue to pay 80% wages and claim for it via the scheme, or put the employee on sickness absence and pay sick pay as appropriate.

If the employee is placed on sickness absence, statutory sick pay can’t be claimed under the scheme.

However, employers may be able to claim it back, to a maximum of two weeks, if they qualify for the separate (as yet unopened) sick pay rebate scheme if the employee is sick with coronavirus.

Normal rules will apply in respect of a medical certificate to evidence absence of more than seven days. However, employers should be flexible on this, given the potential inability of the employee to see a GP at this time.

I can’t see how my employer will implement social distancing when I return to work. Do I have to return or can my furlough period be extended?

Using furlough is entirely at the employer’s discretion, and they will dictate when employees are required to return to work after a period of furlough.

Furlough is only an option for as long as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open, which is currently until the end of June though it may be extended again. However, employers remain able to stop using furlough at any time. Your contract of employment, and all related obligations, continues to apply and so an instruction to return to work when required by the employer should be followed otherwise there is a risk that you will breach your contract.

It’s your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment for you. So, it’s best to listen to how your employer intends to ensure compliance with social distancing and other health and safety requirements on your return to work as this may alleviate some of your concerns.

Related furlough guides: 

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