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Second jobs and holiday entitlement: your furlough questions answered

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28/04/2020
With millions of staff furloughed, you may be wondering what this means for your holiday entitlement, whether you must go back to work and your job prospects elsewhere.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live last week, with thousands of firms expected to apply for funding to cover their furloughed staff’s wages during the Covid-19 crisis.

Under the scheme, bosses can apply for a government grant to cover 80% of an employee’s pay, up to a monthly maximum of £2,500, though they can top up the remaining 20% of salary if they want to.

The government will also cover national insurance and minimum pension contributions.

Furloughed workers must have been on their employer’s payroll on or before 19 March and while they remain on the company books, they must not undertake any work for the business.

The scheme will last until the end of June. See YourMoney.com’s Furlough guide for more information.

For workers who are currently furloughed or who may be furloughed in the coming weeks, you will have questions about what this means for your holiday entitlement, whether you can decline going back to work over coronavirus safety concerns and whether you may be allowed to work elsewhere.

Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, answers your questions:

Q) I’ve got holiday booked during my furlough leave. What happens?

A) Statutory minimum annual leave continues to accrue during furlough and anything an employer gives in excess of this will accrue unless otherwise agreed between the employer and employee.

Annual leave can be taken at the same time as furlough, so anything already authorised can remain in place unless either you or your manager remove it. Employees may want to cancel it from the mindset that they’re already not working and may wish to keep annual leave until they are back in work though. However, employers don’t need to agree to a cancellation request by an employee.

But employers may be happy to cancel the leave as they must pay staff their normal pay when on annual leave while on furlough, but they are only able to claim back 80% of pay through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Recently, the law was changed to allow carry over into the next two leave years where it has not been reasonably practicable to take it in this leave year because of coronavirus. However, where it is reasonably possible for annual leave to be taken in this leave year, it can be and so it isn’t an automatic entitlement to carry leave over into the next two leave years.

Q) Can I decline going back to work after a period of furlough because of coronavirus safety concerns?

A) Typically, an employee’s withdrawal of their services in a refusal to attend work is a breach of contract which may entitle the employer to terminate employment.

However, in the current circumstances, a requirement for an employee to attend work when it is not safe to do so may be a breach of the employer’s duty of care.

Refusal to attend work would need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the specific facts.

While disciplinary action or termination of employment may be harsh given the current circumstances, employee pay may undoubtedly be affected.

Q) I’m aware I can’t work for my employer but what about gaining a second job? The government recently encouraged furloughed workers to pick fruit and vegetables to stop it going to waste in the UK.

A) An employee’s ability to find a second job may be defined in their contract of employment. Some employers place restrictions on second jobs taken on by their employees, and these will still apply during furlough.

However, employers will want to enforce rules on employees working for clients or competitors, or anything else which causes a conflict of interest.

Another concern will be taking steps to ensure that the employee is in a position to come back to work when the employer needs them, which may be compromised if the employee is committed to working elsewhere.

There are no general exceptions to how these rules may apply to the type of job that furloughed employees get; second jobs will not affect the employer’s ability to claim under the government scheme.

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