Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the UK, Focused has introduced a furlough scheme for its employees (the “Scheme”). This will work in conjunction with the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“JRS”).
To be eligible, Focused must agree with you that you are furloughed based on eligibility criteria highlighted in the “Do I qualify?” section. You cannot apply for the Scheme yourself.
These FAQ’s are updated on a regular basis to reflect updated guidance and clarifications received.
Do I qualify?
To qualify you must satisfy all of the following criteria:
1. You must have been paid by Focused on or before 19 March 2020.
2. You are not currently claiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP). If you’re claiming SSP because of coronavirus (COVID-19) you may be eligible to be furloughed after this provided you meet the other criteria.
3. You must currently be employed by Focused and if it were not for COVID-19 related issues would be available to work. This means that if you have found a permanent role elsewhere you are not eligible. If you have found temporary work elsewhere during the crisis this is ok.
4. You are unable to work because of the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes if you are self-isolating or shielding in accordance with Government guidelines or if you have caring responsibilities. It also includes where your assignment has been suspended, terminated or not renewed for COVID-19 related reasons (such as a site shutdown). If the reason that you cannot work is not related to COVID-19 then you will not be eligible.
5. You have signed the Focused furlough letter agreeing to be furloughed for at least 3 weeks. Once furloughed we cannot allow you to work for at least 3 weeks (from the furlough start date) if you want to qualify for furlough pay.
6. You are not party to an arrangement whereby your agency or end client continues to make payments during the period while you’re not working. This is common practice in the public sector.
7. We have evidence relating to 4 above from your agency or client which confirms that assignments are not currently available to you. Where we have an agency contact we will try to obtain this information but may need assistance from you. Please note that some agencies have asked us not to furlough employees without checking with them as there may be assignments available.
How long will the furlough last?
The Government has said that the JRS will operate in its current form until the end of July – but this may be extended. You cannot be furloughed for less than 3 weeks. You must notify us immediately if work becomes available. Failure to notify us may mean that some or all of the furlough pay paid becomes repayable. We may terminate the Furlough Period with immediate effect by giving notice to you (including by email or verbally). We will review the situation again in June and will update you accordingly. For the avoidance of doubt the Furlough Period will end if you or Focused cease to be eligible for funding under the CJRS.
When will furlough pay be paid?
Furlough pay will only accrue from the date that you are placed on furlough. Furlough takes effect from the date that you ceased working for COVID-19 related reasons and subject to you having signed and returned the furlough letter. Payments will be made on 15 May (with additional pay runs as necessary on 22 May & 29 May), 12 June and 17 July in line with the payment cycle which can be found here.
Please note that you must have been furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks before the cut-off date to be paid within that pay cycle.
How much will I get?
This will be 80% of the greater of:
a) the average earnings (Basic Pay, Commission and holiday paid) in the tax year 2019-20; or
b) if you have been employed over a year the earnings paid to you in the corresponding period in the previous calendar year.
As you will be aware we had been petitioning Government to include Commission in the calculation. Our discussions with HMRC and our advisors gave us comfort to proceed on this basis.
The Government has a prescribed formula for working out pay dependent upon how long you have worked for Focused.
What about pension’s contributions?
If you currently make contributions to the NEST workplace pension then this will continue by reference to the reduced pay you receive during the Furlough. If you have opted out or ceased then no contributions will be made. No other pension contributions will be made during this period.
Will I pay tax on furlough pay?
You will still be liable for any Income Tax, National Insurance contributions and any other lawful deductions from your wage. As usual, we will make these deductions.
What if I’m a public sector worker?
The Government expects that the JRS will not be used in respect of those working in the public sector as the majority of public sector workers are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Many public sector organisations have a scheme to pay 80% of pay to those workers who are not working, including those through umbrella companies. You should check with your agency if this is applicable in your case before applying for the Scheme.
This also applies to non-public sector organisations who receive public funding for staff costs. Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to the coronavirus are not expected to furlough staff.
In a small number of cases, for example, where organisations are not primarily funded by the Government and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the coronavirus response, the Scheme may still be appropriate.
What if I am on Universal Credit?
If you’re earning less because you’re on furlough, your Universal Credit payment might change – find out how earnings affect your payments.
Can I work while I’m on furlough?
Once you are on furlough you will not be able to work through Focused. You can take up other temporary positions elsewhere to top up your earnings.
What do I do next?
Please read, complete and sign the variation to the terms of your employment, which can be accessed by clicking here.