Furlough Leave FAQs 

Furlough leave applies where there is either no need or a reduced need for work of a particular kind to be carried out as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and where ordinarily the University may have had to consider redundancies.

Some roles are still essential during this period due to the need to maintain teaching and assessment provision for our students, to continue to care for those students who remain on campus, to maintain security and to support our IT infrastructure to identify a few, and these key roles are unlikely to be eligible to furlough.

Staff in the academic job families:

Roles in the Education and Research and Education and Scholarship job families are unlikely to be eligible for furlough due to the need for these roles to continue through the summer term as we seek to maintain current provision for our students.

Many of our researchers will be able to continue their work remotely. Further, until clarification has been obtained on external funding, researchers will not be eligible for furlough leave.  

If you are in a research only role and your fixed term contract is coming to an end during the period of the Governments Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), and this would otherwise have been extended but for the COVID-19 pandemic, then we will consider eligibility for furlough leave.

 

Professional Services:

For some roles in Professional Services there may be a reduction in the need for their normal day-to-day duties, which could either result in no work being available, or for fewer people being needed to carry out the work.  Through Refocusing our Resources, our first priority will be to reallocate their time where possible to other essential activities, and we thank all colleagues who have entered their details on the online form to register their skills, interests and availability. For those that have not yet done so, please see the online form

However, there are a number of operational roles which are either not required, which cannot be carried out from home or where there is a reduced need for the duties to be carried out.  Where these circumstances apply then (after considering of Refocusing our Resources) these staff will be eligible for furlough.

Casual Workers

Those of our staff who have flexible working arrangements through casual claims or the temporary staff bank are eligible, provided they were on the University’s payroll on 28 February 2020.

Where ‘bank workers’ (through the Temporary Staff Bank or casual claims) had already committed to a pre-arranged assignment during the period 1 March 2020 to 31 May 2020 then consideration will first be given to whether these workers can be re-assigned, otherwise these workers will be eligible provided they have not worked or will not work for at least 3 weeks between 17 March 2020 and 31 May 2020.

Other casual workers who were on the University’s payroll in February may also be eligible even if they did not undertake any work in February where it can be shown that they would have worked in the period to 31 May 2020 but for the impact of the pandemic. We are working hard with managers to identify which workers may be eligible.

 

Postgraduate Teaching Assistants and Occasional Teachers

Occasional Teachers and Postgraduate Teaching Assistants will be asked to continue to deliver their scheduled activities through e-learning and will not be eligible for furlough leave. 

 

Apprentices

Apprentices can be eligible for furlough leave in accordance with point 1 above, and can continue to train whilst on furlough leave.

 

New Employees/Workers

Unfortunately those individuals who started working for the University on or after 1 March 2020 (or who have been offered work but have not yet started) will not be eligible. This is due to the requirement that workers were on the payroll on 28 February 2020. 

 

Employees who are shielding

Those employees who have been contacted by the NHS and asked to stay at home for 12 weeks (i.e. those individuals considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with COVID-19) and are shielding but otherwise well, and members of their household who are required to stringently follow social distancing measures and reduce contact outside the home, may be eligible for furlough leave if they are not carrying out work from home. Employees will be asked to notify HR in confidence if this applies to them and may be asked to provide a copy of the letter from the NHS.

As stated above in point one, some roles remain essential and staff in these roles will not be eligible for furlough leave.

Where there is no work available

Where there is no work available, and/or the work cannot be carried out from home and therefore current requirement for a role, consideration will first be given to Refocussing our Resources. Where this is not possible then you will be selected for furlough leave.

Reduced need for workers

Where there is a reduced need for certain duties (for example where there are currently 6 FTE equivalent administrators in a team but only three FTE equivalent are needed to carry out remaining work) then we will first consider Refocussing our Resources. Where we are unable to refocus resources to other suitable roles then options that will be considered by managers include:

  • seeking volunteers for furlough leave;
  • whether it is feasible to rotate furlough leave between employees (subject to the minimum period of furlough leave of three weeks); or,
  • selection by other appropriate criteria, for example skills and experience for the role, carer responsibilities (for children, elderly relatives and/or other vulnerable family members); however the fact a worker may have carer responsibilities will not automatically entitle them to furlough leave.

In every case the University will use appropriate non-discriminatory criteria.

Whilst you can ask to be placed on furlough leave (or volunteer to go on furlough leave where there is a reduced need for certain duties), the decision on who to place on furlough leave is ultimately one for the University and we are not obliged to agree to a request.

Where a role is still required then furlough leave will not be agreed unless the shielding provisions apply (see above) and you are unable to carry out their work from home.

Where the University seeks volunteers for furlough leave and more people apply than are needed then selection will take place by other means; although a rotation system may be agreed.

Although all HE’s, including the University of Exeter, are severely impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is anticipated that by taking advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for those areas of the University which are most severely affected, that we will be in a strong position once the current restrictions imposed by the Government are lifted. Redundancies are not being proposed at this stage and we hope that this will not become necessary; however this may depend on our ability to take advantage of the government funds currently available, whether the CJRS scheme is extended after that date and/or whether the current restrictions on movement are extended or potentially severer restrictions imposed. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and should the position change we will comply with our obligations to inform and consult. 

However, if your role is coming to an end for reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, then the University’s normal procedures will apply, for example where this is due the end of a fixed term contract, then procedure for non-renewal of a fixed term contract will apply.

We would prefer to reach agreement by consent with you and the trade unions; however where this is not achieved we will consult with the three recognised trade unions as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so given the timeframe within which furlough leave is currently available.

If agreement is not reached then we may have no alternative but to consider whether to put you on unpaid leave or make redundancies.

The CJRS is backdated to 1 March 2020, and therefore where you have been unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic from that date, furlough leave can be backdated. It is likely however that for most of our staff this would be from 17 March 2020 when the campus closed for most staff.   

Due to the requirement that workers on furlough leave do not carry out any work for their employer, you may be asked to stop working. Your furlough leave will be backdated to the date on which you stopped working once you have confirmed your agreement in writing.

The CJRS is currently available between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2020 and the period for furlough leave is unlikely to be less than three weeks unless operational demands change.

It is not known at this time whether the scheme will be extended beyond 31 May. The University will continue to review the situation and will contact all workers prior to the current end date of 31 May to provide an update.

Furlough leave can be terminated in the following circumstances:

  • where you or the University cease to be eligible for funding (for example if you were to become sick, in which case the University’s sickness absence provisions would apply – see below);
  • on the university giving you one week’s notice that you are required to resume your work; or
  • if your employment is terminated for any reason.

You must ensure that your manager has up to date contact details and you have agreed the method of contact prior to going on furlough leave.

During the period 1 March to 31 May 2020 employees on furlough leave will continue to receive their normal pay and other contractual benefits; however certain allowances such as on call/standby allowance will not be payable. Overtime is also excluded.

If you have flexible working arrangements through casual claims or the temporary staff bank and do not have regular earnings then your pay will be calculated on the basis of the higher of: 

  • Your total earnings in the corresponding monthly pay period in the previous year; or
  • Your average monthly earnings calculated over the previous 12-month period, or the entirety of your employment if you have worked for the University for less than 12 months. If you started working for the University in February 2020, a pro-rata calculation will be done to work out your estimated monthly earnings.

If you are a member of our bank staff (casual claims or TSB) and had committed to an assignment during the period 1 March to 31 May then the University will first seek to reassign you.  Where this is not possible then you will be paid the amount which would have been payable for that assignment only (but no extension to the original timeframe for the assignment will be agreed).

Tax, National Insurance contributions and any other statutory deductions will be deducted in the usual way. Where Employer pension contributions are made as normal then employee pension contributions will also be deducted as normal.

During the initial period to 31 May 2020, employees will continue to receive employer pension contributions and make employee contributions as normal (subject to the terms of the pension scheme). Members of the ERSS Pension Scheme may, if they wish to do so, reduce their band by completing an ERSS contribution choice form, see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/pensions/erss/#tab3                              

The normal provisions for our temporary workers under the NEST Pension Scheme will apply.

If you are on sickness absence or self-isolating then you cannot be furloughed until you are well enough to return to work, and therefore you will receive statutory sick pay (SSP) or occupational sick pay as applicable (in accordance with the applicable conditions of employment) until such pay is exhausted. 

If you become unwell whilst furloughed then you may cease to be eligible for furlough leave and the University’s sickness absence provisions may apply. This may not apply if you feel unwell for a day or so; but if you need to self-isolate, or have a longer illness of 7 days or more then you will need to notify the University of this if you are due to rotate furlough leave with colleagues.

If you are due to go on family leave then you will retain your right to do so. In these circumstances you would not be furloughed but your leave and pay would be on the applicable terms under the relevant policy for parents and carers.

 

Furlough leave will not affect the two-week compulsory maternity period and therefore an employee cannot be furloughed during this period.

 

It is anticipated that employees will take at least six months maternity leave given that full pay is paid during this period.  You may, subject to agreement and eligibility for CJRS, give notice to return early from maternity leave and go on furlough leave; however you should be aware that CJRS is currently only due to run for three months. Therefore, should you cut your maternity leave short on this basis, you could therefore be required to return to work earlier than you originally anticipated.

If you are furloughed you will be asked to take 10% of your furlough leave period (this equates to half a day (3.65 hours) for a full time employee working five days a week, for example if you are a full-time worker furloughed for three weeks you would take 1.5 days leave during this period). This will be automatically deducted from your leave entitlement. You can however choose to take more annual leave during furlough leave if you wish to do so.

If you are on furlough leave then you cannot carry out work for the University and should not attend your workplace.

During the period 1 March to 31 May 2020 employees on furlough leave will continue to receive their normal pay and other contractual benefits (excluding certain allowances – see above).

Continuity of service is unaffected.

If you work part time and already have additional employment then this can continue. If you have more flexible working arrangements as a casual worker then you may also continue to undertake additional employment.

Otherwise you must not carry out any paid work for another employer whilst employed by the University of Exeter and on Furlough Leave and in receipt of full pay without first obtaining prior written consent to do so.

The University will comply with the new right for workers to take emergency volunteering leave (EVL) to help support essential health and social services. You must be in receipt of an “emergency volunteering certificate” (“EVC”) from a relevant health or social care authority such as a Local Authority, the NHS Commissioning Board or the Department of Health and should give the University at least 3 working days advance written notice of EVL and provide a copy of your EVC.

The right is to unpaid EVL, however the University agrees to pay your normal salary during your EVL period. You must not profit from EVL and therefore where the University continues full pay your salary in full, you should not claim compensation from the compensation fund for loss of earnings (this applies to loss of earnings only and not to travel or subsistence).

In line with the University’s commitment to supporting our local community, you are encouraged to carry out volunteer work if you wish to do so.

If you are on furlough leave you cannot however do any volunteering for the University.

Yes, you can be asked to complete training, for example online training, including mandatory training and updates whilst on furlough leave. You can also use this as an opportunity to develop your skills by undertaking some of the optional online training opportunities such as IT training on Excel or PowerPoint.