Furlough Leave FAQs (Updates 22 May 2020)

We have answered below the main questions which employees who are being considered for furlough may ask. If you have a question which isn’t listed here, please email JRSHR Mailbox JRSHR@exeter.ac.uk

Furlough leave is a temporary scheme, introduced by the Government, which enables employers to furlough their eligible workers and apply for a grant that covers part of furloughed workers’ salaries of 80% of their pay, up to a cap of £2,500, and limited on-costs.

The Government has advised employers that they should not use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough staff who are funded from public funding which is continuing. In making a judgement over which roles to furlough, the University will need to comply with guidance issued by HMRC and the DfE on public sector employers’ use of the furlough scheme. This may mean that some roles are not eligible for furlough, even where there has been a reduction in the volume of work required.

The scheme is currently in place from 1 March 2020 and 31st July 2020 and in order to be furloughed workers must have stopped (or will have stopped) working for the University for three consecutive weeks or more.

THE GUIDANCE PROVIDED BY HMRC AND THE TREASURY DIRECTION HAS BEEN SUBJECT TO A NUMBER OF AMENDMENTS AND CLARIFICATION SINCE THE SCHEME WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED. THE UNIVERSITY’S APPROACH WILL CHANGE IN LINE WITH ANY FUTURE AMENDMENTS TO THE GUIDANCE, SUBJECT TO THIS BEING CONSISTENT WITH THE TREASURY DIRECTION.

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 for furlough leave. 

It is a requirement of the Government scheme that you must also have been on the University’s payroll on or before 19 March 2020. You should be aware however that your payroll date may not be the same as the date upon which you started working for the University. If you started working at the University on or after 21st February 2020, your first salary payment would have been made on the 30th March, which was the payday for that month. Therefore under the scheme you would not be eligible for furlough leave as your first pay date was later than the 19th March.

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. Clarification is still being been obtained on external funding, and where researchers are in receipt of any public funding they 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 Government’s 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 either within their own directorate or across the University, and we thank all colleagues who have entered their details on the online form to register their skills, interests and availability. If you have not yet completed the form then we would encourage you to speak to your line manager and complete this as soon as possible. In registering your skills we ask that you consider your broader skill set, for example skills and experience from previous roles and employment. See online form.  This may also provide you with an opportunity to experience other areas of the University and develop your skills.

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 may be eligible for furlough, provided they were on the University’s payroll on 19 March 2020 (see above regarding payroll dates). If you delayed submitting your first claim via eClaims then this will have affected your payroll date (see above).

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 30 June 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 the University for at least 3 consecutive weeks between 17 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.

Other casual workers who were on the University’s payroll on or before 19 March 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 30 June 2020 but for the impact of the pandemic (again, provided they have not worked or will not work for the University for at least 3 weeks between 17 March 2020 and 30 June 2020). We are working hard with managers to identify which workers may be eligible and the hours that would have been worked.

Postgraduate Teaching Assistants and Occasional Teachers

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

Apprentices

Apprentices can be eligible for furlough leave as set out 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 21 February 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 19 March 2020 (see above). 

Foreign Nationals

Workers on all categories of visa can be furloughed if their role is eligible

Employees/Workers who are shielding

Those individuals 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 unable to carry out work from home. You will be asked to notify HR in confidence if this applies to you and may be asked to provide a copy of the letter from the NHS. Please contact JRSHR@exeter.ac.uk.  If you are on sickness absence and in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) (or would otherwise be eligible to receive SSP) then you cannot be furloughed until the SSP period of 28 weeks has expired. 

Employees on unpaid sabbatical or other unpaid leave

Employees already on unpaid sabbatical or any other unpaid leave on 28 February 2020 will not be eligible for furlough leave until the end of the agreed period of leave. Where unpaid sabbatical or other unpaid leave has been agreed, and is due to commence on or after 19 March 2020, then that employee will not be eligible for furlough leave.

There is no right to be furloughed, and the University will make the decision based on the role you carry out and the criteria below. As stated above in the answer to question 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 no current requirement for a role, consideration will first be given to Refocussing our Resources (see above). 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 (see above). 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, shielding where the worker is unable to carry out their work from home (see above), or those with 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 and comply with its obligations under the Equality Act 2010

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), there is no right to be furloughed and we are not obliged to agree to a request. The decision on who to place on furlough leave is ultimately one for the University. The priority will be to refocus resources to cover essential activities where possible.

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 your 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 (see the answer to question “How will staff be selected for furlough leave” above); although a rotation system may be agreed.

Although all HEs, 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, 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 will depend on a number of factors, including the impact the COVID -19 pandemic has on the future demand for services, the University’s income,  our ability to take advantage of the government funds currently available, whether the CJRS scheme is extended after the current end 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. 

If you are placed on furlough leave this will not impact the selection for redundancy should redundancies become necessary in future. In those circumstances, the University’s redundancy procedure would apply equally to those employees who continued to work and those that were furloughed, with fair and non-discriminatory selection criteria being applied.

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 within the framework we have agreed with 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 and you do not agree to take furlough leave, and there is no work available either in your current role or through refocussing our resources, 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 (this may be in electronic form by e-mail).

The CJRS is currently available between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 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 what the arrangements for the scheme will be after 31st July 2020. The University will continue to review the situation and will contact all workers prior to the current end date of 31 July to provide an update.

Furlough leave can be terminated in the following circumstances:

  • where you or the University cease to be eligible for funding;
  • on the university giving you notice that you are required to resume your work. This will normally be one week’s notice unless there is a sudden and urgent requirement for you to return to work earlier; 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 July 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.

Flexible workers with pre-agreed assignments

If you are a member of our bank staff (casual claims or TSB) and had already committed to an assignment during the period 1 March to 31 July 2020 (and this has been confirmed by your manager) 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).

All hours notified to HR by your manager for pre-assigned work will be input centrally within HR and you will not have to submit claims whilst on furlough leave.

Flexible workers with no pre-agreed assignment

If you have not had an assignment booked or confirmed, but nonetheless it can be shown that you would have worked in the period between 1 March and 31 July 2020 but for the impact of the pandemic (see ‘casual workers’ above) then we are asking managers to identify which workers are eligible under the CJRS rules, and if so, what work would have been assigned in order to calculate the amount due. If you have any questions or concerns around this then you should contact JRSHR@exeter.ac.uk

All hours notified to HR will be input centrally within HR and workers will not have to submit claims whilst on furlough leave.

If you carried out an assignment in the period prior to 1 March, but have not yet submitted a claim via e-claims, then you can continue to do so (subject to the normal timeframe for submitting claims), however your claim must clearly identify the dates on which the work was actually carried out.

 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 July 2020, the University will continue to pay employer pension contributions to your pension savings and your employee contributions will continue 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 currently on sickness absence or self-isolating then you cannot be furloughed  during the 28 week period in which you are in receipt of/or entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP). During this period you will remain on sickness absence and continue to be paid SSP or occupational sick pay as applicable (in accordance with the applicable conditions of employment) until such pay is exhausted or you are fit to return to work. Once you are fit to return to work, or your entitlement to SSP is exhausted, then you can be furloughed if you are otherwise eligible.

If you become unwell whilst furloughed then you do not need to follow the normal notification absence procedure and you will remain furloughed. An exception to this provision is if you have been given notice to end your furlough leave (see item 7 above) or you are due to rotate furlough leave with colleagues in which case you must notify your line manager in accordance with the normal absence notification requirements. In these circumstances your absence may be treated as sickness absence and you will receive SSP or occupational sick pay as applicable (in accordance with the applicable conditions of employment) until such pay is exhausted.

If you are on, or due to go on, family leave then you will retain your right to do so and you can still be eligible for furlough leave both prior to and during your family leave period and receive the payments you would receive under the relevant policy for parents and carers (subject to the compulsory maternity period - see below).

Furlough leave will not however affect the two-week compulsory maternity period and therefore you 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.  Where you have elected to take less than your full maternity leave entitlement of 12 months, or if you have given notice to return early from maternity leave, then you may, subject to agreement go on furlough leave if you are otherwise eligible. You  should be aware that CJRS is currently only due to run for four months. If you have elected to take less than your full maternity leave entitlement, or have given notice to return early, and you are furloughed, then you will be required to return to work at the end of the furlough period and you will not be able to change your mind and return later under the maternity leave provisions . You may however be eligible for another form of parental leave or annual leave.

If you are furloughed then ten percent of your furlough leave period will be designated as paid annual leave, from your 2020 annual leave allowance (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.

If you have more than one role at the University under separate contracts; then it is possible for you to be furloughed; however this means that you will be unable to carry out any work for the University, thereby preventing you from carrying out the duties for your other role during the furlough leave period. Therefore, if you have more than one role/contract then you will not be furloughed unless all relevant line managers agree to this.

This also applies if you have flexible working arrangements and carry out different roles/assignments via eClaims, i.e. if you are furloughed from an assignment, this will mean that you are not available to undertake work on any other assignment during the furlough leave period. For example, if you undertake assignments in Student Services assisting with administration and also do work for Campus Services in catering, then as there is no temporary work available in catering you could be eligible to be furloughed from any catering assignments. This would mean however that you would also be unable to carry out any work in Student Services and would not therefore be paid for that work. This is due to the rule that a worker can only be furloughed once by their employer.

You can only be paid under the CJRS for one role/assignment

During the period 1 March to 31 July 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.  Please contact JRSHR@exeter.ac.uk if you have any queries prior to agreeing to other paid work.

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.