Created on: 11 May 2020 | Last modified: 10 Apr 2024

Many members will have heard of but be unfamiliar with this new term "furloughing" in the employment context.

It basically means that an employee will not be required to work but will be paid. The aim of the scheme is to retain jobs.

The "Job Retention Scheme" is the name of the fund to which employers can apply to get a grant to cover the wages of staff they have furloughed. 

You can find details of the scheme here.

It is designed to apply to employers who, as a result of the effects of COVID 19 cannot maintain their workforce They may make a claim for a grant to the scheme to cover 80% of a furloughed worker, of up to £2500 per month. They may also claim national insurance costs and some pension costs.

Though we initially believed the scheme was unlikely to apply to the public sector or bodies primarily publicly funded (such as most of but not all HEIs), it has now been made clear that HE employers may apply to the scheme. Helpful guidance has been produced by the Scottish Funding Council which makes clear that colleges and universities can access the scheme in some limited circumstances.

These circumstances are:

  • Where an employee works in an area where services are temporarily stopped and where the salaries of those affected are not otherwise affected by public funding (for example university canteens)
  • Where the employee would otherwise be made redundant
  • Where the employee is not involved in delivering provision already publicly funded
  • Where the employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or a vulnerable child
  • Where the grant would not be duplicative of other public grants that the HE provider receives and would not lead to financial reserves being created.

The guidance is clear in regard to HE employers having to justify each claim for a furloughed member of staff to show that there is not additional financial gain to the institution and there has been no 'double dipping' into the public purse.

However, it should be noted that the furlough scheme can be applied to temporary, fixed term and hourly paid staff and some of these groups, who may be more vulnerable to redundancy, might now be covered by the scheme if adequate justification can be found for doing so.

If you are approached by your employer to be furloughed, please contact your EIS branch secretary. Here is what you should be looking for from your employer:

  • That you are paid at 100% of your normal salary including pension contributions. EIS expects your employer to top up the grant offered under the job retention scheme.
  • That you continue to accrue holidays as normal

Where workers can work from home, they should be allowed to do so instead of being furloughed. However, if you cannot work from home because of caring responsibilities or other reasons (like no access to equipment or just being in a job which cannot be done from home), furlough can be considered.

If you have more than 1 job, you can be furloughed for each job.

If you are being furloughed and have any questions, please contact your branch secretary as soon as possible.