With the announcement of schools closing, and virus cases higher than ever before, employers who can’t work from home may find themselves wanting - or needing - to remain at home.
Can I request furlough from my employer?
If your job cannot be done from home and you have a reason for remaining at home - such as childcare responsibilities - it is legal, though not compulsory in all cases, for employers to furlough workers who request it.
Your reasons for wanting furlough may vary - you could be shielding, living with someone vulnerable or have children who need childcare now schools are closed.
Furlough for childcare
If you have found yourself needing to stay at home to carry out childcare responsibilities, it is legal for your employer to furlough you.
You should go directly to your employer to ask about furlough. Though it is legal for your employer to furlough you for this reason, it is not a requirement - so it is possible you may be refused.
If you are refused, there are other options. The law states that employees have a right to time off work if they need to unexpectedly help someone who depends on them.
You don’t, however, have a legal right to be paid for this time off and should check your contract carefully to see what your workplace policy is.
You may also be able to take annual leave or unpaid parental leave, the latter of which is available for parents who have been with their company for more than a year.
If you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks you also have a legal right to ask for flexible working, which your employer must consider and deal with in a “reasonable manner”.
Flexible working might include asking to reduce or change your hours.
Furlough if you are a vulnerable person
If you are an extremely clinically vulnerable person, and have been asked to shield by the government, you should not be going to work even if your job cannot be done from home.
In the first instance, you should ask your employer if they can furlough you. If they can’t, you may be able to get statutory sick pay instead, using your shielding letter as evidence you can’t go to work.
Citizens Advice says that your employer may be breaking the law if they demand you come to work after you’ve told them you’re shielding. You can find further advice on what to do in this situation on their website.
If you are pregnant, your employer is responsible for making changes to your job to make it safe to work. If they can’t make these changes, they could give you a different, safer role.
If it’s not safe for you to continue working while pregnant, you may have a right to stay home and still get full pay - you can read more on your maternity rights here.
Furlough if you live with someone vulnerable
It is not a legal requirement for your employer to make changes to accommodate people you live with, but again, you can ask your employer what they can do to help, and whether you can be furloughed.
Can I be furloughed part-time?
If you ask for furlough, this doesn’t have to be on a full-time basis.
If you can’t afford, or don’t need to be furloughed full time, you can be furloughed on a flexible basis - from as little as one hour.
The amount of time you work each week can also vary week-to-week.
Who is eligible for furlough?
You don’t have to have been previously furloughed to be eligible for the furlough scheme, though you do have to have been on the payroll with your company since October 30.
This applies to zero-hours and agency workers as well as full time and part time employees.
Currently, the scheme is set to last until April 30, and covers 80 per cent of your salary up to £2,500 per month.