Will furloughed employees be on holiday over the Easter weekend?

9th April 2020

Will furloughed employees be on holiday over the Easter weekend?

The bank holiday is finally upon us… For those with furlough arrangements in place, this may be more cause for a headache than the usual hurrah with the current ambiguity around whether employees can be on holiday and on furlough at the same time. So, what approach should employers be taking when it comes to paying employees over this period?

 What does the government guidance say?

Helpfully nothing at all. The current version of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) guidance[1] is completely silent on the interaction between furlough and holiday.

 What information can be gleaned from other sources?

Acas (an independent publicly funded body that provides free advice on employment law and workplace relations) has recently updated its position on its website to state as follows:

“Bank holidays

Bank holidays are usually part of the legal minimum 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday. Employees and workers must get their usual pay in full for bank holidays.

Employees and workers may still be required to use a day’s paid holiday for bank holidays, including when they’re furloughed. If bank holidays are given on top of the 5.6 week’s paid holiday, employees and workers should check their contract or talk to their employer about taking this holiday.

If employees and workers usually work on bank holidays but are currently furloughed, they should check with their employer to see if they have to take holiday on that day or if they can take the time off at a later date.

If employees and workers cannot take bank holidays off due to coronavirus, they should use the holiday at a later date in their leave year.

If this is not possible, bank holidays can be included in the 4 weeks’ paid holiday that can be carried over. This holiday can be taken at any time over a 2-year period.”

On 7 April 2020 HMRC Customer Support tweeted:

“If an employee is on holiday or has a scheduled Bank Holiday while on furlough, they are entitled to still receive this holiday. Employers must ensure that any employee on holiday or a Bank Holiday is paid their full salary for that period of holiday.”

Whilst neither of these sources are from the official government channel, as trusted sources go, they are likely to be giving an accurate indication of the true position.

 What approach should employers adopt?

It is possible (and hoped) that further guidance on the CJRS will follow soon to clarify the position. The understanding is that the HMRC portal is due to open on 20 April and hopefully the position will be clear before most employers have to process their April payroll. However, for those who pay weekly or are needing to respond to queries from staff, the safest position appears to be that, if the employee has either booked the bank holiday off or has bank holidays included in their holiday entitlement, they are entitled to 100% pay on those days. Alternatively, employers who do not need to make an immediate call, could confirm to employees that they will be paid in accordance with the government guidance and will clarify the position as soon as further information is available. Whether or not the 80% will be recoverable under the CJRS for those days also needs to be confirmed.

This article is based on information available on 9 April 2020. If you would like more information on the content of this article or employment law generally, please contact Melanie Rowe on 01872 227006 or by email at melanie.rowe@murrellassociates.co.uk

[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme