I am on part-time furlough. My child’s school has closed due to Covid and I can’t go in. My employer is saying that they cannot pay me part-time furlough if I can’t go in. Is that correct? I am contracted to work 25 hours a week – 5 hours a day. However, I did not agree in the furlough announcement which hours the furlough part would cover and I am getting called in as and when they need me on shift. So would I get no furlough pay at all if I can’t come in for a shift?
You are currently on flexible furlough, which simply means that you and your employer have agreed that, during this period of furlough, you may be asked to work now and then, depending on business needs. There is no requirement to specify in advance which shifts or hours would be treated as furlough and which you would be working.
Being unable to attend work because of caring responsibilities, such as having to care for your child while their school has closed due to Covid, is one of the situations where the government has said that furlough can be used. During this time you should be paid at the normal furlough rate.
It may be that your employer has misunderstood the guidance or is treating this situation as they would if the furlough scheme was not available. If the furlough scheme was not available, then you would have to take the time off either as part of your holiday entitlement or unpaid leave.
I recommend you ask your employer to review their decision and send them a copy of the government’s website which specifically deals with this (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme). If they will not change their decision you could raise a grievance about the decision and ask them to confirm in writing why they are not treating you as being on furlough during this period. If you think the only reason they are not paying you for this period is because you have childcare responsibilities and/or they are treating male staff differently, this could constitute discrimination on grounds of sex.
If they do not change their decision, you should consider taking legal advice on pursuing this further through the employment tribunal process.