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Furlough pay for self-isolation

As we emerge from lockdown into full integration it pays to be up to speed with the nuances of the Job Retention Scheme. But have some rights been purposefully hidden from view?

Government guidance has suggested that employees who need to self-isolate may only receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Dutifully following this guidance, this has therefore been the chosen route for most employers. The guidance goes on to state “short term illness or self-isolation should not be a consideration when deciding if you should furlough an employee”.

However, the Treasury has come under fire this month for appearing to obscure the fact that “If an employer wants to furlough an employee for business reasons and they are currently off sick then they are eligible to do so as with other employees.” Given that the maximum statutory sick payment is £96.35 per week, whereas the maximum furlough payment can be £2500 per month, this comes as a great assist to employers and their staff faced with this situation.

For employers, furloughing staff instead of paying SSP may be more cost effective. For employees, the 80% furlough pay may be higher than an SSP entitlement. Employees having to stay at home and isolate with their children may be relieved of struggling to juggle work and childcare and employers have the option to decide to furlough those who work less productively (for often very understandable reasons) whilst self-isolating.

The practicalities of this will of course need some consideration. There is no longer a minimum period of furlough, but employers will have to be hot off the mark to apply for furlough in time to recoup where the employee is suddenly off, without notice, for ten days. This may be easier where the employee has to isolate for a longer period, but often this is still without much notice or in cases where the employee has previously been furloughed and is already registered.

So, whilst politicians and the Treasury battle out what should have been done when, it may well be worth taking full advantage of the little extra flexibility this new old news will bring.

Finally, as we pass the summer and dream to escape to anywhere but where we have spent the last year be mindful that furlough is still not (as far as we understand) intended for use where the reason for isolation is solely related to travel restrictions and returning to quarantine, i.e. where there is no reason to self-isolate because of sickness.

Contact a solicitor

If you have any questions on this or other furlough matters, please contact our specialist Employment & HR team.

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