Business as usual for recruiters except for furloughed employees

Recruiters will be allowed to contact candidates, who are furloughed under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, according to a leading employment lawyer.

However, any recruitment agency employees and in-house recruiters, who are themselves furloughed, will not be allowed to contact any candidates or clients. 

John Hayes, managing partner at law firm Constantine Law, told Recruiter: “It is business as usual unless you are furloughed.” Hayes said the rules allowed recruiters to keep in touch with their own furloughed employees, for example, by sending them emails or messages. 

The scheme, under which employers will be able to claim a grant of up to 80% of all ‘employment costs’, is available to all employees on PAYE, employed on or before 28 February (including those on zero-hours contracts). It applies to all employees “who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis”. During a period of furlough leave, employees will be unable to work.

According to Hayes: “Any organisation can apply, including charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities. It therefore applies to agency employees who are not working.”

Asked whether employees “furloughed” by employer A could then go and work for employer B (eg. could a logistics driver take up a driver’s job for ASDA while furloughed by their employer?), Hayes responded “No”. “This is a breach of the provisions of furlough. Employer A would likely have to repay the money and then claim against the employee. It would be a disciplinary offence.”

Other main points:

What pay does an employer get? The employer will be able to claim a grant of up to 80%, “for all employment costs”, up to a cap of £2.5k per month. This excludes NICs and minimum auto enrolment contributions. Employers can only claim once every three weeks, ie. they cannot get weekly reimbursement. Claims can be backdated to 1 March 2020.

Can an employer top up? Yes, up to 100% of wages.

Is there any end-date to Furlough? The initial scheme will last for three months and then be reviewed. Employers will likely be given 7-14 days’ notice of the end of the statutory furlough scheme and employees will then have to be taken back onto the books, on full pay.

Can employees volunteer for the NHS? Yes, and the social care sector. An employee should give the employer three working days’ notice.

What about employees already on sick-pay? Employees on sick pay or self-isolating cannot be furloughed, but can be furloughed afterwards.  Employees who are shielding can be placed on furlough.

And employees on maternity (and other parental) leave? They will continue to receive their SMP payments. If they are due back to work during a furlough period then they can be furloughed.

Speaking during a webinar on coronavirus held by law firm Osborne Clark this morning, UK partner, Ali Nuaimi said that training of furloughed staff – for example, to keep employees' skills up-to-date – will be allowed. "That is something you can look at putting in place and a number of our clients are doing that," he said.

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