Staff on state-funded furlough during the coronavirus pandemic are still allowed to train while they have temporarily ceased to work – as long as their employer’s core business is not training.
Employment law firms including Lewis Silkin and Blake Morgan have clarified that furlough, a temporary leave of absence that is not covered by UK employment law, allows staff to undertake training while not working.
Lewis Silkin writes in its guidance on furlough:
“Employees cannot do any work for employers whilst they are on furlough. They can do volunteer work, or training if this does not provide services to or for the employer, or generate revenue for the employer.”
Institute of Export & International Trade director general Marco Forgione welcomed the legal clarification.
“We’re delighted to have received confirmation that anyone on furlough is allowed to upskill on IOE&IT courses, now delivered online, while on furlough at home,” he said.
“We urge individual employees on furlough, who are keen to start or to further their training in international trade, to encourage their employers to use the generous government grants to fund IOE&IT courses during this period.”
PAYE workers only
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as it is known involves the government paying 80% of a PAYE worker’s salary up to £2,500 a month if their employer can demonstrate that it cannot afford to cover wage costs.
Rather than laying off staff, jobs can be put on hold during the disruption period. Although furlough leave can be backdated to March 1, the government’s portal to register for the scheme will not be up and running until the end of April.
Designed to run from 1 March for three months, the government has said it will extend this period if necessary.
On 27 March the government issued new guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.