Six big problems with the taxpayer-backed furlough scheme

Linda J. Dodson

The ban on working

Employees are prohibited from working for their employer while furloughed. This prevents the system being exploited but makes it hard for firms to maintain relationships with customers and suppliers, which will be crucial to getting them up and running again. 

The Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors say that allowing employees to work part-time as the scheme draws to a close would help firms to slowly ramp up their operations.

Job movers

Workers changing jobs have fallen between the cracks. To qualify for furlough, employees must have been on the payroll by March 19 – the day before the scheme was announced. 

Extending the deadline from Feb 28 to March 19 made roughly 200,000 extra workers eligible, HMRC said. But the Government fears extending the cut-off further would let fraudsters milk the system. 

People who were not fully set up on their new firm’s payroll by March 19 can ask their old employer to re-hire and immediately furlough them. Some employers are refusing to do so. 

Catherine Smith, 53, who trains school chefs in the Midlands, says her new firm, where she had already signed a contract, should be allowed to furlough her: “Why would my old employer want to furlough me? I have already left them. They have no loyalty to me now.”

Workers not being paid

Several workers have contacted The Telegraph saying their employers have laid them off or forced them to take unpaid leave instead of furloughing them on 80pc of their normal wages. 

Firms are not compelled to furlough workers who would otherwise be laid off or put on unpaid leave, putting employees at the mercy of bosses who are capricious or simply confused about the rules. 

Some employers incorrectly told staff with office jobs that they are ineligible for furlough if the only reason they cannot work from home is that they do not have suitable internet connections or work spaces. Others gave no reason for refusing. 

Confusion among firms over the criteria for furloughing workers is forcing some to seek temporary employment in supermarkets or sign up to receive universal credit. 

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