Government issues important clarification on furloughed staff

The Government has updated its guidance on staff that have been furloughed, meaning they are now permitted to undertake other employment, if their contract permits.

The farming industry, including some pig farms and pork processors, have been looking to recruit staff that have been furloughed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Whereas previously furloughed staff were not allowed to earn money elsewhere, the updated Government guidance means that producers can employ people that have been furloughed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and this will not affect the grant that they can claim under the scheme, NPA senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said.

“However, if the employer that has placed their member of staff on furlough stops furloughing them, they must return to their original employment role. The member of staff must also attend any training their original employer requires during the furlough process,” she added.

“Any activities undertaken while on furlough must be in line with the latest Public Health guidance during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Any business taking on furloughed people are urged to check with their current employer before any contract is agreed. The new employee should tick column C on the starter checklist form for HMRC.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has also welcomed clarification. The CLA is predicting a shortfall of up to 80,000 casual and seasonal employees for the fruit and vegetable picking season without urgent action.

To date, some 26,000 people have responded to the call for a new ‘land army’ of UK-based workers to fill the labour shortage.

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said: “Thousands of people are coming forward to help farmers feed the nation. Up until this week, there was a lack of clarity around the rules concerning furloughed workers – specifically whether they can take up a temporary job while still under an employment contract.

“To their credit, the UK Government has listened to industry warnings and has now made it clear that if you are furloughed, you should be able to undertake seasonal paid employment to supplement your income.

“For this to work, it is vital that employers take heed and release their furloughed staff from any contractual obligations limiting their ability to seek alternative work.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.