Develop your furloughed workforce

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many employers have found it necessary to place their staff on furlough. Since March, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has

allowed employers to claim 80 per cent of each furloughed employee’s usual monthly wages (capped at £2,500 a month) in addition to their employer National Insurance contributions, plus minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. The rules of the scheme prohibit a furloughed employee

from undertaking any work for the company, be that their usual or any new duties. However, as an employer, you still have the opportunity to invest in your staff’s professional and personal development, as furloughed staff are able to undertake training or volunteering activities.

TRAINING FOR FURLOUGHED EMPLOYEES Furloughed employees have the option to engage in training, as long as doing so does not generate revenue for, or provide services on behalf of their company (or associated businesses). In April, the Government launched a Skills Toolkit in

order to provide millions of adults on furlough access to free, high-quality online courses in digital and numeracy skills, including coding, business and internet skills. The aim of the Skills Toolkit is to help adults build up

their skills, boost their job prospects and also help them progress in their roles once they are able to return to work. The Open University and Google are among the providers. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said businesses

should encourage staff to “boost their skills”. He urged furloughed employees to “improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak”. Where training is undertaken at the specific request of

their employer, furloughed employees are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an

employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will be sufficient to cover these training hours. However, if the time spent training exceeds the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages.

APPRENTICES Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees, but they are able to continue their training remotely or via e-learning if possible – employers should liaise with the apprentice training provider to discuss the available remote training options. Where training is undertaken by furloughed workers at

the request of their employer, apprentices must be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage (AMW). Employers may claim 80% of the cost of an apprentice’s

wages through the furlough scheme, but will need to cover any shortfall between the amount claimed through the scheme and their minimum wage.

VOLUNTEERING ON FURLOUGH Staying at home on furlough and in lockdown can be very difficult for some. In these instances, volunteering could be a great way to keep people busy and engaged in meaningful activities. “Furlunteering”, as it’s been dubbed, is an excellent way

for furloughed staff to give back to the community, improve their mental wellbeing and gain new skills, which they will be able to transfer to the workplace. Furloughed employees can take part in volunteer work as long as it does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, the organisation. However, it’s important to note that to ask your

employees to come back to work in a voluntary capacity would be an abuse of the furlough scheme, and breaching the official guidance could invalidate an organisation’s claim for furlough grants. This ruling also applies to charitable organisations – you

cannot ask your staff to volunteer for the charity they work for!

As an employer, you can help encourage your staff to

volunteering programme that fits their skill set and provides them an opportunity to develop those skills. There are a number of organisations that are working to

match individuals with the right programme, such as

business network August/September 2020 53 ‘Furloughed

staff are able to undertake training or

volunteering activities’

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