Over 750,000 people have now applied to become an NHS volunteer. It is clear from the government’s guidance on the Job Retention Scheme – or Furlough scheme, that volunteering whilst on furlough is allowed. The guidance does make the important assumption that the volunteering in question is not for the employee's employer. This would essentially be classed as continuing to carry out work, which can’t be done whilst on furlough, and could easily be uncovered due to the government stating that they will be able to retrospectively audit all aspects of the scheme with scope to claw back fraudulent or erroneous claims.
There is equally nothing in the current guidance that suggests the employer will only be able to access the reimbursement if it makes it a condition of furlough leave that the employee does not work elsewhere. In the circumstances, employers could consider relaxing any contractual restrictions to allow employees to take up a role with a non-competing business, such as, for example, a supermarket, many of whom are recruiting, with their prior consent.
We have also been getting a large number of enquiries about annual leave. The government has now announced (see this link) that it is allowing workers to carry over up to four weeks annual leave into the next two leave years.
The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 promise to amend regulation 13 of the Working Time Regulations to allow workers to carry over EU holiday, limited to four weeks into the next two leave years, where it is not reasonably practicable for them to take some, or all, of the holiday they are entitled to due to coronavirus. The remaining 1.6 weeks' UK statutory leave is not effected, although this entitlement amounting to up to eight days FTE could already be carried over for up to a year by agreement.
The change is aimed at allowing businesses under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce, while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday. Sectors this is aimed at include those with essential workforces, such as healthcare, supermarkets, and food chain suppliers.
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