Thursday 14 October is the final day employers can claim furlough payments for their employees' unworked hours in September.
This is the final payment available as part of the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which will no longer be available for claims after 30 September.
Employees receive up to 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month - the government makes a contribution of up to 60%, while employers cover the remaining 20% along with pension and National Insurance contributions.
According to the latest figures from 31 August 2021, 440,000 employers were using the scheme with 1.3m staff on furlough.
Here, Which? Money and Which? Legal explain what the furlough rules are and how your pay might be affected. You can jump to the sections that are relevant to you using the links below.
Claimsfor furlough payments in September must be made by 14 October 2021.
You can no longer submit claims for claim periods ending on or before 31 October 2020.
Employers can apply online and will need their Government Gateway user ID and password.
The furlough scheme ended on 30 September 2021. Employers have until 14 October to make claims for furloughed employees' unworked hours.
Now the government support has ended, employers must decide whether they want to pay for employees to remain furloughed, have them back at work or make them redundant.
The Bank of England has said that it's expecting a small rise in redundancies as a result of the scheme ending - but in most cases employers should have already let affected employees know if their work will be terminated at the end of the month.
If you're at risk of redundancy, you may be eligible for certain benefits such as jobseeker's allowance (JSA) once you're out of work.
The CJRS paid grants to any employer that furloughed its staff instead of letting them go - regardless of the employer's size.
The scheme changed a few times since it was first launched.
The scheme was due to close on 31 October 2020, was then extended to the end of April 2021, and extended further to September 2021.
For the majority of the time, the government covered 80% of furloughed workers' wages, while employers had to pay NI and pension contributions.
From 1 July 2021, the government's contribution reduced to 70% of furloughed workers' wages, and from 1 August until 30 September this dropped to 60%. Employers were expected to contribute more, so employees should have continued to receive the same amount of money each month.
The furlough rules were slightly different depending on when the claim was for.
To be eligible for a CJRS claim on or before 30 April 2021, you must have been on your employer's PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020.
The employer must also have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings.
Employees didn't need to have been furloughed under the CJRS previously.
For claims made from 1 May 2021 onwards, you must have been on your employer's PAYE payroll on 2 March 2021.
The employer must also have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021, notifying a payment of earnings.
Employers did not need to have previously claimed for employees before 2 March 2021 to claim for periods on or after 1 May.
You could have been on any type of contract, including a zero-hours, fixed-term or temporary contract.
It was important that you and your employer had agreed to you being furloughed and that the agreement was recorded in writing. This could be done by email or through a letter.
The government measures didn't help all workers in all circumstances.
The main groups of people likely to have missed out on the extended CJRS include:
While those who run limited companies may consider themselves to be self-employed, the purposes of this scheme considered directors to be employees of their company.
As such, they could be furloughed provided they meet the other eligibility criteria. However, the 80% salary payment would only cover their regular pay.
As most directors in this position will usually keep their salaried pay as low as possible and top up their income with , this is likely to mean they would receive very little from the government scheme; dividend income is not included.
What's more, while on furlough, directors were only allowed to carry out statutory directional duties, such as filing documents on Companies House. Any other form of work - even the maintenance of social media accounts, such as tweeting responses to customers or updating company profiles - was not allowed.
Jobs with different employers were treated separately. This means you could have been furloughed from one or both jobs.
Those caring for someone else who was either self-isolating or suffering with coronavirus - including their own children - can also be furloughed.
The scheme wasn't limited to those employees who would otherwise be made redundant.
It applied to anyone who was furloughed by reason of circumstances as a result of coronavirus.
The Chancellor confirmed that an employer couldn't apply for a grant if doing so would be 'abusive or is otherwise contrary to the exceptional purpose' of the scheme.
HMRC confirmed that some employees could be rehired, and then put on furlough.
For CJRS claims on or before 30 April 2021, employers could choose to rehire any staff made redundant since 23 September 2020 and put them on furlough, as long as the employer made a PAYE Real Time Information submission to HMRC in relation to that employee between 20 March 2020 and 23 September 2020.
However, for claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, you couldn't claim for any days where a furloughed employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period for the employer.
However, there was no obligation on the business to re-employ you.
So for those who only received 80% of their salary, the total you get in the bank will be reduced further by these tax payments.
Your employer should have included:
Your employer wasn't allowed to include:
For workers paid a fixed full or part-time salary, furlough pay was based on what was earned during their last paid period.
So to work out 80% of your wage, your employer started with what you got paid in the last pay period, divided by the total number of days in that pay period, multiplied by the number of days in the furlough pay period and multiplied by 80%. If applicable, the cap of £2,500 may have kicked in.
This worked a little differently for those who started their job recently, as well as for those on zero-hours contracts, or other workers whose pay varies month to month.
Different methods of calculation on the reference pay were adopted for the extended CJRS for those not previously eligible.
Those on a fixed salary got 80% of wages payable in the last pay period ending on or before 30 October 2020.
For those whose pay varies 80% was based on the average pay between the start of your employment or 6 April 2020 (whichever is later) and the day before your CJRS extension furlough period begins.
There was no obligation for employers to top up the salaries of those who will end up earning less than the National Living Wage or minimum wage once they receive 80% of their pay.
In some circumstances, an employer could require staff to undergo training, for which they had to pay at least the minimum wage. However, apprentices that continued their training also had to be paid at least the minimum wage that applied to them.
You could ask to be furloughed, but ultimately it was your employer's decision as to which employees it furloughed.
Employers were under no obligation to sign up to the scheme or continue keeping people on furlough; they were within their rights to make people redundant or dismiss them for other potentially fair reasons.
However, the scheme was made with the aim of encouraging employers to keep as many staff as possible.
Employers didn't necessarily have to prove that their business has encountered adverse effects due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the purpose of the scheme was to reimburse employers for costs arising from the 'health, social and economic emergency resulting from Covid-19, and no claim could be made if it was contrary to this exceptional purpose.
As the scheme was voluntary, there is therefore no option to appeal an employer's decision not to take the grant.
HMRC has admitted a large amount of money paid to employers to cover furloughed staff wages could have been a result of fraud or genuine errors.
According to the latest figures from 14 September 2021, the government has so far paid £69.3bn through the CJRS, but back in September 2020 the Public Accounts Committee heard that between £1.75bn and £3.5bn could have been paid out wrongly.
HMRC has also been encouraging individuals to report their employers where they suspect a fraudulent claim has been made, eg they're being asked to carry out work while on a period of furlough.
In the 2021 March Budget, Mr Sunak announced that HMRC would be forming a special task force of 1,000 investigators aiming to crack down on fraudulent furlough and self-employed income support scheme claims.
From 1 July 2020, the CJRS included an added level of flexibility to allow employers to bring employees back to work on a part-time basis, if it's safe to do so.
So, if an employee were to go back to work for two days a week, for example, their employer would pay them for the hours they've worked and the furlough scheme would continue to pay them for the remaining three days a week when they're on furlough.
Flexible furlough agreements could last any amount of time, however, the period claimed for must have been for a minimum claim period of seven consecutive calendar days according to government guidance.
Employees could claim SSP from the first day they were off sick. This is whether they were ill with coronavirus or just self-isolating.
As statutory sick pay is paid by employers, the government introduced support for small and medium businesses with fewer than 250 employees to help their payments.
Eligible companies could be reimbursed for two weeks' statutory sick pay per employee that claims, and would only need to maintain records of who was off sick and when. Notes from a GP were not necessary.
Companies could also reclaim added expenditure resulting from employees claiming statutory sick pay because of Covid-19.
While it confirmed that if you became sick while on furlough your employer could decide whether to put you onto SSP or keep you on furlough, it also says furlough is not intended to cover short-term absences due to sickness.
However, it goes on to say an employee can be furloughed for 'business reasons'.
The issue for employers making a claim is that they could only do so if it was in respect of employees within the scope of the CJRS, ie as a result of the health, social and economic emergency caused by the pandemic.
Here is Which? Legal's interpretation of the guidance:
If you were on furlough and became sick
If you became sick while on furlough, it was up to your employer to decide whether to put you onto SSP or keep you on furlough.
If you were under a flexible furlough arrangement
There is no specific guidance on how to handle a situation where a sick employee is working part of their working week and furloughed for the remainder.
If you were under a flexible furlough arrangement and you fell sick, or were told to self-isolate when you were due to be working, you should be paid SSP or company sick pay as normal.
The position is more complicated if you were sick and due to go back on furlough - you cannot be on sick leave and furloughed at the same time.
It is not entirely clear from the government guidance whether allowing you to be placed on scheduled period of furlough (even though you are still sick) would be considered an abuse of the scheme. The guidance says that short-term illness or self-isolation should not be a consideration when deciding whether to furlough an employee.
On the other hand, the guidance also says that if your employer wanted to furlough you for business reasons and you are currently off sick, they may have been able to do so.
It's been reported that HMRC's furlough helpline has said their interpretation of the guidance in these circumstances is that the employee should stay on sick leave for the whole period.
If you have been told to self-isolate
When the furlough scheme was open, the guidance did not explicitly exclude the possibility of you being furloughed. It did say that self-isolation should not be a consideration when deciding whether or not to furlough someone.
As mentioned above, an employee could be furloughed for 'business reasons'. The guidance also says employers 'can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus'.
Ultimately it was up to your employer to decide whether or not to furlough you if you are told to self-isolate.
The Chancellor first announced the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme at the 2020 Budget in March and it opened for applications on 26 May 2020.
The scheme allows employers in small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 250 employees to apply for a rebate, reimbursing them for statutory sick pay (SSP) paid to employees for any reason related to coronavirus.
Online applications can be made via HMRC. It will review the application and, if successful, pay the rebate within six working days.
On 24 April 2020, the government announced that furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to their statutory pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate.
This method of calculation of earnings will apply to Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Shared Parental Pay, Parental Bereavement Pay and Adoption Pay, where the person is on furlough with reduced pay during part or all of the relevant period of leave.
If you're on statutory maternity leave, you still have the right to return to work. People who are already on leave or other statutory family-related leave can't be put on furlough until their agreed period of leave is over.
The government has confirmed that anyone who hasn't been able to take their statutory annual leave (ie the minimum 5.6 weeks) due to Covid-19, will now be able to carry that unused leave over into the next two leave years.
Your employer can, by giving appropriate notice, require you to take your leave at or by certain times.
While on furlough, employees couldn't do any work for their employer - even sending emails for work purposes.
However, you could still do training if asked to do so.
Unless it's prohibited by their employment contract, employees were free to work elsewhere while on furlough. However, they weren't be able to work for any business that is associated with or linked to their employer.
You could also do volunteer work, provided this was not for your employer.
In some situations - for example, to help avoid redundancies - your employer might have asked you to stop working for a while (a 'temporary lay-off') or work fewer hours ('short-time working').
However, according to Which? Legal, your employer needed a contractual right to do either of these things.
If you were laid off or put on short-time working, you may have been entitled to a statutory minimum 'guarantee payment' of up to £30 a day for a maximum of five work-less days in any three-month period.
To be eligible for such a payment, you must have been employed continuously with your employer for at least one month and not have refused any reasonable alternative work.
You might be able to apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if you have been laid off or put on short-time working for four or more consecutive weeks, or six weeks within a 13-week period.
There are other eligibility requirements that need to be met before you can claim, so take advice to see whether you qualify.
To support those on low incomes and those who have already been made redundant, several means-tested benefits payments will be increased.
The Universal Credit standard allowance and working tax credit basic element were both increased by £1,000, but this uplift ended at the start of October 2021.
If your income has been adversely affected by the pandemic, there are a number of other measures in place to help.
In the Budget on 3 March 2021, Mr Sunak announced a new £5bn Restart Grant available for certain businesses once they are allowed to reopen. Non-essential retail businesses can get up to £6,000, along with up to £18,000 for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors, including personal care.
This is in addition to the £4.6bn in new grants announced on 5 January 2021, when the Chancellor announced support for businesses during the latest national lockdown.
This included one-off grants of up to £9,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, plus a £594m discretionary fund for other affected businesses.
This article was originally published on 20 March 2020 when the Chancellor announced the coronavirus job retention scheme. It was last updated on 14 October; the final date to make a claim for September.Additional reporting by Kim Kaveh.