HMRC has updated its furlough guidance extending the situations in which furlough can be offered to employees.

The new guidance states that furlough can be offered to employees whose health is affected by Covid 19 if they are unable to work from home.  This seems to cover employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable so are shielding but have a job role that does not lend itself to home working.

The new guidance says that employers can – please note that is can and not must – furlough those employees.  Please do not be fooled by the vocabulary!  Employees who are shielding because they are clinically extremely vulnerable doubtless have a disability as defined by the Equality Act.  If those individuals are left on SSP (£95.85 a week) rather than 80% of their salary they are likely to feel they have been disadvantaged as a result of their disability so there could potentially be a disability discrimination claim coming down the tracks towards you if you elect to leave them on SSP.

The new guidance extends the furlough regulations to cover employees who have caring responsibilities.  So if you have an employee whose children cannot attend school during this lockdown, the furlough regulations now allow you to furlough those members of staff.   Caring responsibilities also include frail and/or vulnerable adults for whom your employee is the main carer – so ancient parents or adults with learning disabilities would be covered.

You should, of course, try and have those individuals working from home if that is possible or practical but you now have the option of furlough.

Please not that you do not have to furlough the employees.  If you are busy and need to have all your employees working their contractual hours then furlough is clearly not an option.   But please take care, a majority of employees with caring responsibilities are female so there is always the potential for a sex discrimination claim.

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