Government announces extension of furlough deadline for parents returning from family leave

Posted: June 11, 2020

On 29 May 2020 it was announced that from 30 June 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (commonly referred to as the furlough scheme) would be closed to employees who have not already been furloughed for at least three weeks. In practice, this meant that if an employee has not been furloughed already, the latest date that that employee could be furloughed would be 10 June. For more information on this announcement, see Significant Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced on Friday 29 May 2020

It has since been noted that this could have a disproportionately negative impact on employees who are currently on statutory maternity and paternity leave. There are women due to return from maternity leave after 10 June 2020 who, for obvious reasons, would have been on leave since before the lockdown began.

Recognising this potential injustice, the Government has stated that the 30 June 2020 deadline will not be not apply to those returning from statutory maternity leave or paternity leave and who are returning to the same employer. This extension will also apply to other forms of family leave, notably shared parental leave and adoption leave as well as parental bereavement leave.

More information will be published on 12 June 2020 and there are some unanswered questions. It will be interesting to see whether a separate type of deadline will be imposed for those returning from relevant family leave. For example, it is possible that the Government may impose a rule that states a woman returning from maternity leave may have to be furloughed within two weeks of return or lose the opportunity. It is also not clear what will happen to employees who benefit from leave that is more generous than the basic statutory entitlements, for example a man who is entitled to a month of paid paternity leave as opposed to two weeks. A further update will follow.

Andrew Lloyd, Associate, Simkins LLP

Victoria Willson, Partner, Simkins LLP