Introduction to this document

Notice of return to work from furlough

Where, during the coronavirus pandemic, you require a furloughed employee to return to their normal hours of work with effect from a set date, you can use our letter to arrange this.

Back to work requirement

If you’re ready to request your furloughed employees to resume normal working during the coronavirus pandemic, you can use our Notice of Return to Work from Furlough. Our letter informs the employee that you can now bring the current period of furlough to an end, and why, and that they can therefore return to their normal hours of work as set out in their contract of employment with effect from the date you set in the letter - give as much notice as you can here, although obviously we know that things can change with very little warning. It’s important to be aware that you’re not requesting the employee to resume normal working - you’re requiring them to do so under the terms of their contract. Thus, if they fail to comply, it could become a potential disciplinary matter, but subject to the position set out below on vulnerable and reluctant employees. You must also first ensure that, if the employee is returning to their physical workplace because they cannot work from home, you’ve followed the government’s guidance on working safely during coronavirus, including carrying out a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19. Although the guidance simply provides advice and isn’t law, you do still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by your business (such as employees and customers), including the risk of COVID-19, and therefore the guidance provides advice on sensible precautions you can take to manage the risk. For example, this might mean you want to seek the employee’s consent to temporarily amend their start and finish times, to ensure you can stagger staff arriving at and leaving work to reduce the number of people they come into contact with - see our Letter Seeking Consent to Staggered Start Times.

Reasons for furlough revocation

The main reasons you’re likely to want to revoke furlough are: (1) your business situation has improved; (2) you’ve been allowed by the government to re-open your workplace or resume your business operations; or (3) as you only needed to furlough some staff, you’re rotating employees between work and furlough.

Vulnerable and reluctant employees

As far as clinically extremely vulnerable employees (i.e. those on the governments shielding list) and vulnerable employees (i.e. those who are pregnant, aged 70 or over or have certain underlying health conditions) are concerned:

  • pregnant employees: if, following your risk assessment, you can’t avoid exposure to coronavirus risk by other means on a return to work, offer suitable alternative work on a temporary basis. If no such work is available, or if the employee reasonably refuses it, suspend them from work on full pay for so long as necessary to avoid the risk. If the suspension continues into the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth, this will trigger the start of their maternity leave
  • clinically extremely vulnerable employees and those aged 70 or over or with certain underlying health conditions: you have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to take reasonably necessary steps to protect their health and safety (the same applies to all employees), so make sure that your risk assessment gauges whether their work environment presents a specific risk of infection for them. Do give extra consideration to those employees who are at higher risk of infection and/or an adverse outcome if infected and continue to support them by discussing with them their individual needs and supporting them in taking any additional precautions advised by their clinicians. For example, consider allowing them to work from home, take paid annual leave or unpaid leave, or continue with furlough, or look at offering them the safest available on-site roles if any such roles are available. Make sure you also follow the latest coronavirus-related advice from Public Health England for these employees.

If any other employees are reluctant to return to work because they’re concerned about perceived serious workplace dangers, speak to them about their concerns and try to constructively resolve them together. Where you’re confident, after reviewing the position, that you’ve put in place sufficient control measures following your COVID-19 risk assessment to mitigate the coronavirus risk to them, but they still refuse to return to work, disciplinary action may then be appropriate. You do need to take care here though as it’s automatically unfair to dismiss employees and unlawful to subject them to a detriment where they refuse to return to work “in circumstances of danger” which they “reasonably believed to be serious and imminent”.