The furlough scheme will close today, leaving up to 2 million Brits uncertain of the next step.
The job retention scheme has been winding down since July and companies now have to pay more of their staff's wages than they have been over recent months.
Initially the government supplied workers with 80% of their wages. Rule changes meant employers then had to contribute 10% of that from July, rising to 20% from August.
Furlough is estimated to have helped protect more than 11 million since the start of the pandemic. But from today, payments will stop as the scheme closes.
It is now feared that millions of jobs are at risk because of the end of the scheme.
We've put together your rights once the payments stop, so you know how the end of the scheme will affect you.
What rights do I have if I'm made redundant?
Although furlough was designed to keep workers employed, unfortunately it doesn't protect you from being made redundant.
It won't affect your redundancy pay rights though, and you'll still be able to claim what you are owed.
Despite your wages being lower because of the scheme, which pays out up to 80% of your earnings, employers must use your full normal pay when working out redundancy pay.
So if your weekly pay is usually £300, your redundancy pay must be based on your full normal pay of £300 a week too, not the £240 you may have been receiving through furlough.
How much you're entitled to depends on your age and length of service, although this is capped at 20 years. You'll get:
- Half a week’s pay for each full year you were aged under 22,
- One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41,
- One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older.
It is capped at £544 a week though, with a maximum payout of £16,320.
Plus you'll only receive a statutory redundancy payment if you've been working somewhere for at least two years.
You are also entitled to appeal the decision by claiming unfair dismissal within three months of being let go.
Citizens Advice has advice on how to check if your redundancy is fair.
Can my employer reduce my hours once furlough ends?
In short, your employer can't cut your hours or even give you a pay cut just because the scheme is ending.
They can't do that without your consent but if it's something you are after for a more flexible working arrangement then it is possible, but only if your contract allows it.
If your contract of employment reserves the right to vary your pay and hours though, you could see some changes from today.
It's worth checking over your contract now so you don't face any surprises.
If you are hours are reduced, it needs to be for reasonable and solid business reasons.
If you find your hours cut unreasonably,you could potentially resign and pursue a claim for constructive dismissal according to Landau Law.
But it is worth keeping in mind that you need to be employed for two years to qualify for making a claim for unfair dismissal.
Alternatively, you could continue to work under protest (which you should set out in writing) and consider making a claim for the loss you have suffered.
You can also accept the cut in hours if you want to continue working and look for other jobs to top up hours if necessary.
Are there any benefits I can claim if I lose my job?
James Andrews, senior personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: “It’s essential to act now in applying for any support schemes, loans or grants that you may need to keep yourself level."
He explained to The Sun how Universal credit is the main benefit paid to you.
Universal Credit payments can vary between £344 and £596.58.
But Universal credit is based on your current income, so if you apply today on the last day you're still receiving furlough, you’ll be assessed as if that income will continue – it might be worth waiting until the scheme stops otherwise.
It's important to remember that the £80-a-month uplift to Universal Credit, brought in by the government during the pandemic, is due to end tomorrow too leaving millions of people worse off.
There's a chance to apply for a Universal Credit advance to help cover the cost of essentials such as food, clothes and rent while you wait for full payment to come through too, if necessary.
But it's important to remember that the advance is a loan and so is repayable from your benefits.
James also explained that: “You can get an advance worth 100% of your estimated Universal Credit entitlement – so potentially as much as £596.58 for a joint application from a couple over 25, plus the childcare element of up to £282.50 for your first child and £237.08 for any other qualifying children.
"That’s a theoretical total of £1,116.16, provided you qualify for the grace period of the benefit cap."
But you won't get any further advance if you can't afford to pay it back over 24 months, or 12 months if you claimed before April 2021.
Anna Stevenson, senior welfare benefits specialist at Turn2us, said: “You should apply for Universal Credit as early as possible as there will be a five week wait from when the application is completed.
"You don’t need to worry if you have a change of circumstance after making the application as this will be taken into account in your monthly assessment period, and you don’t need to worry if you receive redundancy money after making a claim.
What other help can I get?
There are also interest-free loans available from local councils for people who are struggling.
You might also be able to get help with Council Tax through a reduction, which you can apply for on the GOV.UK website.
If you’re a homeowner, you might qualify for help with your mortgage interest payments too.
You could also apply for a hardship grant from a charitable foundation, but it could take as long as eight weeks to arrive.
Anna from Turn2us also added: "We urge anyone struggling with money to see if they are eligible for a charitable grant before getting into debt by using high-cost credit.
"You do not have to pay back grants and they don't come up on your credit score."
Turn2Us has a handy Grants Search tool to help you find out which charities you can apply to and a Benefits Calculator you can use to find out what you can get.
Despite the imminent end, unions have called for the job support to become permanent in case of further economic shocks too.
All the while, four in 10 adults feel "uncertain" about the future as government support comes to an end.
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