Can an employee be furloughed if they are on maternity leave, or other family-related leave?

Guidance published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme confirms that employers can claim under the scheme for employees who are on family-related statutory leave.

The employee should continue to receive any statutory maternity or other family-related pay to which they are entitled while they are furloughed. The HM Treasury Direction on the operation of the scheme states that a claim under the scheme cannot include amounts already payable to the employee as statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental, or parental bereavement pay. The Direction states that such sums should be deducted from the total amount being claimed under the scheme. However, the HMRC guidance confirms that employers can claim through the scheme for enhanced contractual maternity or other family-related pay they pay to furloughed employees.

Where an employee has exhausted their entitlement to maternity pay, they may wish to agree with the employer to end their maternity leave and remain on furlough, if this would allow them to receive 80% of their wages (up to £2,500 per month). The HMRC guidance does not address whether or not the employer could claim for the employee under the scheme in these circumstances. In any event, the employee would not be able to to return to maternity leave at the end of the period of furlough.