Can an employer place an employee on furlough leave if they are off sick?

As the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is closed to new entrants from 30 June 2020, an employee cannot be furloughed for the first time after 10 June 2020 (except where they are returning from statutory family leave or they are a reservist returning from active service). An employee can be furloughed only if the employer has previously made a claim for them for a furlough period of at least three consecutive weeks, falling between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.

The guidance published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme states that, while the scheme "is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness", employers can furlough employees who are off sick if they have "business reasons" for doing so. The employee should not receive statutory sick pay (SSP) while they are furloughed. If an employee falls ill during a period of furlough, there is no obligation on the employer to end the period of furlough and move the employee onto SSP (although the employer can choose to do so).

The HMRC guidance states that it was for employers to decide whether or not to furlough employees who are on long-term sick leave. The latest this could have been done was 10 June 2020.