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Furlough: new rules for calculating the pay of variable hours workers

The government has recently published another Treasury Direction modifying the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and updated its more user friendly guidance

Key points to note are:

Refence salary rules are changing for some workers whose pay varies

The furlough pay of anyone who works variable hours and was on your payroll by 19 March 2020 is calculated by working out the higher of: 

  • wages earned in the corresponding calendar period in a previous year (the 'lookback' method) and
  • average wages payable in the tax year 2019 to 2020

The furlough scheme will have been running a year in March. Therefore, the government needed to adjust the 'lookback' reference periods for calculating furlough pay in March and April 2021 to avoid anyone who was furloughed in March and April 2020 receiving less pay than they might otherwise be entitled to. Without changing the rules about this, workers could receive 80% of 80% of their pay.

So, instead of looking back to March 2020 and April 2020 to ascertain wages earned, you have to go back to 2019 as follows:

Claim monthLookback period
April 2021April 2019
March 2021 March 2019
February 2021February 2020

These changes don't apply to variable hours workers who weren't already on your payroll by 19 March 2020. Instead, you must continue to follow the existing rules to work out the pay of those working variable hours who were on your payroll by 31 October 2020. 

You also don't need to make any changes to the calculations you use for workers on a fixed salary.


The Treasury Direction also sets out the deadlines for submitting furlough claims for February, March and April as follows: 

Claim periodClaim deadlineDeadline for amending claim
April 202114 May 202128 May 2021
March 202114 April 202128 April 2021
February 202115 March 202129 March 2021

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