Work has changed for millions of people across the UK as the coronavirus crisis continues.

Many are working at home, but some 'key workers' are still traveling to their workplaces.

Others, who are older and have underlying health problems, have been told to stay away from work for 12 weeks.

Furlough is the new buzz word, as many people have had this imposed upon them - reports the Manchester Evening News.

It involves a temporary leave of absence for employees, who are paid part of their salary and otherwise may have been made redundant.

The continued spread of the virus has left many employers and employees uncertain about their rights.

Louise Quigley, a barrister specialising in employment Law at Manchester's 9 St John Street Chambers, has answered some of the frequently asked questions posed by both employers and employees during the current crisis.

My employer is still insisting that I come to work, do I have to? What would happen if I refuse?

"If you are an employee who has received a letter asking you to stay at home to “shield”, then your employer should follow government advice and allow you either to work from home or be furloughed.

"In these circumstances, you would likely be within your rights to refuse to go in, on the basis that it is an unreasonable management request which carries a risk of disciplinary action.

"If your employer still insists, it would be advisable to raise a grievance and seek professional advice.

"For employees in vulnerable groups (pregnant, disabled, over 70’s) your employer would need to be mindful of its duty of care and statutory obligations and take appropriate steps to ensure your health and safety.

"If home working was an option, you should ask your employer to reconsider, and it would be hard for your employer to argue that your refusal was misconduct.

"For pregnant employees, your employer should undertake a risk assessment and, in the event, that it could not ensure appropriate social distancing, there may be grounds for medical suspension (Regulation 16(4) Management of Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1999).

"For all other employees, the government guidance remains that home working should be allowed wherever possible but, inevitably that means there will be cases where it is reasonable to require an employee to attend work.

"In those circumstances, if you refused to attend you would be at risk of not being paid and/or being disciplined.

"If you take the view that it would be impossible to observe the Government’s social distancing guidance whilst attending your normal workplace, you should inform your employer accordingly.

"Again, it would be hard for your employer to argue that your refusal was misconduct."

How does being furloughed affect my holiday entitlement?

"The right to holiday is governed both by the Working Time Regulations 1998 and your contract of employment.

"A worker cannot waive rights to statutory holiday entitlement (28 days) and this will continue to accrue during any period of furlough.

"If a worker has contractual leave in addition to the 28 days, this would also continue to accrue unless the furlough agreement states otherwise.

"The recently announced Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 introduced on 27th March 2020 means that, as an exception, workers for whom it is not “reasonably practicable” to take some or all leave due to coronavirus will be able to carry it forward into the next year.

"That means for workers who have holidays booked, but cannot go or arguably enjoy their holiday due to coronavirus, they will be able to take it in the next holiday year.

"This will affect workers in different ways, and it will depend on when leave is booked, why you cannot take the holiday and when your holiday year starts and stops."

Can I take holidays whilst being on furlough leave?

"The Government guidance is that an employee cannot “work” whilst on furlough leave.

"As yet, it is not clear whether “work” will include being on holiday or not.

"It is also not clear whether furlough leave can be started and then stopped to enable employees or employers to pick and choose when they are on furlough or not.

"Until the details of the scheme are fully known, there will remain uncertainty.

"However, it would be possible to make a request to use up any outstanding holidays before any period of furlough leave begins. "

Your employer would have a discretion to refuse but hopefully agreement could be reached.

"It is also open to your employer to require workers to take holidays before any period of furlough leave, although notice would need to be given.

"Your contract of employment may set out what notice your employer must give.

"If not, your employer must give double the amount of time they are requiring you to take off i.e. two days leave requires four days’ notice."

I have been selected for furlough, does this mean I will be made redundant?

"Not necessarily.

"Part of the reason why the Government has introduced the furlough scheme is to stop companies going out of business and/or making redundancies.

"Hopefully the scheme will ensure that as many employees as possible keep their jobs.

"However, there is no guarantee, and it may be that companies still need to make redundancies in the future.

"If that situation does arise, then your employer will need to follow a fair procedure for selecting employees for redundancy.

"The current guidance as to what is fair or not has not been adjusted to take into account furloughed employees, but it is likely to be adjusted in the future.

"It is likely to be unfair to select furloughed employees over those who continued to work."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street

Can employers insist on furloughing staff?

"Unless there is an express contractual right to “furlough” or “lay-off “staff, an employer cannot unilaterally furlough a member of staff without risking a breach of contract and a potential employment tribunal claim.

"However, if you decide to furlough and are paying 100 per cent of wages and maintaining all benefits, agreement may not be required.

"Obvious exceptions would include staff who earn commission.

"If you intend to pay less than 100 per cent of wages, then a “furlough agreement” would be required, or at least an agreement to vary existing terms and conditions.

"Advice should be sought as to the terms of any agreement or variation.

"A “furlough agreement” is a variation in contractual terms, and requires the consent of the employee.

"If a trade union is recognised, they should be consulted.

"In most circumstances, as the likely alternative is redundancy, it is likely that agreement will be reached.

"If no agreement can be reached, the employer could give notice to terminate the current contract and offer re-employment on the new terms.

"Depending on the number of employees, this may trigger collective consultation obligations.

"If this arises it would be advisable to take specialist advice.

"If the employer simply decides to impose the “furlough agreement”, this would create a risk of an unfair or constructive dismissal claim, although this may be a calculated risk."

How do employers choose which staff to furlough, and what are the risks?

"For lots of businesses, it will not be practical to furlough all staff.

"Consequently, a system for selecting employees to be furloughed should be devised.

"This is likely to be divisive, and could give rise to disharmony.

"A straightforward strategy would be to identify business critical functions, and then how many staff are needed.

"Staff that fall within the “shielding” category can be furloughed as well, and should be taken into consideration.

"It may be advisable to consult with staff, and obtain their views and potential volunteers for either status.

"Employers should be alive to the fact that the selection process could be subject to scrutiny, and give rise to claims for either direct or indirect discrimination.

"It would be advisable to make an impact assessment to identify whether any protected group was more affected than others.

"As the full details of the scheme have not been announced, depending on the final details it may be possible to rotate who is furloughed and share out the requirement to work amongst the workforce.

"Who is or is not furloughed should be the subject of review, say every three weeks, and all employees should be made aware of this."

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An employee is in the category the Government strongly advises should be allowed to work from home, but their work cannot be done remotely. What should employers do?

"This is a difficult category and will be fact specific.

"There is currently no law that requires employers to allow employees in high risk categories to work at home, but there is an obvious tension between the clear guidance and requiring qualifying employees to be at work.

"All possible efforts to accommodate home working should be made, and the option of furloughing staff should be explored.

"It will also be questionable whether the instruction to attend work is reasonable or not, which will depend on the individual circumstances of the employee and the business.

"Employers should undertake a risk assessment, and also be mindful of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, in particula iin respect of pregnant employees.

"It would be advisable to take specialist advice before insisting on attendance."

I have dismissed my employees, can I change my mind and furlough them instead?

"The Government announcement indicated that this was a possibility, but the mechanism for this is not known at this stage.

"When an employee is dismissed, it can be overturned by a successful appeal which preserves continuity of employment.

"It may be possible for dismissed employees to appeal and be reinstated only then to be placed on furlough.

"However, this could entitle employees to wages between the date of dismissal and the successful appeal.

"If the appeal mechanism is not used, and if the employees are just re-employed on new contracts, according to the current guidance they would not be eligible for furlough unless the Government legislates for this.

"It may be best to wait until further details of the scheme are published or for advice to be taken.

"The above answers are based on the recent Government announcements and changes in Employment Law, and may be subject to change."