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Employee working whilst furloughed!! (continued)

Emails forwarded providing clear evidence

Didn't find your answer?

I can't seem to comment on my previous post, so am commenting here:

 "Hugo Fair

07th Apr 2021 20:55

"... one of our employees who - although having agreed to be flexi-furloughed - stated that he'd worked no hours. The furlough claims were prepared on this basis."
It's not just down to the individual employee to tell you what hours he's worked. What does the Flexi-furlough Agreement with this employee say about his furloughed and his working hours? You do have such an Agreement don't you?

"He's pi$$ing me off - how should I deal with this?"
Whoah ... why so much antagonism? Has anyone explained to him the concept of what constitutes 'working' (even if, for instance, the shop is closed)? Where do you sit in the hierarchy (his boss, co-worker, etc)?

"he'd at the very least spent an hour or two each month dealing with emails and a bit of admin."
Whilst this may mean making an adjustment to CJRS claims, it's hardly a 'material' issue or indeed a hanging offence. Is there something else you're not telling us?"

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What do you think I may not be telling you?

I'm a co-worker, the company accountant. I am not his boss, and I do not instruct him in any way. I have though explained to him what constitutes working for the purposes of CJRS.

My employer did put in place a flexi-furlough agreement,  which states that he will be instructed to work part-time as the business requires, and will be furloughed for the remainder of the time. 

Of course a few hours is not a massive deal to get worked up about, but is it that bad an idea to take a zero-tolerance approach? Continually turning a blind eye to a few hours here and there across the furloughed workforce and over many months does add up.

Plus, irrespective of what the employee has been instructed to do in accordance with the flexi-furlough agreement, if I find out that they've done additional hours off their own initiative (perhaps coming in for an extra day to complete a task), I'm not claiming it. 

(Plus it's not always possible to know in advance how much time is required to complete the work required, so to expect the employer to always instruct an exact number of hours in advance is unrealistic. Surely asking employees to keep timesheets and provide these at the end of the claim period is a reasonable approach.)

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By Missing in action
07th Apr 2021 22:44

This got me looking again at the wording of our furlough agreements. They state that due to varying demand (as happens in the hospitality industry!), hours will be based on shifts notified at least a week in advance - this has been pretty much adhered to, although as noted I become aware of extra hours here and there that have not been instructed but which I've been adjusting the claims for.

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By Hugo Fair
07th Apr 2021 22:44

When I asked "Is there something else you're not telling us?", it was as an open question (no inference of malfeasance) ... and raised solely because of the substantial disparity between your apparent anger with your co-worker and the relatively minor 'infraction' (if such it is).

If you are not his boss, then it should be the person who is that ensures the employee both understands any rules and complies with them.

The flexi-furlough agreement you describe (which states that he will be instructed to work part-time as the business requires, and will be furloughed for the remainder of the time) does not comply with best practice - although as with most HR matters that does not mean it falls foul of the law, merely that it can lead to altercations between employees and management. HMRC guidance expects a far more 'scheduled' approach to the wording ... and ACAS have good templates at https://www.acas.org.uk/furlough-letter-templates

It sounds (to me & with the limited amount of info available) as though the somewhat open-ended agreement you are using would require a much more rigorous method of timesheet recording (and authorisation) than can be inferred from reviewing a series of WhatsApp messages. Not just for furlough/CJRS purposes, but for general staff management.

Finally, you ask "is it that bad an idea to take a zero-tolerance approach?" Well I'm not a fan of the concept personally - but more to the point it can only be effectively and equitably used where the rules are both clear and understood. If, for instance, the employee had been told several times before that what he was doing was wrong (and why) then I would understand your anger and incline more to your blunter options ... which, going full circle, was one of the reasons that I enquired if there was something else going on (such as previous issues with the same employee, etc)?

Anyway, I suspect we're cut from different cloth in terms of attitude to managing people, so won't continue to lecture. But I would seriously recommend ... reviewing the Agreement and the method used for collection/authorisation of hours, and ensuring that these are communicated through the appropriate manager/staff channels.
Then you can focus on calculating/processing CJRS claims (hopefully not for much longer!) based on authorised worked-hours figures without having to concern yourself with the minutiae of individual workers. Win:Win

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By Missing in action
07th Apr 2021 22:54

Many thanks for your detailed response, some good points!

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Replying to Missing in action:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
07th Apr 2021 23:01

To add a further small point, given the times in which we are living, and the disruption to employee's lives experienced over the last few months, a gentle touch with HR is right now probably a clever idea.

As and when business do regain some normality there is likely going to be a bumpy transition for a lot of business entities and as people will already have been thinking about the meaning of their working lives whilst they have not been working, throwing grit into the machine over a fairly minor matter is possibly not a clever idea; picking one's fights is as important as winning them.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Missing in action
07th Apr 2021 23:18

With furlough fraud being believed to be so widespread, I have a real fear of over-claiming anything. Hence my overreaction.

Perhaps our systems could be better. I ask the line managers for timesheets, as I know the managing director's instructions are of the type 'Please come in next Tuesday to cover the Smith party booking, and on Friday to cover the Taylor party booking'. They only know afterwards what precise hours were needed.

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By Calculatorboy
08th Apr 2021 01:57

I Couldn't give a flying ....you'll end up with a coronary worrying about this.

*This comment has been edited by the moderating team.*

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By the_drookit_dug
08th Apr 2021 09:23

Great advice!

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By tom123
08th Apr 2021 08:44

Time sheets are the only way, tbh.

For part of our business we seem unable to commit to any hours beyond about 24 in advance - which is a pain come payroll time - as we are only paying the 80%.

But you have to have something on which to base your calculations.

And, ideally, a managers signature on the timesheet for approval too.

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Replying to tom123:
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By the_drookit_dug
08th Apr 2021 14:04

I think there are two aspects to this:

1) The contractual arrangements between the employer and flexi-furloughed staff - this should be of no concern to the OP.

2) The record of actual hours worked - seems the OP has every right to be be asking managers for this info, whatever form it may come in. A nudge via WhatsApp is fine, provided records of any actual hours worked are kept in a more appropriate form.

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By Carole Baldwin
08th Apr 2021 09:41

"he'd at the very least spent an hour or two each month dealing with emails and a bit of admin."

Was he paid one or two hours pay for this work, or was it merely keeping on top of things whilst furloughed? If he was not paid separately on top of his furlough pay then there is no problem. Furlough is not intended to totally moth ball businesses, checking and answering emails etc and ongoing admin is necessary if a business is eventually hoping to re open.

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Replying to Carole Baldwin:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
08th Apr 2021 10:34

Except, unless the employee was also a director, doing work to keep the business ticking over still counted as work, not furlough. Even for directors, that was only supposed to include the bare minimum, so ordering from suppliers in anticipation of re-opening was out.

At least it did last time I had to look at the details. For various reasons I have not had to deal with payroll in the last few months so that could have changed.

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Replying to stepurhan:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
08th Apr 2021 11:15

stepurhan wrote:

Even for directors, that was only supposed to include the bare minimum, so ordering from suppliers in anticipation of re-opening was out.

Not necessarily. He could be ordering in his spare time!

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hwqn9

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Replying to stepurhan:
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By Carole Baldwin
08th Apr 2021 13:34

There is no difference between opening the post and reading emails. I assume that the government did not expect companies to leave gas, electric, and indeed tax bills unopened and to return to business 6 months later only to find bailiffs waiting at the door? Someone has to open the mail, write the cheques etc.
"Work" is a task carried out to produce profit or in some way benefit the business as opposed to mere "life support" to ensure it is able to re start operations once lock down ends.

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Replying to Carole Baldwin:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
08th Apr 2021 14:57

Carole Baldwin wrote:

There is no difference between opening the post and reading emails. I assume that the government did not expect companies to leave gas, electric, and indeed tax bills unopened and to return to business 6 months later only to find bailiffs waiting at the door? Someone has to open the mail, write the cheques etc.
"Work" is a task carried out to produce profit or in some way benefit the business as opposed to mere "life support" to ensure it is able to re start operations once lock down ends.

Then by all means point out the part of the CJRS rules that allowed ordinary employees to undertake those tasks.

Because, to the best of my knowledge, your "assumed" allowable tasks could only be undertaken by directors and still qualify for furlough. If they were undertaken by employees, then those employees could not be furloughed while doing them. Your feelings to the contrary do not negate what is written in the legislation. It's the same sort of logic as saying you are a good driver and can therefore go over the speed limit safely.

I thought the all or nothing nature of furlough at the start was unwise, but that was the way the rules were written.

That is even without considering that, in the original version of this question, the work undertaken appears to have gone beyond that anyway. The offender is said to have had "correspondence trails with suppliers going back and forth ". Would "we don't need any supplies" or "we are making payments" need much back and forth?

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Replying to stepurhan:
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By Silvery Waves
08th Apr 2021 15:12

All of these hours could be covered by a flexi-furlough arrangement. Furloughing staff while the shop is closed, but instructing them to undertake a number of admin hours to keep on top of suppliers/stock orders etc seems reasonable.

Although the number of hours for each email trail may only be a handful, if I were the OP I'd be wondering what other work was being undertaken beyond what was hitting my radar. In that sense, they've every right to be a bit miffed at having been told no hours had been done.

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