Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, more than 9 million UK workers are expected to be furloughed, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation using the latest figures from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). This means that employees will effectively be told to down tools and put on furlough – a leave of absence – during the Coronavirus pandemic, with 80% of their wages reimbursed by the government if their employer is affected by the outbreak.
Last month, chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined a number of measures to help protect workers and businesses during the .
The situation has left millions of employees confused and concerned about what furlough means for their job security and income – and this is no truer than for pregnant women with upcoming maternity leave, or those already on maternity leave.
According to, if you are on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave, then the normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply.
But if you are only receiving Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for 39 weeks, you may wish to speak to your employer, advises Jane Johnson, solicitor and owner of specialist employment law firm,.
“If you are already on maternity leave and only receiving SMP, then you can agree with your employer to return to work early so as to be put on furlough leave and receive better pay,” she says. “However, following the end of furlough leave you won’t be able to go back on maternity leave. You may be able to take advantage of shared parental leave in this instance, however.”
An employee will receive 90% of their average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks of SMP, while for the remaining 33 weeks, they’ll receive receive £151.20 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower.
As for pregnant women who aren’t yet on maternity leave?
“I think it would be unlikely that an employer would put you on furlough leave if you are just about to go on maternity leave, because you won’t be working anyway,” says Jane. “However, the guidance states that if your employer is paying you enhanced maternity pay, that may be recoverable under the scheme. This seems to suggest that you can be on maternity leave and furlough leave at the same time.”
Unfortunately, while the current guidance is confusing, we’ll simply have to await further instruction from the government.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” says Jane. “I think we will need to await further guidance from the government on this. Otherwise, you will still receive your normal pay on maternity leave, provided your employer has the cash.”