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In this context of the exceptional health crisis linked to the coronavirus COVID-19 and following the implementation of containment measures, many people find themselves in a situation of teleworking, but others are not able to work anymore.

In order to avoid layoffs in companies where activity is sharply reduced or stopped, the British Government has put in place a partial unemployment scheme - similar to those in place in many European countries.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been in place in the UK since March 26, 2020.

This temporary partial unemployment scheme also applies to self-employed workers (sole traders or contractors).

Partial unemployment


The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers - who created a pay by PAYE scheme before February 28, 2020.

The HMRC offers reimbursement of 80% of the monthly wage costs of their suspended employees (furloughed ), as well as the associated employer national insurance contributions and the minimum employer pension contributions (Automatic Enrolment Employer Pension Contributions ) on these salaries.

The plan is open for an initial 3 month period from March 1, 2020 and employers can choose to use it at any time during this period - retroactively or not.

The minimum duration of the suspension for an employee is 3 consecutive weeks - renewable.

Reimbursement of the monthly wage cost for an employee cannot exceed £ 2,500 gross per month. The calculation is based on the actual salary before tax, from February 28, 2020. Fees, commissions and bonuses cannot be claimed.

The employer can also choose to top up the subsidy to reach the employee's full salary.

The employee must agree to be suspended before being officially designated as such. To be able to benefit from the subsidy, the employer must have a contractual written record of the exchange with his employee concerning the change of plan.


An employee cannot self-suspend - it's up to their employer to designate them as suspended (furloughed).

An employee with a fixed-term contract can also be suspended. His contract may be renewed or extended during the suspension period without the terms of the plan being broken.



An employee on short-time must not work for the employer who suspended him during this period - this includes the provision of services or the generation of income. He may, however, work for other employers.

Otherwise, cancellation and reimbursement of subsidies already paid may be requested from the employer.

Be careful, however, to non-competition clauses - the employee's employment contract remains in force for the duration of the suspension period.

A temporary worker cannot benefit from the partial unemployment scheme if he continues to work.


A short-time employee can take training - if it does not involve the provision of services or the generation of income for his company.


A short-time employee can volunteer - for example in the health and social services sector or in essential services.


  • Illness

An employee on sick leave or self-isolation must receive statutory sickness benefit - but may be suspended at the end of his leave.

  • Maternity and other family leaves

An employee on maternity leave can be suspended and placed in partial unemployment by her employer - she can then request maternity allowance ( SMP ) as well as an increase of his contractual salary through the partial unemployment scheme.

  • Holidays

Vacation leave requests remain subject to acceptance by the employer.

If an employer wishes to impose holidays on his employee, he must respect - unless otherwise agreed - a notice of 2 times the imposed duration of leave.

Pension contribution

The mandatory minimum employer contribution on retirement can be added to the subsidy - in addition to the limit of £ 2,500.

The current minimum contribution under the Self-Insurance Regulation is 3% of an employee's income above £512 / month - £520 / per month from April 6, 2020.

Additional pension contributions cannot be claimed through the partial unemployment scheme, but they must - unless otherwise agreed - be maintained by the employer.


The partial unemployment payment is subject to PAYE and national insurance contributions .


An employee made redundant after March 1 (before the implementation of the scheme) can be rehired and directly placed under the partial unemployment scheme.

The employer is not obliged to suspend his employees, he can choose a dismissal rather than a suspension.

Unlike other European countries that have set up similar schemes, an employee suspended during the confinement period may finally be dismissed at the end of his partial unemployment if the employer decides.