Restaurants, coffee shops and hotels are generally closed following advice from the Government to fight the spread of COVID-19, meaning there is currently no work for most of their staff. On 20 March 2020, the government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the scheme, an employer may place an employee on furlough leave for a temporary period if the business is severely affected by Covid-19. This employer can access a grant to cover 80% of the salary of employees and PAYE workers, up to a total of £2,500 per month for each furloughed employee, plus the associated employer's National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on the reduced salary. Whilst the CJRS scheme has been positively received by both employers and employees some employers were concerned about staff living on only 80% of their wages and wanted to find ways for employees to work and earn more.

“Honest Burgers has created a scheme to allow furloughed members of staff to be seconded to other businesses that will benefit during the Coronavirus crisis, particular in the retail and care sectors.”

Honest Burgers gave staff the opportunity to come off furlough and be seconded to certain supermarkets and businesses in need of additional support during this crisis. Its partners included Asda, the Co-op and Amazon. This enabled individuals to earn their full salary (rather than 80% from being furloughed), gave them the chance to develop new skills and to offer their services where they were needed most. This also allowed the company to cut staff costs and avoid redundancies.

The Government has since updated its guidance for employers and employees on 4 April 2020 to allow furloughed workers to work for another employer and still benefit from the CJRS.

Employees on furlough leave need to be careful when considering taking on new paid work. Furloughed employee remain employed throughout the furlough period, therefore the terms of their employment contract continue to apply. In terms of practical considerations, employees may need to obtain their employer’s consent before taking on new paid work. They should also be available during furlough to participate in training for their original employer and should be able to return to their original job when their employer needs them back. This means being careful of the notice period they are required to give their new employer.

For both employees and employers there can benefit from seconding employees to other organisations or allowing furloughed employees taking on new paid work, not only financial but also to gain transferable skills and help the country at this difficult time.