Thousands of employees who have narrowly missed out on qualifying for the government’s furlough scheme are calling on the government to reassess the cut-off date.
The #NewStarterFurlough campaign is gaining momentum on social media as out-of-pocket workers pile pressure on chancellor Rishi Sunak to amend his Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where the government pays 80 per cent of the wages of people granted a leave of absence during the crisis up to £2,500 a month.
Craig Chilton, 30, from Cwmbran, Wales, is among those who do not qualify for the scheme as a result of starting new jobs after Friday 28 February – and fears he may have to push back his wedding because he’s no longer sure he can afford to get married.
Recently widowed hotel receptionist Fiona Roberts, 64, has also been informed she in ineligible for the scheme – and told FEMAIL the prospect of losing her home due to months of no pay has left her feeling suicidal.
Craig Chilton, 30, from Cwmbran, Wales, pictured with his partner, is among thousands of employees who do not qualify for the government pay scheme as a result of starting new jobs after Friday 28 February
Craig, a dispensing technician at an opticians, told how, days after starting his new job on March 2, he received a letter from the NHS advising him to self-isolate for 12 weeks due to his severe asthma.
When his employer put him on furlough, he later discovered he was ineligible – despite having ‘paid into the system for 14 years’ – because the Treasury states that qualifying employees must be registered on the company’s PAYE system by February 28 to limit the possibility of fraud.
‘I have now been left behind,’ he told South Wales Argus. ‘The opticians were left with either making me redundant, which they don’t want to do, or I have to take unpaid leave.
‘I’m left with a mortgage to pay for. We have been able to take the three-month holiday for it, but I’ve still got bills and food to pay for.’
Craig added that he can claim Universal Credit, but due to his partner receiving 80 per cent of her income, he’s only eligible for around £9 a month.
Recently widowed hotel receptionist Fiona Roberts, 64, has also been informed she in unable to enroll in the scheme – and told FEMAIL the prospect of losing her home due to months of no pay has left her feeling suicidal
While he admitted he is in a ‘fortunate position’ in that his partner is still being paid a percentage of her salary and they don’t have children, he explained this may have a detrimental effect on their upcoming nuptials.
‘We are due to get married next year but we might have to push that back as we are not sure if we will be able to afford it,’ he told the publication.
What is the government’s furlough scheme?
When an employee is placed on furlough they are temporarily put on a leave of absence and not paid, although they remain on the payroll, meaning that they do not lose their job.
This could be because there is no work for these employees, or that the company is not able to afford to pay them, because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
In the United Kingdom, the Government is offering to pay 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, until they are able to resume their job full time. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will last for at least three months from March 1.
A government spokesperson previously told the BBC: ‘[The scheme] allows for those who were on the payroll of a company on 28 February but subsequently left to be put back on payroll and furloughed.
‘This includes those who have resigned to start a new job after 28 February. Decisions around whether to offer to furlough someone are down to the individual company.’
The Treasury said previously: ‘Firms can re-employ staff made redundant after 1 March and those who do not qualify will be able to access a range of other support – including an increase in the Universal Credit allowance, income tax deferrals, £1bn more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.’
‘It’s not that I don’t want to work. I’ve always worked for the past 14 years, it’s just I can’t without putting my health at risk and potentially being a burden on my partner and on the NHS.’
Fiona, who worked at a previous hotel for nearly four years, was contracted to start her new role on March 16 – but on March 17 the new guest house was forced to close amid the pandemic.
When she discovered she didn’t qualify for furlough, she said she felt a ‘stomach-churning realisation’ that her ‘world had just fallen apart’.
‘I don’t know if I will have a job again as I am in a sort of limbo land,’ she told FEMAIL.
‘I now have no income. I have applied for Universal Credit but I don’t know what I will receive and I won’t get a payment until the end of April.
‘My new employer has been nothing but supportive and would pay me furlough if they could, but unfortunately they are a small, new start business who bought their hotel late last year and were just gearing up for the start of this year’s tourist season, meaning their financial situation is precarious.’
Fiona said the situation has had a dreadful impact on her already ‘fragile’ mental health.
‘I was widowed in October last year and am now dealing with this totally alone,’ she explained. ‘Despite trying to stay positive I am finding it very difficult.
‘I have considered ending my life as I have no idea how I will manage and sometimes this seems the only viable alternative to eventual homelessness – and all this because I decided to change employers in February, long before we realised the overwhelming impact Covid-19 would have.’
Fiona said she’ll be forced to use her remaining overdraft to pay her rent and some of her bills this month.
‘After that I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I can’t see a way out of it. If I ask my landlord to defer my rent I will be in a huge amount of debt to him and I can’t guarantee I will still have a job after this is over, as my new employer may not survive this.
Hannah Sellman, 26, from Wellingborough, was due to start her dream role as a show supervisor for a clothing company on March 16, after leaving her previous employer, where she’d worked for two years, on March 14
‘I believe the fairest thing the government could do is to accept submission of any traceable proof of a job offer, contract, or start in a new job, prior to the announcement date of the CJRS, and then allow new employers to furlough these staff.’
Hannah Sellman, 26, from Wellingborough, was due to start her dream role as a show supervisor for a clothing company on March 16, after leaving her previous employer, where she’d worked for two years, on March 14.
Hannah is now in a situation where her start date has been pushed back and the situation will be reviewed in three months
She’s now in a situation where her start date has been pushed back and the situation will be reviewed in three months – at which point the new employer could make her redundant.
‘Neither my old or new employer will furlough me,’ she told FEMAIL. ‘I was absolutely fuming, upset and heartbroken.
‘I left my old role to pursue a dream job – travelling around the country working at different events, with the chance of progression. I feel like everything has been snatched away from me.
‘I have no means of income. I started work when I was 13 years old, I had a paper round, and I’m now 26 with my job hanging in the balance, not knowing if I have anything to go back to.’
Hannah is also struggling with her mental health as a result. ‘This has been really difficult for me,’ she admitted.
‘I’ve broken down in tears, got angry, screamed and shouted. Told myself I’m not good enough, that it’s all my fault. I just want to wake up from this nightmare I’m living.’
Hannah’s partner is currently on furlough, and she has applied to work at local supermarkets in her area, but claims she was told they were giving preference to family and friends of current employees.
Due to the fact she’s still technically employed, Hannah can’t claim Job Seeker’s Allowance – and she claims she’s not entitled to Universal Credit due to her partner being furloughed.
They have managed to take out a mortgage holiday, but the couple – who are newly engaged – fear they will suffer financial repercussions in future.
‘We have a cruise booked for 2021 to the Caribbean and we were just starting to look at venues where to get married. All of this is now on hold,’ she said.
Zannah Hasler, 26, from Crediton, Devon, was offered a new job at a car and van hire company on February 21 and handed in her notice at Flybe, where she was a senior customer relations advisor, on February 24
‘As far as we know the cruise is still going ahead, but we now can’t afford to pay for any of the excursions we wanted to do. As for a job, I can only hope that once the lockdown is lifted I will be invited back to work – if not, I have to start from scratch all over again.
‘If the government can’t change the cut-off date, then they should create a new scheme for all those that have fallen through the cracks. It’s not our fault that we changed jobs and wanted to progress with our careers – why should we be left without any income?’
Zannah spent over a week training in her new role before starting to work from home on March 17 – but does not qualify for furlough
Zannah Hasler, 26, from Crediton, Devon, was offered a new job at a car and van hire company on February 21 and handed in her notice at Flybe, where she was a senior customer relations advisor, on February 24.
Her last working day was due to be March 20, but when Flybe went into administration on March 5 her new employer agreed to let her start early, on March 9.
Zannah spent over a week training in her new role before starting to work from home on March 17.
‘My manager was in frequent communication with me over the phone, and was very reassuring that despite being a new member, I am a required part of the team when operational, and assured me that I would be put forward for furlough with all other members, when they were able to,’ she told FEMAIL.
‘On Monday 30 March I received a call from my manager advising me that they can’t due to new guidelines. She was genuinely gutted but her hands were tied.
‘Hearing this news on the phone had me feeling instantly sick with worry and my heart felt as though it stopped for a minute. Since then, with the worry of now having no idea when my next payslip will come, I have had a constant knot in my stomach, and I feel as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel.’
Zannah was paid on March 31 for the three weeks she worked and paid tax for the month.
‘I have paid taxes for over 10 years, worked hard since I was able to, and now I’m left with nothing. My only crime was changing jobs at the wrong time,’ she said.
Zannah told FEMAIL: ‘With the worry of now having no idea when my next payslip will come, I have had a constant knot in my stomach’
She added that she is lucky to have support from her mother and stepfather – though she worries about her stepdad continuing to work as he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
‘I know there are options to find alternative temporary work, but I really don’t want to become a frontline key worker when I have a vulnerable stepdad to share a home with,’ she added.
Head chef Rosa Webber, 22, from Hythe, Kent, who has recently bought a house, is also not eligible for the furlough scheme.
She told Kent Online how she worked for the same company for five years until the business leased out.
‘I worked for the new employer for a month before returning to my old one after it didn’t work out, but because that month fell over the 28 of February, I’m entitled to nothing,’ she explained.
Head chef Rosa Webber, 22, from Hythe, Kent, who has recently bought a house, is also not eligible for the furlough scheme
‘My boss has been so lovely about it and has gone above and beyond trying to help me in these scary and uncertain times, and I really can’t thank her enough. Unfortunately, it is completely out of her control that she cannot apply for me to be furloughed.’
Rosa said it feels like a ‘kick while we are already down’ to be refused the same aid as everyone else on PAYE, simply because they started a new job in March – which for many was seen as a step up in their career.
Thankfully Rosa was able to take out a mortgage holiday for her new property.
While she understands the cut-off point was introduced to prevent fraudulent furlough claims, she and thousands of others argue it’s not fair on people who have diligently paid their taxes over the years.
‘I would argue that it would be on thousands of peoples records that we have been hard-working citizens that have paid national insurance and taxes our whole working lives, and all the government would have to do is look at our tax records to prove it,’ she said.
Yesterday new shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds tweeted: ‘I want to continue to work with @RishiSunak to make sure that the schemes that have been put in place are delivering the support that is necessary. There are still a lot of people currently who are falling through the gaps so we need to plug them.’
- A petition on Change.org asking the chancellor to amend the scheme currently has more than 57,800 signatures.
- For confidential support, log on to samaritans.org or call the Samaritans on 116123.