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Majority of Furloughed Workers in UK Continued With Jobs 

Majority of Furloughed Workers in UK Continued With Jobs 
11 August 2020 | Updated 18 August 2020

Research shows that the majority of people furloughed during lockdown continued to work for their employer, with men more likely to do so than women.

The research, shared exclusively with The Observer, comes from a group of economists from Cambridge, Oxford and Zurich universities. It used real-time survey evidence from furloughed workers in the UK, in April and May 2020. 

The study showed that 87 per cent of men and 77 per cent of women who received a salary top-up continued to work for their employer whilst furloughed. For those not receiving salary top-ups, 69 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women flouted furlough rules and continued to work.



“These results have important implications for the design of short-time work schemes and the strategy for effectively reopening the economy.”

–Abi Adams-Prassl et al

Furloughing Study, 7 August 2020



What is Furlough Fraud?


The conditions of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme explicitly state that during the hours in which an employee is recorded as furloughed, no work can be undertaken. This includes anything that makes money or provides a service for the organisation. Training, volunteering or working for another employer however, is permitted.

With the concept of furloughing staff a relatively unknown one in UK employment law, many sought to qualify some of the finer details on things such as communication with employees or use of corporate social media and email accounts.  

According to HM Revenue and Customs, the number of reports of furlough fraud rose by more than half between the end of June and 22 July. 6,749 reports of misuse of the scheme were recorded up to 22 July, compared to around 4,400 at the end of June.

The Financial Times reported in mid-July that a businessman from the West Midlands had become the first person to be arrested for an alleged fraud of the furlough scheme, with £495,000 allegedly falsely claimed.

The economic study detailed in The Observer this week suggests that, overall, 63 per cent of furloughed people had spent some time working for their employer, yet only 22 per cent of furloughed men and 17 per cent of furloughed women say they were formally asked to do so.


What are the Study’s Main Conclusions?


  • The authors concluded that women were significantly more likely to be furloughed, with inequality in care responsibilities playing a key role. Mothers were 10 percentage points more likely than fathers to initiate the decision to be furloughed (as opposed to it being fully or mostly the employer’s decision) but no such gender gap is found amongst childless workers.
  • The prohibition of working whilst furloughed was routinely ignored, especially by men who can do a large percentage of their work tasks from home; only 37 per cent of furloughed workers worked zero hours in the survey reference week.
  • Women were less likely to have their salary topped up beyond the 80 per cent subsidy paid for by the government
  • Workers without employer-provided sick pay have a significantly lower willingness to return to work, as do workers in sales and food preparation occupations.
  • Compared to non-furloughed employees, furloughed workers are significantly more pessimistic about keeping their job in the short to medium run and are significantly more likely to be actively searching for a new job even when controlling for detailed job characteristics. 


Picture: A photograph showing a person working at laptop computer, holding a smartphone. 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 11 August 2020


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