As staff, we don’t get to choose if we stay off or not unless we’re ill or self-isolating. The government promise of covering 80 per cent of wages is only where there is no work for people to do (because they cannot do their job from home), where that would otherwise mean our employer would make us redundant.
There’s a term many of us had not heard before, ‘furloughing’, which is where our job is retained but we’re asked not to work for a period. Most employers will keep paying us our full salary and, unless our employment contract allows for it (which is unlikely in most standard contracts), an employer needs to ask us first if they only want to pay us the 80 per cent of our wages covered by government.
But if we’re expected and able to work from home, or in the workplace if we’re a key worker, we don’t have the option of stopping work – unless we choose to quit. The government subsidy will only go to the employer. We cannot claim it ourselves.