AROUND 1.6 million workers were still on furlough when the coronavirus jobs retention scheme ended last week.
The wage support scheme was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic to save jobs and prevent redundancies.
Almost 9 million workers were furloughed at the height of the pandemic in May 2020, dropping to 1.6 million by the time it closed.
The scheme paid up to 80% of staff wages while they were temporarily laid off work.
Experts warned that the end of furlough could result in thousands of redundancies.
For many other Brits, it could be a good time to reassess their finances after returning to work.
If you've gone back to work after being on furlough, or if you've been made redundant, these are the steps you should take to protect your wallet.
Check if you're owed holiday
Furloughed workers were able to take paid annual leave while they were temporarily laid off.
Employees should have been paid their full salary on days they had booked as holiday – not 80%.
However, you might not have realised you were able to take paid holiday while off work on furlough.
This means you could have a chunk of holiday days that have not been used up as we approach the end of the year – when many companies reset their annual leave allowances.
The first thing you should do is ask your employer how much holiday you have left to take – contact your line manager or human resources department to find out.
If there's not enough time for you to take the annual leave you have left over, you might be able to arrange to carry it over into next year – but your employer doesn't have to agree to this.
In 2020, the government introduced a law allowing employees to carry over up to 4 weeks' statutory paid holiday into their next two holiday leave years.
This law applies for any holiday the employee or worker does not take because of COVID-19.
They may also be able to carry over holiday if they've been on furlough and cannot reasonably use all their holiday in their holiday year, according to employment rights experts at Acas.
Check you're getting the correct salary
Most workers who were on furlough were paid 80% of their wage – although some employers topped this up to a full salary.
If you took a pay cut while on the scheme, you should make sure you're getting paid the right amount now that you're back at work.
To do this you could compare your payslips from before, during and after being on the scheme to check it works out at the correct wage.
Assess your saving habits
For those who have been able to get by on the 80% salary offered under the furlough scheme, it could be a good time to reassess savings habits.
You might find that you don't need the extra money now you're back on a full salary, meaning you can save up to 20% of your earnings.
If you do think you're in a position to save a bit more money, you should think about putting it in a savings account to boost your returns.
We took a look at how to find the best savings account for your needs.
Find out what benefits you can claim
The end of furlough means many workers may have been made redundant.
If you're worried about money now that the scheme has closed, there is help available.
You might be eligible for benefits such as Universal Credit or grants from your local council.
Charities such as Turn2Us can help you work out which benefits you can claim using their benefits calculator.
Check out our explainer on what your rights are if you've been made redundant, and what you should do next.
Check your pension
If your finances are tight, it might be tempting to reduce or stop your pension contributions.
But experts warn that you should avoid doing this "if at all possible".
This is because some businesses increase the percentage they will match or contribute with age or length of service.
You also receive tax relief on your pension, meaning any money you contribute up to the lifetime allowance will be tax free.
If you've been made redundant you may also be able to continue paying into your pension – ask your employer to double check.
It's also possible to set up a Self-Invested Personal Pension to keep your contributions going if you can't use your old one.
Experts at Fidelity International also said it's a good idea to keep an eye on the cost of living as inflation has increased significantly this year.
"If you plan to retire in the next few years, you may want to revisit how much you have in your pension pot to ensure that you will have enough to afford the lifestyle you want," Maike Currie, investment director at Fidelity, said.
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