Employers with furloughed staff who start working for another company should ensure they are able to come back at a moment’s notice when the sector recovers, according to solicitors.

The warning comes as 185,000 firms employing around 1.3m workers applied to the government’s job furlough scheme on the first day of its operation.

Furloughed workers are allowed to take on another job for a separate company, but firms should ensure their staff can return to work the moment they are needed again.

Laura Smith, an employment law specialist at Backhouse Jones said: “There is no issue with furloughing them and knowing that at the same time they’re earning money from another person.

“You just have to be mindful that at any moment you could obviously require them to come back into your workforce, so it’s really important you caveat that into any consent that you give or permission for them to work elsewhere; it is on the proviso that as and when you need them back in the work force, they need to be in a position to do that immediately.”

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Duncan Buchanan, policy director at the RHA said hauliers should be “cautious” about work they agree their staff to take on while they are furloughed: “Furloughing is supposed to be agreed between employer and employee, but in our industry the ability to pull people back in can sometimes be very important,” he said.

“If someone takes a second job they just need to be careful [about] their employer asking them to come back in.”

Buchanan also said the RHA had asked the government to change current furlough rules so that it is based on a minimum of one week, not three: “The three-week time period is going to be more and more of a problem as we enter recovery,” he explained.

“That’s because if you furlough people and then after two weeks you need your drivers back it’s going to be very expensive.

“You’d lose furlough money for the first two weeks and then pay them for two weeks they didn’t work - at full rate. It creates a friction in the system.

“We need to focus on recovery as well as survival.”