“I am a furloughed employee who has now handed in my notice but I wanted to confirm whether my employer can force me to take my remaining holiday.”
Yes, your employer can ask you to take any remaining holiday during your notice. You should be paid at your contractual pay for each day of the remaining holiday rather than at the furlough rate (if that is lower than your usual pay). However government advice says:
“If an employer requires a worker to take holiday while on furlough, the employer should consider whether any restrictions the worker is under, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, would prevent the worker from resting, relaxing and enjoying leisure time, which is the fundamental purpose of holiday”
“Does booked holiday still qualify as normal holiday during furlough?”
Yes. If you have been asked to take holiday (as many employees have) your employer should explain the reasons for wanting you to take leave before asking you to do so and give you the correct notice (at least double the length of the holiday being taken). If you are having to self-isolate (rather than just being restricted as we all are at the moment) then government advice is that your employer should consider whether you will be able to relax, rest and enjoy leisure time which is the purpose of holiday (see answer to Q1).
“What are my rights as an employee on probation for a job that ended my contract?”
If you lost your job and were on notice before the furlough scheme was introduced your employer could rehire you and put you on furlough but it is their decision to do this not yours
Dismissals at the end of a probationary period are subject to the same rules as dismissals at any other time. If you are dismissed during the first 2 years of your employment you have no right to claim ordinary unfair dismissal or have written reasons for your dismissal unless the dismissal is discriminatory, or for a reason that is automatically unfair (eg for asserting a statutory right). Unless your employer operates a contractual redundancy policy that you are eligible for, you have no right to receive a redundancy payment until you have worked for your employer for at least 2 years.
“As a freelance worker, other than claiming benefits are there any other options financially?”
You can find the options here:
“Can my employer force me to return to work if I do not feel it is safe after working from home since lockdown?”
There is no one size fits all answer. It depends on your personal circumstances and the measures taken to make your workplace safe to return to. You should take advice.
As an overview (assuming there is no discrimination element to your employer’s request such as you are disabled, shielding or living with a shielding person), if the current public health advice is that you could reasonably be asked to go work, then refusing to go back could result in a misconduct investigation (for failing to follow a reasonable management instruction) and an unauthorised absence (for which you would not be paid).
You can refuse to go in on health and safety grounds only if you believe there is serious and imminent danger that you can’t take reasonable take steps to avoid. Covid 19 isn’t automatically a serious and imminent danger it will depend on where and how you work and the facilities that you have (or could have) where you work. Dismissals relating to raising health and safety could be automatically unfair and any bad treatment (such as withholding pay) could be unlawful.