On 30th September the C19 Job Retention Scheme, which has provided support through the pandemic, will come to an end. The British Government has made it clear that there will be no going back on this decision. This will come as a blow to some employers who have still not fully recovered from the impact of the pandemic.

So, what does this mean for employers?

Post-furlough options

You need to decide if you can take back workers on the same terms and conditions as before furlough. If not, you could consider extending furlough without the support of the Government. This could be either offering unpaid leave or using a contractual lay-off clause if this is in place. Another option is to bring furloughed workers back on reduced hours and pay. Unless you have a short-time working clause in your contracts, this option will involve carrying out consultations. As a last resort you may need to consider making redundancies.

For those of you planning to bring workers back to work on the same terms and conditions as before, well done, you made it through the pandemic! Although you don’t legally need to, we suggest that you give employees ‘reasonable’ written notice as soon as possible. Your furlough agreement may detail the notice to be given to employees, in which case, this should be followed.

Redundancies

For those who need to make redundancies, we hope that you have already started the process. If not, we recommend that this is started without delay to ensure that any affected employees have time to find alternative employment before their funding ends. A redundancy process will need to be fair to all employees. It is important to remember that some furloughed employees have had caring responsibilities. If they hold a position which is the same, or similar to that of someone without caring responsibilities, both employees will need to be included in the selection process. This will reduce the risk of claims for discrimination. Being on furlough cannot be the only reason that someone is at risk of redundancy.

For those who are expecting to be able to return to normal trading soon, you may wish to consider other options. This can include asking employees to take unpaid leave or consulting with employees to avoid redundancies by reducing pay and hours. It could also mean reducing pay only and asking employees to work the same hours as before furlough. These changes to the terms and conditions of employment can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the needs of the business.

Employee Wellbeing

Another important thing to consider is employee wellbeing. Given the amount of time some workers have been furloughed, the thought of coming back may feel daunting. You may want to consider employee wellbeing as they return to work. These initiatives could include:

  • Holding regular wellbeing meetings
  • Re-training in role responsibilities
  • Refreshing the induction process
  • Amending staff hours
  • Phasing the return to normal duties
  • Being available to answer any questions that your staff may have

Signposting

For employees who are at risk of redundancy it may be appropriate to provide information about where to go to apply for benefits. It could also be useful to have tips on applying for alternative employment and to accessing counselling services.

For more information on benefits that may be available for staff please visit:

https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits

For information on accessing NHS counselling:

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/talking-therapies-and-counselling/counselling/

As always, if you would like support on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or any HR and training related issues, feel free to get in contact.

About the Author: Theresa Wright

Theresa Wright
Experienced business manager in private, public and voluntary sector. Skilled in facilitating change, project management, risk management, quantitative research and data analysis. Strong believer in continuing personal and professional development, achieving a first class BSc (Honours) Open degree in 2018 with a focus on business management and psychology.