This article explains some of the things employers can do to protect jobs, grow your business, re-organise, diversify, or (in the worst case scenario) get insolvency advice.
The furlough scheme (officially called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) ended on 30 September 2021. This means employers can no longer get government support to cover the wages of staff who aren’t working due to Covid-19, and they may ask their people to return to the workplace.
What to do
You need to ensure your workplace is safe for employees to return. That includes doing a Covid risk assessment, and setting up social distancing, hand-washing and sanitising stations, for example. As always, you should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for any disabled employees.
You might need to support your employees to reintegrate, by providing a gradual return to duties, a refresher induction, a buddy, or retraining.
Remember, you have to be open to requests for flexible working. Perhaps you could stagger working hours, or offer a hybrid model where employees spend some days in the workplace and work the rest at home.
If working from home has proved productive for your business, you might save the cost of premises and use it as a permanent alternative.
If you are making any change to terms and conditions of employment, you will need employees’ written consent (to avoid breach of contract claims).
If finances are tight, arranging shorter hours, pay cuts, unpaid sabbaticals or career breaks might allow you to retain skills, secure jobs and keep trading. You might extend the furlough scheme at your own expense (even if it’s at a lower rate than the government was paying). You could also ask for volunteers who’d like their jobs to be made redundant.
You may need to consider reorganisation and/or redundancies. You have to follow a proper process when you do this. You should do a full consultation with staff as well as their recognised trade unions and elected employee representatives where you clarify the reason why redundancies have to be made.
If you can, you should offer staff an alternative to redundancy, such as moving to a different role or location. This also applies to employees on maternity leave or shared parental leave.
If any employees you select for redundancy have more than two years’ continuous service, you will need to follow the requirements for consultation and meetings. If you intend to make 20-99 people redundant, the minimum consultation period is 30 days. For employers who anticipate making 100 or more people redundant, it’s 45 days.
You should also ensure that you’re objective about the individuals you select for redundancy, without any bias. If not, you risk claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination being made against you.
Note that redundancy payments are calculated on the basis of an employee’s pre-furlough salary (not the 80% reduced rate).
If you need help with any of this, please contact Harrisons HR. We’ll be happy to help.