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Furlough – the final weeks of the scheme

Furlough – the final weeks of the scheme Furlough……a word that 18 months ago very few people had even heard of.  Over that period of time has become something that many...

Written by: Tracey Salisbury, Senior HR Consultant MCIPD

Written by: Tracey Salisbury, Senior HR Consultant MCIPD

Tracey has worked in HR in a variety of sectors including banking, healthcare, charity and government. For the past 6 years has worked in consultancy, advising businesses of a range of sizes and industries on all their HR needs. Tracey is MCIPD qualified, and also holds IOSH and Job Evaluation accreditations. She leads on our Outplacement Service, using her skills in professional CV writing, interviewing and job searching to support employees post-redundancy or post-termination.

Tracey has worked in HR in a variety of sectors including banking, healthcare, charity and government. For the past 6 years has worked in consultancy, advising businesses of a range of sizes and industries on all their HR needs. Tracey is MCIPD qualified, and also holds IOSH and Job Evaluation accreditations. She leads on our Outplacement Service, using her skills in professional CV writing, interviewing and job searching to support employees post-redundancy or post-termination.

Furlough – the final weeks of the scheme

Furlough……a word that 18 months ago very few people had even heard of.  Over that period of time has become something that many businesses have relied upon to keep them trading throughout the pandemic.

With effect from 30th September 2021, the Coronavirus Job Evaluation Scheme (CJRS) will officially come to an end.  With so much uncertainty still existing, including travel bans still in place, hospitality still not fully opened and trade affected, this is causing some concern for many organisations who will no longer have Government support to cover their wages after this period.

How much has the scheme been used?

  • Since 20th March 2020, a total of 11.6 million jobs in the UK have been put on furlough.
  • Even in July this year, as the scheme began to wind up, 28% of employers still had staff on furlough
  • Some sectors have used the scheme more than others, for example entertainment, hospitality, recreation and the arts; however they have had a steady decline in the number of jobs still furloughed since July (when things started to open up)
  • The direct cost of the furlough scheme is in the region of £68.5billion, with the government estimated to have spent over £100billion on support for jobs (which includes furlough)

What will happen after 30th September?

From 1st October 2021 onwards, employers will be unable to claim any further support and will be fully responsible for full payment of employees wages.   Some organisations may find that they don’t need all staff to return to full hours, because of areas such as

  • Decreased trade
  • Reduced customer numbers
  • Industry still not fully recovered from the pandemic
  • Smaller workloads and requirements
  • More automation or better systems having been identified

What can organisations do?

If this is the position you find yourself in, you need to consider your options.   There are several possibilities you could look at – but you should be mindful that these all take time, and with the deadline now imminent you would need to decide quickly

Some of the options available are:

  • Redundancies – this would result in the permanent loss of roles or headcount, which might be as a result of decreased workload or financial pressure
  • Changes to terms and conditions – perhaps changing working hours, working days, or other contractual elements
  • Upskilling or reorganising skills and teams – perhaps you could merge responsibilities, use more automated systems, provide training for staff
  • Business closures – in some cases, it is inevitable that businesses will have no choice but to close, which will result in redundancies

With any of these processes that you may consider, there are statutory guidelines and procedures which must be followed.  It is essential that you consult and follow processes in accordance with the law – the penalties for not doing so can be significant.

Companies who are returning staff to full hours from 1st October

Even for companies who are fully opening, and returning all staff to the workplace, you may have other areas to consider fully before October.  This could include things such as:

  • Working locations – many staff have been working from home. If this is continuing on a permanent basis, you need to plan how this will work
  • If staff are being expected to return to work, some staff will understandably be anxious about coming back to a workplace environment; you might want to consider wellbeing support
  • Health and safety measures – there are still requirements to have measures in place to limit the spread of the virus and ensure a safe, healthy working environment
  • Staff cover for isolation or illness – although the rules regarding isolation have changed, any staff who are not double jabbed still need to isolate if identified as a close contact
  • Further government imposed measures – there is possible talk of working from home restrictions being reimposed for winter should cases rise – think about how you will adapt

Looking forward

Overall, the end of furlough hopefully signifies the return to business as usual – people are eating out, shopping, buying, travelling etc – which can only be good for the economy.

However, it is really important to consider how your business will look following the scheme and making sure that you allow yourself enough time for consultations, implementing and embedding changes should you need to consider these.

At HR Elite we offer a range of wellbeing services, which you might find useful when supporting staff to return to work.   Many staff will have been affected during the pandemic, perhaps through illness, bereavement, stress, job losses, family/child care etc – so it is really important to understand how you can make their return to work as seamless and supported as possible.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss any aspect of returning to work, changes to terms and conditions, redundancies or employee wellbeing

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