Managing the end of furlough

After playing a crucial part in managing the impact of Covid-19, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is set to end on 30 September. Although some business sectors, such as hospitality, are currently seeing severe staff shortages, other employers may struggle when furlough is phased out.

For September, the CJRS only covers 60% of an employee’s wages, up to a cap of £1,875, with the employer having to top this up to at least 80%. All claims must be made by 14 October.

Redundancies

If you find you do need to restructure your staffing levels, any furloughed staff who are to be made redundant have the same legal rights as any other employees. So any decisions need to be mindful of unlawful discrimination or unfair dismissal.

A business may select staff for redundancy based purely on the fact that they were the ones to be furloughed. The level of risk to this approach will depend on the reasons why staff were chosen for furlough, the selection process used to do this, and whether these were fair. Large groups of 20 or more redundancies will require collective as well as individual consultation.

Alternatives

There are a few alternatives to redundancies to consider:

  • A hiring freeze;
  • Redeployment of staff to different areas of your business;
  • Postponing salary increases; or
  • A temporary reduction in hours across the workforce.

A temporary reduction in hours could be run on a similar basis to flexible furlough, just without the government support. Experienced employees are retained, and employees should be better off compared to being made redundant and having to claim universal credit. Employee consent is required to alter contractual terms.

Payments and support

If you do have to make employees redundant then they are entitled to statutory redundancy payment (after two years of employment) and untaken holiday pay. There may also be notice pay depending on circumstances.

the main form of support for most employees until they find alternative employment will be universal credit. This is a very different animal to furlough, and for many there will be a big drop in income.

This will certainly be the case for higher earners because universal credit doesn’t take account of previous income levels. Anyone with a high earning partner or significant savings may not be entitled to universal credit at all.

Guidance to making staff redundant can be found here.

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