We are in week 7 of lockdown and UK businesses are continuing to report a significant downturn in work. The fear is that the continued lockdown could have a significant long-term detrimental effect on their business and consequently their workforce. We are starting to have conversations about changes to T&Cs and redundancies.
A recent CIPD survey indicated that employers want an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme until the end of September, at least. For some employers, the thought of operating their business in lockdown limbo with a furloughed workforce for an additional 3 months (post 30th June) is their worst nightmare.
Perhaps it would be more helpful to businesses to have more flexibility in the Scheme. In particular, our clients have said that they would like the ability to allow staff to work reduced hours during any period of furlough to support the needs of their business. Some employees who have been furloughed want this too.
At present, furloughed employees cannot undertake any work for the employer, so if they are needed to carry out some work, their employer would have to take them off furlough, ask them to complete the work and then place them on furlough leave again if necessary.
The CIPD survey showed that 16% of the employers who had furloughed staff had some part-time tasks that half of the furloughed staff could undertake, if allowed to do so.
If the Scheme was amended to allow this, provided it proportionally reduced the employer’s claim for furlough pay, this could significantly reduce the cost of the Scheme to the taxpayer and enable employers to keep their workforce engaged and ready to ramp up again when the time comes.
We’ll have to wait and see how the Scheme evolves but we’re going to have to get back to work at some point and going from a standstill (employees at home for weeks/months) to full-time working is going to be a challenge for many businesses.