As the furlough scheme nears its end and lockdown eases, as an employer you may be thinking about the return to work. We look at how much notice to return from furlough is required and other areas to consider when it comes to the return to work.
What is the furlough scheme?
Officially known as the Job Retention Scheme (JRS), the furlough scheme was introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the scheme is to help employers who cannot maintain their workforce because their operations have been impacted by COVID-19.
Employers who have been impacted by COVID-19 and associated restrictions can furlough their employees and then claim a grant from the government which covers a portion of the employees’ normal monthly wage. This is currently set at 80% of an employee’s wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
There are two options for furlough
- Fully furlough – this means employees are furloughed on a full-time basis and cannot complete any work for you whilst furloughed
- Flexible furlough – also known as part time furlough, employees can work any amount of time or work pattern, but they cannot work for you during hours that you record them as furloughed
When does the furlough scheme end?
The furlough scheme is currently set to end on the 30th September 2021.
Despite delays to the final stage of the lockdown easing in England, there are currently no plans to extend it any further.
Changes will be made from the 1st July to the level of grant which is available to employers with the contribution paid by the government reducing to 70% of wages (up to £2,187.50).
How much notice do staff need to return from furlough?
If you are a business owner who still has employees on furlough, you may be thinking about your plan to transition staff back to the workplace. As we approach the end of the furlough scheme it is good to understand some of the key considerations when bringing staff back to work such as how much notice is needed to return from furlough.
When you put someone on to furlough this should be discussed and agreed with the employee. As part of this agreement, it is generally recommended that you include details such as
- the date furlough will start
- salary whilst on furlough
- information about when the furlough will be reviewed
To end furlough, staff should be given notice in writing. Whilst there is no specific period of notice to return from furlough required, communicating with your employee(s), and discussing plans to end their furlough should be done as soon as possible.
Some staff may have been away from the work environment for a long time so you’ll need to give thought to how you support them and reinduct them to the workplace. Giving employees sufficient notice that they will be returning from furlough is an important way to support them and to help them prepare.
What else to consider when bringing staff back from furlough
Furloughed employees continue to accrue holiday entitlement (both statutory and other holiday specified in their employment contract) during the period of furlough.
The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, enable workers to carry holiday forward where the impact of coronavirus means that it has not been reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year to which it relates.
Make sure you manage this as an employer to allow your employees to take their holiday accrued whilst on furlough whilst also ensuring that your staffing levels are maintained.
Good communication will be key when it comes to employees returning from furlough. There may have been changes within the business since they went on furlough such as personnel changes or changes to your processes and procedures. Additional training may be required, and you’ll want to ensure employees feel comfortable and capable when coming back to the working environment.
You’ll want to ensure that any returning employees are aware of your COVID-19 testing processes and procedures. Keeping your staff safe and fulfilling your duty of care and health and safety requirementsshould remain a focus.
This article from the CIPD gives a good overview of areas to consider when it comes to the return to work as lockdown eases, not just for those returning from furlough but also for those retuning to the workplace after a prolonged period of remote working.
It’s important to be aware of your responsibilities as an employer to both those employees who have been furloughed as well as those who have continued to work during the pandemic and to manage the return to work safely. Don’t neglect your insurance needs at this time either – Anthony Jones work across the full range of business insurance products so if you have any questions about a current policy or future requirements don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.