What do employers need to start thinking about while staff are furloughed?
It is crucial to use this time to start planning for the future. Currently the coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough scheme) is open until the end of June 2020, this is just 8 weeks away and whilst there is a possibility that the scheme could be extended, many commentators are of the view that the country cannot afford to continue paying the nations wages beyond the end of June 2020.
Hopefully more information will be announced shortly about how we are going to start coming out of lockdown and the timescales, but in the meantime, I strongly recommend that you start planning.
Some steps you can take include:
1) Start by working through various scenarios and timescales, what will it look like for your business.
2) Consider what resources you will need to fulfil the work – what is the minimum workforce you can get by with?
3) What can you afford? How is your cash looking? Have you been able to access any funding and how long will this last?
4) What is your cashflow going to look like based on the various timescales and scenarios you have worked up.
5) How agile are you, what do your employee contracts look like currently? Do they enable you to be flexible and make changes at short notice? What are your employees like – are they adaptable to change – will they accept changes and work with you or provide a barrier?
6) What do employee contracts say about notice periods?
7) From your plans and various scenarios will you need to make redundancies? If so, how many and in what timescale?
2. Redundancy consultation timescales
If as a result of your planning, you identify that you need to make reductions in staff numbers then you will need to complete a redundancy consultation.
The minimum consultation periods and requirements for reporting apply depending on the number of redundancies taking place within a 90 day period at one establishment.
19 or less = 2 weeks for consultation (+ notice)
20 – 99 = 30 days before first dismissal takes effect
100+ = 45 days before first dismissal takes effect
Start calculating what your potential redundancy costs could be, do you have the cash to cover this?
The legal risks of getting the redundancy process wrong can be high and therefore it is important to seek advice.
I will be producing a series of podcasts about redundancy which will be available to listen to giving you the step by step process to follow. If you would like to ensure you receive notification when they are available please sign up to our newsletter here: NEWSLETTER SIGN UP
3. Engagement, Communication and Motivation
Start preparing staff for return to work by staying in regular contact (if you have not been already), ensure that managers are communicating with their teams on a regular basis and that any messaging is consistent across the business.
Keeping open channels of communication is important and ensure that you are honest about what is happening, even if that is, “we do not know at the moment”.
The hardest thing for employees is the lack of information and uncertainty about their future, where you can, give assurances and if you cannot do so then acknowledge this by saying “I understand your concerns about the lack of certainty, we are working hard to provide this and as soon as we are able we will let you know”.
Communication needs to come directly from the top, a fantastic way to do this is by a video message from the MD or CEO sent to all staff.
In Episode 146 of the Podcast we provide some tips and ideas on how best to communicate and motivate employees. You can listen online now HERE
4. Employment Terms Changes
It is easy with everything that has been happening that there were some key changes to employment legislation that came in on the 6th April 2020. You can recap on the details here: LINK
The main thing to consider at this time is the new requirements for employment contracts. There is no requirement to change or update existing staff terms, however if as a result of your planning and changes that you are implementing you will be making changes to staff terms then now is a good time to up date them.
Many employers I have been speaking to are keen to start including Lay Off and Short-Time working clauses (where they did not have them before), and it is important to remember that if you are making significant and potentially detrimental changes to the terms and employees do not agree to the changes you may have to follow a minimum consultation procedure.
At the very least during this period I recommend that you review your contract templates and make sure that they are up to date and cover the latest requirements.
Other things to consider
1) Health and Safety
2) Practicalities of returning to the workplace
3) Employees who are shielding
4) Employees with children and childcare considerations
5) Managing annual leave
If you have any other questions please let me know: email@example.com or for a free initial telephone call contact the office on 01983 897003, 023 8098 2006, 01722 653001 or 020 3470 0007.
Other Relevant Articles for Employers
Support from the RELA Team
- Letter/notice to all staff asking for volunteers and notifying staff of proposal.
- Example Selection criteria form.
- Letter notifying staff that they are being furloughed – agreement included within.
- Letter notifying staff that they are being furloughed – agreement separate.
- Furlough agreement.
- FAQ’s sheet to issue to employees.
- Spreadsheet to record furlough details.
You can purchase the documents here: HERE
Business Support from a Solicitor: For a fixed fee of £250 plus VAT we can provide:
- Review of your employment contracts to check relevant applicable clauses that may assist in your decision making.
- Providing advice on options available at this time in respect of staff during the current situation including:
- Reducing hours
- Up to 1-hour of telephone calls to discuss and answer questions.
- Template letter depending on your choice of action.
- FAQ’s document for furloughed employees.
- Automatic updates when available of if there are changes to the scheme.
For more information or to access these offers for employers please contact us on 01983 897003 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org