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How to return staff from furlough

As we begin to prepare for exiting lockdown many businesses will be starting to think about re-opening and/or bringing more staff back from furlough.

For some industries, their employees may have been furloughed for a considerable period of time. I know of some people who have been fully furloughed since the first lockdown started just over a year ago. It is an anxious time for everyone, and particularly those who have been absent from work for such a long time.

In order to ensure that you are doing the best by your staff I strongly recommend that you implement a procedure and checklist to complete for each employee who is return to work after furlough. Whether returning on flexible furlough or full time back to work, the investment of your time in getting things right at the outset will pay dividends later on. Not only will you help to alleviate concerns and prevent problems arising you can ensure that staff are fully ready to ‘hit the ground’ running when you are ready to return to ‘normal’ operations.

To assist you with the process I have created a template check list which you are welcome to download from our website and use and/or amend to suit the needs of your business. You can find all the details here: Checklist for employee returning to work after furlough

The key steps that I recommend you take when bringing someone back to work are as follows:

1. Make meaningful contact in advance of the return to work date.

This should be by telephone or video call and is an opportunity to catch up with the employee, answer any questions they may have, update them on what has been happening at work, and any details regarding your covid risk assessment /measures you are implementing in the workplace.

It is an opportunity to check in and make sure they feel at ease returning and is an important step on the process, particularly if communication during furlough has been general and/or sporadic.

2. Write to them to inform them of the date for return.

It is important that you put the details in writing to the employee about their return to work.

I have created a template letter which is available from our website for you to use and/or amend to suit the needs of your particular business. You can find all the details here: Letter giving notice to return to work following furlough

3. Communicate any changes in respect of flexible furlough.

If they are working flexibly what are the hours? how often will it be reviewed? do you have any plans for when they may be required to return fully?

4. Communicate any changes that have taken place since they have been furloughed.

Let the employee know what has been happening, how are things going with the business, is there anything they need to know.

5. Supply a copy of your covid risk assessment.

I recommend that you provide a copy to the employee in advance of their return to work.

6. Supply a copy of any covid risk documentation that is relevant to the individual or their role.

If there is anything particular to the employee’s role that they need to know, ensure that this is also shared in advance of their return to work.

7. Establish if there is any training needed or refresher training.

Does the employee need or feel that they need any training? This may be important if the employee has been absent from work for a long period and/or was a relatively new employee when they were placed on furlough leave,

8. Do you need to change IT password or update IT systems to reflect their return to work?

If they have been taken offline or blocked from any systems do these need to be reinstated.

9. Notify payroll/your accountant/payroll provider of the end of furlough or change to your claim if flexibly furloughed.

Ensure that your records are updated, and any claims made reflect the changes in your workforce and furlough arrangements.

10. Consider if the employee is at high risk from covid or in a vulnerable category?

Do you need to implement additional measures to reduce risk? Does the employee need an individual covid risk assessment?

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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