Prepare fully for end of furlough

Dorset businesses are being urged to prepare thoroughly for the end of furlough in September or be faced with tough and potentially costly decisions. Award-winning law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP says that with less than 70 days to go before the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is due to be phased out, businesses should now have firm plans in place. Furlough was introduced by the government in spring 2020 to prevent workers from being laid off by employers during the pandemic lockdowns. The government paid 80 per cent of the wages of people who couldn't work, or whose employers could no longer afford to pay them – up to a monthly limit of £2,500. Blandford-based Blanchards Bailey says that although scheme has been extended four times since then, with the economy opening up and businesses able to reopen it is unlikely there will be a further extension beyond September 30. From this month employers have had to contribute 10 per cent towards wages and this rises to 20 per cent from August. Forecasters are predicting a small rise in unemployment after September 30, especially within the international travel sector and other businesses which are still seriously disrupted. However, some within the hospitality industry believe it will be easier to recruit staff once furlough ends. Blanchards Bailey’s Head of HR and Operations Jane Eldridge-Cordner says businesses which have been reliant on furlough must ensure they prepare for the end of the scheme and budget accordingly. She said: “We are urging employers to consider this matter with some urgency. “Although we can never be certain about anything during this pandemic – and some businesses, particularly in hospitality are calling for a further extension – we believe the end is in sight. “The government has spent £66bn on furlough and it has supported 11.6 million jobs since March 2020, but it can’t go on forever.” Stephen Woodman, Solicitor Litigation & Disputes, added: “Latest figures from HMRC show more than a million workers came off furlough in May, and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates there are now between 1.3 million and 1.9 million people still relying on furlough cash. “Bearing that in mind, and with the economy opening up, we though it apposite to remind businesses that September 30 is not that far away and offer some practical help to employers. “We fear that if Dorset businesses do not prepare thoroughly for the end of furlough they could be faced with agonising decisions which may well prove expensive and damaging. Jane and Stephen have put together a handy guide for employers.
  • What are the key roles and who are the people you need in the business? Pre-plan carefully when you need furloughed staff back. Staff need as much notice as possible. Do not discriminate and focus on roles rather than personalities.
  • Should you bring some employees back in to the business immediately or transfer some on to flexible furlough leave to enable them to work some hours for you? Part-time work may be the best immediate option.
  • Should any new roles be placed on furlough leave in order to make best use of government support before the scheme ends? Furloughing more staff now may be a viable alternative to redundancy.
  • Will any redundancies be needed and how these should be managed – could voluntary packages be offered immediately, when should the consultation process start and is alternative employment available? These questions underpin the whole process.
  • How will you communicate your plans to the team? Do staff have concerns, are they able to express these and are they being offered enough support? Staff need to be kept in the picture and offered the best possible support at difficult times.
Stephen added: “A level of uncertainty will continue to exist for months so the best thing any employer can do right now is prepare for any eventuality and take legal advice from our experts who are right across this subject.”
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