Businesses are reopening across England and looking to bring staff back to work after furlough.
It’s important to have a clear plan in place for effectively managing the process.
Key changes to the Job Retention (Furlough) scheme
- The Job Retention scheme has been extended until 31st October.
- The scheme closed to new entrants from 30th June. Employees who were on maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental leave or parental leave on this date will still be eligible.
- Outstanding furlough claims for staff furloughed between March and June must be submitted by 31 July.
- Businesses are no longer required to furlough staff for a minimum of 3 weeks.
- Flexible furlough leave arrangements can be used from 1st July enabling staff to return on part-time hours
Changes to shielding protection
Shielding protection in England is due to end on 1st August. If staff have been shielding, you can start discussing how they can return to work from 1st August, or remain on flexible furlough leave if you have insufficient work to offer.
The Flexible Furlough Scheme (FFS)
On 1st July, the government introduced the Flexible Furlough Scheme.
Businesses can now bring staff back to work part-time, whilst claiming for the remaining hours they would have normally worked. For instance, a full-time worker normally working 5 days a week, can now work for 2 days and be furloughed for the other 3 days.
Businesses will be responsible for paying 100% of staff salary for any days worked and this cannot be claimed back.
If you do not have sufficient work staff can still remain on furlough leave for their full contractual hours.
From August, businesses will have to pay national insurance and pension contributions for staff. The government will continue to pay 80% of salary up to the cap of £2500 per month. Employers can still top up if they wish to but can only claim for up to 80% of any furloughed time.
In the example above the employer would be 100% responsible for 2 days pay. They can claim 80% of the pay for the other 3 days, excluding national insurance and pension contributions.
From 1st September employers will only be able to claim for 70% of furloughed staff wages. The cap will reduce to £2,187.50 for hours not worked. Employers will have to pay 10% top-up to ensure employees continue to receive 80% or top up the cap to £2500. They also need to pay national insurance and pension contributions.
From 1 October until the scheme ends, employers will only be able to claim for 60% of furloughed staff wages. The cap will reduce to £1,875 for hours not worked. This means employers are responsible for a 20% top up to ensure employees continue to receive 80% salary, plus paying national insurance and pension contributions.
Ensuring staff can return to work safely
Businesses must put measures in place to ensure staff wellbeing when returning to work. You can find up to date guidance on safe working during COVID-19 on the UK government website.
Guidance will undoubtedly change. So, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest requirements and put in place any changes needed.
Effective Health and Safety measures are essential for both the physical, and mental wellbeing of your team.
Staff may be highly anxious about returning to work during an ongoing health crisis. Putting appropriate safeguards in place may go some way to reassuring them.
Effectively managing staff return to the workplace
Employers should ideally provide reasonable notice to staff when they’re expected to return to work. This allows people to make any necessary arrangements for childcare etc.
When deciding which staff to bring back to work, there are various things to consider:
- Are you phasing in production or services over time? If so, which skills, knowledge or roles will be the greatest priority initially, and in the coming weeks and months.
- Is it the right time to bring certain staff back to work? There may be staff whose personal circumstances or mental or physical health make it more difficult.
- Are you reducing hours? If so, you should ideally rotate staff to ensure fairness. You should also ensure working hours paid at 100% are fairly allocated amongst the team.
When deciding on which staff to bring back, you should document why decisions are made. Any decisions should be factual and objective, and NOT based on personal preference.
Clearly communicate when and how staff are expected to return to work. You should confirm:
- The date staff are expected back to work
- The hours they will be expected to work and any changes to working patterns. Any changes in working hours must be agreed.
- The wages they will receive. Any differences in wages due to furlough changes must be agreed. If not, you would be open to an unlawful deduction in wages claim.
All communications should be confirmed in writing.
Any furlough leave agreements should be updated to reflect changes in salary or working patterns.
Business needs and government guidance will undoubtedly change over time. You should ensure you continually engage with your team regarding any changes.
Do you have any questions around bringing staff back to work or using flexible furlough leave? If so, get in touch today. Contact Debbie on 07885 370054 or email firstname.lastname@example.org