The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ‘furlough’ is set to end on 30th September. Many employees have now fully returned to work, but some businesses still have employees on furlough. As the scheme ends, what sort of questions could employers face from employees in the coming weeks?
Returning to the Workplace
It could have been a long period of time since employees were last in the workplace and so returning could be very daunting and some people may be feeling nervous. Giving employees as much notice as possible of when they are expected to return to the workplace will help, so that any worries or concerns can be addressed well in advance.
If you are an employer, stay approachable and make sure your employees feel confident that they can speak to you or their line manager if there are any issues or problems as they prepare to return to the workplace and once they have started back. It may have been a while since they have seen their co-workers and so it may take a little while for them to reintegrate and re-establish team bonds.
Identifying any training needs and planning ahead will help to increase employee confidence and by being understanding and allowing a reasonable period of time for employees to get back up to speed, you’ll also help employees settle back in.
Employees who are on furlough, or flexible furlough have the same statutory employment law rights as any other employee. These include the right not to be unfairly dismissed, subject to a two-year qualifying period for ‘ordinary’ unfair dismissal (there is protection from being dismissed for an automatically unfair reason, for example being pregnant, from day one of employment). Rights regarding holiday and notice and redundancy pay also still apply for employees who have been furloughed.
Employees who have been furloughed can be made redundant, but employers need to consider redundancies in the usual way. Employees shouldn’t automatically be put at risk of redundancy or selected for redundancy just because they are or have been on furlough. A fair redundancy process will need to be followed including consultation meetings with anyone who is at risk of redundancy before any dismissals are made. Employers will still be responsible for redundancy and any notice pay.
Temporary arrangements to working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, such as working from home, have given people time to reflect and some employees may now want to make a change to how they want to work in the future. Making a request for flexible working is something employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to do and can include requests to change the hours they work, the times when they are required to work or where they are required to work.
Employers don’t have to agree to flexible working requests, but they do need to consider them and deal with requests promptly and in a ‘reasonable manner’. Requests for flexible working can only be refused on certain permitted statutory grounds, including the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands or detrimental impact on quality or performance, inability to re-organise work among existing staff or inability to recruit additional staff and insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
If you are an employee looking for more advice Acas gives employees and free, impartial advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice.
If you are an employer and need HR support to manage redundancies, changes to employment contracts or requests for flexible working them get in touch on 01722 334433