Here we are, nearing the end of 2020 and we're back in lockdown again. Just as we thought we had a handle on this COVID stuff, the goal posts moved again.
On 31 October the second nationwide lockdown was announced and on the first day of lockdown, the government announced it would extend the furlough scheme which had ended on 31 October.
The furlough scheme is to continue until the end of March 2021 (not looking good for my birthday plans!) with employees receiving 80% of their currently salary for hours not worked. Employers will need to cover NI and employer pension contributions and a review will take place in January.
The Job Support Scheme and the Job Retention Bonus have been put on the back burner until further notice.
So, that means that you will have to write to your employees again to furlough them on the "new" rules. Remember furlough must be agreed with the employee because you're changing the terms of their employment.
You can still utilise flexible furlough which means that employees can come in to work on fewer hours than their normal contractual hours and claim through the Job Retention Scheme for the hours they do not work.
Now, where you have redundancies in play, there are a couple of options for you.
If you are currently consulting on redundancy, you can decide to extend the consultation period to coincide with the review date of the furlough scheme. Utilising the scheme would be considered an alternative to redundancies, so it's important that you consider it.
Where your redundancy consultation is a result of business changes unrelated to COVID, you can still opt to use the furlough scheme to extend the consultation period, however I would consider the validity of doing this. For example, if you have lost a contract which means you no longer need a team of people dedicated to that contract and you have no alternative work for them, what would furloughing them achieve? Because ultimately they will be made redundant when the furlough scheme ends.
If you have made employees redundant based on the end of the furlough scheme, you are able to reinstate the employees and furlough them. Although, chat with your payroll administrator as this does tend to throw up some administrative complications.
You are still able to make employees redundant during the furlough scheme. However, it is critical that you are clear on the reasons for the redundancy and that you have given due consideration to whether utilising the furlough scheme would prevent redundancies.
We still have no real case law on how these two things interact but I'm sure we will do before long. In the meantime, ensure you are following your policies and procedures and keep checking what is in your contracts before you do anything.
If you need any support at all with anything related to COVID & Redundancy, you know where to find me.
Stay safe & stay sane