When the furlough scheme was first announced in March 2020, few can have anticipated that it would be in place until now. The scheme has been extended several times, including an eleventh-hour extension in October 2020. However, Thursday 30 September 2021 is set to finally mark the end of the scheme.
It is important that employers ensure that they now communicate with any employees who are still on furlough, whether flexi or full, to properly mark the end of the scheme.
As ever with employee relations, good communication is key. Even if your written furlough agreement states that it will automatically cease with the government’s ending of the scheme, it is still good practice to write to employees and confirm this and clarify arrangements regarding their return to work. We have drafted a letter to use in these circumstances and you can access it here.
If your furlough agreement didn’t stipulate when it would automatically end, then you will need to write to furloughed employees to take them off furlough to avoid the risk of employee’s claiming the agreement to pay them 80% of lost wages if they are away from work continues to run past the expiry of the scheme. Again, we have drafted a letter to use in these circumstances and you can access it here.
Employees returning from full furlough may feel very unfamiliar with the work environment, especially if they have been on furlough for a long time. It’s important to ensure that you hold meetings with them to welcome them back. These can also cover:
If the employee is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, then it will be necessary to carry out an individual risk assessment for them and discuss this with them.
In some circumstances, it won’t be possible to now bring employees back to their usual hours. If this is the case, you would need to consider such issues as:
In such circumstances, advice should be taken from our Employment Law Team on how to proceed. You can call them 24/7 on 0345 844 4848.
We’ve put together a guide and a flowchart that illustrates some of these possibilities and these can be accessed here. For a more in-depth description of some of the options explored in the flowchart, read our exclusive article here.
You may find that some employees don’t return from furlough, perhaps if they have taken on new work during furlough or because they have re-evaluated their career. It is important to ensure that you try to establish communications with them to understand why they have not returned. This is particularly if they have health concerns about returning, as you would need to explore how you can help alleviate these worries.
In some circumstances, for example, if the employee has a new job but fails to resign, you will need to bring their employment to an end as in the absence of a termination (either by resignation or dismissal) they would technically remain an employee with their employment rights intact. It may be necessary therefore to follow a proper dismissal process. Again, advice should be taken from the Employment Law Team in these circumstances, who you can contact 24/7 on 0345 844 4848.