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Resource roundup: Get help with important furlough scheme-related decisions

The furlough scheme has been extended, but business owners need to think carefully about what their workforce could look like in the future.

Our resource roundup includes links to useful advice and information to help you plan your next steps, whether you’re using the furlough scheme for the first time or need advice on bringing staff back to work.

Looking for advice on using the new furlough scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended to March 2021. Employers can furlough staff and claim 80 per cent of their salaries or up to £2,500 from the government.

It will be reviewed in January 2021 and the government may ask employers to contribute towards the 80 per cent after this point.

Employees can be furloughed even if they haven’t been furloughed before the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extension started on 1 November. If you’re using the furlough scheme for the first time, you can check if you’re eligible for the scheme and which employees you can furlough on the gov.uk site.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has dedicated FAQs which cover the furlough extension, applying for furlough and managing employees on furlough.

Want to learn more about supporting furloughed staff?

It can be hard to adjust to the lack of routine and structure while on furlough leave. Some employees may resent being put on furlough or fear that it’s a way to delay redundancies. Employers need to provide the right support and reassure furloughed staff that they are valued.

Furloughed staff can still undertake training, so talk to your employees about available courses online. LinkedIn Learning, Google Digital Garage and Udemy are all helpful resources. 

NHS-backed Every Mind Matters has guidance on how you can provide mental health support, including how to help others with mental health problems and overcome coronavirus anxiety. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) guide on coronavirus and mental health at work also offers some good advice on spotting possible signs of a mental health problem.

Need information on how to bring staff back from furlough?

Employers have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis. This allows businesses to start rebuilding without having to commit to full-time salary costs.

Furloughed staff should be available to return to work at any time. However, you should give reasonable notice where you can. 

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has an overview of your responsibilities as an employer, as well as a more in-depth guide on bringing employees back from furlough

Some people will feel anxious about returning to work, particularly if they’re deemed high risk or live with elderly family members. Remember that employers have a legal duty to protect workers from harm. You may need to take extra precautions to reduce the risks for people in vulnerable groups.

This article from Citizens Advice outlines some common concerns your employees may have. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has more advice about protecting vulnerable workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking for ideas on building a sustainable workforce?

While the furlough scheme provides necessary support during a difficult period, employers should think about the long-term viability of their workforce. A sustainable workforce may include a mix of full-time and part-time employees and freelance workers or contractors.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) has some tips for working with freelancers for the first time and motivating workers that you don’t have formal authority over. You can learn more about contract types and employer responsibilities on gov.uk.

There’s more good advice on reducing workplace costs in this HBR article, which outlines steps you can take to reduce costs by 10, 20 and 30 per cent. It should help you to rethink the structure of your workforce and how roles can be adapted.

Require support managing remote workers for the first time?

Some staff returning from furlough may be working from home for the first time. As an employer, you need to provide support while people adjust. This could include supplying the correct equipment, offering training in new technology or regularly checking that lone workers are healthy and safe.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has a template questionnaire you can use to gauge the preparation needed for remote working. This guide from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provides a good overview of remote working practices.

If your staff members will be working from a screen, it’s important to understand some of the risks associated with using display screen equipment. The HSE has a useful checklist that your employees can use to review their work station.

ACAS is also running online events via Zoom on how to manage remote workers, so you can improve your own management skills in the area. There is currently availability in November and December.

Need advice on the correct procedure for redundancies?

If redundancies are unavoidable, make sure you’re following the correct procedures before you begin the process. Talk to a HR representative to get relevant advice for your business and situation.

The CIPD has published a guide to redundancy procedures during coronavirus. The rules around redundancies haven’t changed, but business owners should be aware of additional logistical issues created by the crisis. For example, selecting staff for redundancy based purely on the fact they are furloughed could lead to an unfair dismissal claim. 

For more general information about redundancies, the CIPD has an extensive knowledge hub. You can also find a useful step-by-step approach to managing redundancies on the ACAS website. 

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