Furlough Exit Strategy

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is set to end on 30th June and there is no news yet as to whether the scheme will be extended by the government.    Employers therefore need to start considering their exit strategy from furlough and how their teams will return to workplace.  It is likely that returning employees to the workplace will present more issues than there were in furloughing them in the first place.   We look at some key considerations for business owners:


What areas should our business be reviewing now?

  • Will there be the same demand for your products or services?
  • Will you still require the same number of employees?
  • Has working from home been effective and should it continue?
  • Can your business afford to re-instate pay to previous levels?
  • Which employees need to return first?
  • Whether you want employees to take annual leave prior to returning to reduce the accrued holidays?


Are changes to workplace practices necessary?

It is highly likely that most workplaces and workplace practices will need to change fundamentally when lockdown ends.   Employers have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of their employees and will need to consider any government and ACAS advice about health and safety precautions.  Including:

  • Social distancing such as moving desks or equipment
  • Installing screens or partitions
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Staggering shifts
  • Training employees on the new requirements


What about employees that are unable or unwilling to return to work?

You will need to consider how you will deal with employees who:

  • Are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities
  • Are shielding based on medical advice
  • Are caring for elderly or vulnerable family members
  • Are too scared to come to work incase they get infected
  • Are unwilling to use public transport due to safety concerns


How can I reduce payroll costs without making redundancies?

  • Impose short term working or layoffs where there are contractual clauses in the contract of employment (bear in mind statutory layoff provisions)
  • Seek to agree reduced hours
  • Seek to agree changes to pay and other benefits
  • Offer periods of unpaid leave


Does your business need to consider making redundancies?

If the furlough scheme is not extended it is likely that some employers will see no option other than making redundancies.   Likewise, some employers will need to reshape their businesses which will result in headcount reductions, particularly if they don’t need all employee back after lockdown.

This will trigger individual and possibly collective consultation obligations.  If the employer needs to make 20 or more redundancies in a 90-day period they will need to factor in the minimum periods of collective consultation.

Look out for our next blog on redundancies and restructuring for more info on the process or sign up for the Highfield HR newsletter.

One things for sure, the sooner you start working on your business strategy to exit the lockdown, the better position you will be in to deal with the challenges.  If you would like help with your lockdown exit strategy including changes to terms and conditions or redundancy consultations contact Highfield HR on 01656 336097.