The Government has announced an extension of the Job Retention Scheme until October 2020. However, it has also offered employees the possibility of continuing to receive 80% Furlough Pay if they return to work on a part-time basis.
It is not difficult to identify the issue for the employer with this approach. It is already proving difficult for employers to get their staff back to work. Imagine persuading an employee to return to work 2 days per week for exactly the same pay as they are receiving for staying at home and doing no work. That’s a big Human Resources ask.
The part time working scheme is clearly envisaged as a halfway measure allowing an employer to offer a phased return, which will be more difficult for employees to refuse as opposed, to an immediate return to their normal working hours. The government is offering to cushion the blow by funding part of the employees’ wages. A valiant attempt by the Chancellor but fraught with HR angst.
Additionally, to compound the situation the Government have failed to provide a health and safety framework within which staff can feel safe to return to work. This has rightly lead to the majority of Trade Unions refusing to support the Governments return to work plans. Where does that leave the employees and/or the employer.
Employees feel fearful to return to work but are unsure as to their right to refuse to return and employers are more certain about their rights to enforce return but in the dark on how to protect their staff and make the working environment safe. This confusion and conflict is inevitably going to lead to challenges and legal cases unless the Government provide great guidance and clarity.
In order to manage your business through this difficult and unique situation please do take appropriate specialist advice to guide you in the right direction.