How to avoid fines, penalties and legal action as furlough ends

In March of this year, Marianne McJannett and I started the series of webinars which Gravitate HR have continued for six months.  These have tracked the progress of furlough, working from home, supporting our teams and their mental wellbeing and have followed the journey of us all through the up and downs of living and working through a pandemic.  As the furlough scheme comes to an end in 5 weeks our focus on this webinar was the steps that business owners and employers should start to think about and to raise awareness of the various risks that are currently prevalent.

Redundancy follows a very structured path of communication, consultation and decision making.  Within that structure there are very many twists and turns and variables, it is not a one size fits all process and has to be adapted and planned to take into consideration of the size, shape and make up of the employee population and the number of roles which have to be lost.  And then there is the human element.  It is this additional dimension that has complicated the process during the pandemic.

The unique factors that have now to be considered include:

  • Are you employees still on furlough, flexi furlough, working from home, or working in the work place?  How might the decisions that you make be influenced and perceived by others by this?
  • Are employees fully appraised of the status of the business?  Are they aware of how the economic challenges have affected income and cost structures?
  • The external job market is overall not healthy with a huge number of people looking for work which makes it very competitive?  This influences the attitude of employees when facing possible redundancy and fighting to keep their jobs in selection processes.
  • The risk to the business of carrying out a flawed process, or making unfair decisions are very real, with employees (with more than 2 years’ service) having redress through the tribunal system.
  • There is also a risk of unwittingly making discriminatory decisions, decisions which are perceived to be based on protected characteristics rather than a fair and consistent process.
  • And all of this is carried out remotely through a screen, with the potential for the meeting to be recorded, and an extra layer of distance to be factored.

As the Job Retention Scheme ends on the 31st October 2020, employers will be required to pay 100% of contractual payment from the 1st November 2020.  If this is not affordable then the business needs to start to plan what alternatives it can put in place.  All alternatives will require some form of consultation and agreement with employees, they can not be imposed.  There are a number of alternatives available and a number of routes which can be followed.  It may be advisable to take some advice early in order to inform your decision making and avoid costly decisions that could have long term adverse effects on your business.  This webinar discusses the journey through furlough, the current trends in the employment law sphere and some of the very unique set of circumstances that we now find ourselves after working from home for six months; and now advised that should be our default position for some time to come for many businesses.  The end of October is a milestone in this journey and our advice is to be sure that you are prepared for the changes that will arrive with no more JRS payments from HMRC.

If you would like any further advice about an HR issue you are managing please get in touch with us on 0141 459 7558 or email info@gravitatehr.co.uk.

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