What happens when furlough ends?

Employment Lawyer, Tosh Polpityre, describes furlough as similar to when President Kennedy said America would put a man on the moon. NASA had to make it happen. The Chancellor announced the Job Retention Scheme and the Civil Service had to make it happen. The trouble is, the more people thought about it, the more changes were introduced. I feel I have talked of nothing else all month. 

Keeping in touch

Under the Job Retention Scheme you can “furlough” staff. Your employees must not do any work for you at all while they are furloughed. You should, however, keep in touch with them. Let them know they are still part of the team and check in on how they are doing. Hold virtual socials. It is important to keep team spirit strong.

Provided they don’t provide a service or generate a revenue, you can hold training sessions. Let’s be ready to hit the ground running when things recover.

What happens when furlough ends?

The Scheme is now available until 30 June 2020. Employers can recall their staff from furlough at any time. Each period of furlough must last for a minimum of three weeks.

One day, the furlough scheme will close. What happens then? Put simply, there are three main scenarios I see:

  • Staff come back to work
  • Fewer jobs are available and you’ll need to make redundancies
  • Staff choose not to return to work

All of these scenarios could be problematic.

Back to work

It would be great if things picked where they left off. Have you thought about how you will achieve that?

  • What work will there be to do?
  • Will your team need any refresher training?
  • How do you bring furloughed staff up to speed?
  • What lessons have you learned?
  • What have you done differently that worked really well?
  • What have you found you no longer need to do?
  • How do you thank those that kept your business running?
  • If this virus re-emerges, what would you want to be in place?
  • How do you deal with the mixture of those that were furloughed and those that were not?

That last point really concerns me as I see it as a potential source of conflict. Those that have been furloughed have not been allowed to work. They may have felt rejected, isolated and have had less income. They could feel out of the loop and tales of how busy someone has been may be seen as a dig at them.

Those that have carried on working may have resented having to do extra work. They may be exhausted and innocent tales of boredom or comments about things being missed may cause friction.

Brief people to be mindful of other’s feelings. Consider how you can integrate the two again and stress how important both their roles have been. If possible, you may want to consider giving some extra time off to those who have worked particularly hard to support your business over these difficult weeks.

Jobs no longer being available

The Job Retention Scheme is likely to stop before many businesses recover. I’ve already had a number of conversations about redundancies. At a time like this, transparency is important. The job market will be hard and keeping people informed will give them more chance to prepare.

Redundancy is a form of dismissal. You must follow a fair process. This includes:

  • Identifying which role(s) are at risk of redundancy
  • Placing people into redundancy pools
  • Assessing each person in the pool to determine who is to be made redundant
  • Entering into a consultation period

Unless the business is closing, it is difficult to justify making someone redundant while they could be furloughed. It could potentially be seen as unfair dismissal. However, bear in mind if you do need to make redundancies, you will need to give people notice. This will be the greater of what is in their contract or a week for each full year of employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. It is therefore worth thinking ahead.

If you are sure you will need to make redundancies after furlough, please speak to me now. We’ll discuss how to prepare your employees and the steps you need to take.

I’m not coming back

January to March is a common time for people to switch jobs. Over Christmas, they relax and have time to work out what they really want to do. Many people have just had a lot of time to think and some have found other ways to earn money.

While we are all expecting a major increase in unemployment, there is a chance some of your team may not want to return. They should, of course, still give you their normal notice entitlement if they decide not to return to work. However, if they have found an alternative key role they enjoy, they may not be able to.

This is another good reason to keep in contact with your furloughed employees on a social basis.

While I know you will have a lot to think about now, planning for when furlough ends is every bit as important. If you need support with this, please contact me.


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