Employees return to work and the Amendments to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Since the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) on 20 March 2020 the number of employees placed furlough has continued to increase, with HM Treasury’s recent figures advising that 8 million jobs have now been furloughed, with a staggering £11.1 billion claimed under the Scheme.
On 12 May 2020 the Chancellor announced that the scheme will be extended to the end of October 2020, with changes to the scheme to be introduced in July 2020 in order to encourage employees to return to the workplace and wean off those ‘addicted to the scheme’.
From 1 August 2020 the CJRS will be amended to enable Employees to return to work on a part-time basis, with Employers paying a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed employees. It is understood that the Employer’s payments will substitute the 80% / £2,500 contribution under the CJRS. It is not clear whether there will be a different proportion of furlough pay for the employees that return to work part-time as opposed to those who do not.
The wording of the amendments to the CJRS refer to “employers currently using the scheme“ and therefore it is expected that ‘new Employers’ to CJRS cannot submit claim for the first time after 1 August 2020, which presumably was the intention of the Government to prevent any potential abuse by Employers whose Employees continued to work during the pandemic.
It is understood that the Government shall provide more specific details and information around its implementation by the end of May, which should address this confusion.
Return to work.
The Government’s Recovery Strategy published on 11 May 2020 introduced changes to get people back to work and the economy back on track, changing the Government’s advice from staying at home “except in specific situations” to Employees continuing to work from home wherever possible and any Employees who cannot work from home travelling to work if their workplace is open.
In light of Government’s guidelines, Employers must ensure that they continue to act in accordance with their duty of care for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace and must do all they reasonably can to support their health, safety and wellbeing. In order to assist both Employers and Employees in the transition back to work ACAS have updated the Coronavirus guidance on their website which sets out the following recommendations:
- Employers should consult with staff about their return to work, which would include asking for, and considering, their views to try and reach an agreement;
- Employers should regularly review furlough agreements to decide when to bring furloughed staff back to work and they should talk to staff about any plans to end furlough, encouraging staff to raise any concerns or problems they may have about returning to work;
- Should Employers wish to end furlough they should give staff notice in writing. Whilst the guidance states that there is no minimum notice period to end furlough, this notice should be done as early as possible;
- If are any changes in the workplace that might affect someone’s employment contract (i.e. hours of work or place of work etc.) Employers must consult with Employees prior to implementing these changes;
- If any staff are worried or do not want to return to work yet, an Employer should listen to these concerns and should take steps to protect everyone. This could include offering extra car parking to avoid the use of public transport, adjust hours to avoid peak commute or keep someone on furlough;
- If Employees still does not want to return to work it may be possible to arrange with their Employers to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave, however, the Employer does not have to agree to this. If an Employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action.
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Author: Amy Hadley