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End of the furlough scheme, what comes next?

Government data shows that almost 3 million people have been moved off furlough since March 2021 as businesses have reopened. This has left around 2 million people still being supported by the scheme. So what happens now?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as the furlough scheme, came to an end on the 30th September 2021.

Your employer should have already been in contact about how this will affect you after this, but this should fall into the following categories:

Employee contract may be resumed on the terms that existed before the scheme started on 1st March 2020 – This is the easiest option and would provide the best outcome for you. You should receive reasonable written notice that you will be expected back to work for your usual hours and pay. Employer may wish to consider support for your well-being, especially if you have been on furlough for a long time. Examples might be refresher training or a gradual return to duties.

Change to the terms of employment – A change to the terms and conditions of employment at least on a temporary basis. If there is no agreement between employee and company, the company can impose the changes unilaterally, or terminate the employee contract (with notice) and offer continued employment on the new terms. In either case, the changes can look like the following:

    • End furlough and bring back staff to work on reduced hours and pay – can work for those who no longer require the same hours.
    • End furlough and bring back staff to work on same hour but reduced pay – this is more likely to receive agreement if the change is temporary (pandemic has caused trading issues that will be resolved in time) or if the employee sees this as an alternative to not having a job.
    • End furlough and asking staff to take unpaid or part-paid leave – usually agreed on a voluntary basis and should be set out in writing.
    • Extension of furlough without government grant – could work for an employer who wishes to retain staff for when business picks up but leaves the employer open to all of the costs of keeping staff paid.

Employer makes redundancies – 1 in 5 companies are considering making redundancies as they cannot afford to keep staff on due to the impacts of the pandemic – exactly the reason why the furlough scheme was implemented.

Some things to bear in mind:

  • Government guidance does not prevent furloughed employees from being made redundant
  • Redundancy payments should be calculated on the employees full employment contract pay and not on the furlough scheme rate of 80%
  • Furloughed employees are still entitled to a notice period
  • The procedure for deciding who is being made redundant should be the same as without the furlough scheme and not ‘because an employee was furloughed’ companies are still expected to follow ACAS guidance [ https://www.acas.org.uk/redundancy ] on making employees redundant.

Where to get support

Jobcentre Plus – The Jobcentre can help support you with a variety of activities related to joblessness including:

  • Benefits including Universal Credit
  • Job Search
  • Access to training
  • Help rewriting your CV
  • Organisation of work trials
  • Access to Work

Employment agencies and websites – The job market is picking up pace since the pandemic and there are a number of roles available even if your current employer isn’t one of them. This could be an ideal opportunity to move into a line of work you have always wanted to. They will help with your CV and as they only receive money for placing people, they will often help you with interview techniques and your CV.

ACAS – The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – If you believe you are being mistreated by your employer ACAS can help mediate and advise on employment issues.

Citizens Advice – We can help on a range of issues not mentioned above and more to support you directly or help you find support including:

  • Housing Issues
  • Employment Issues
  • Benefits and Universal Credit
  • Income Maximisation
  • Personal Budgeting

 

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