We decided to include HR advice in our service because when the lockdown came we were getting inundated with calls from people who were concerned they were going to be released from their jobs and people from all over the country were calling us with reference to Covid 19, working from home and the furlough scheme, all of which was unprecedented for all of us, not just a few.
Many people called us for advice, they had either used our service before or their parents or grand parents had and it was our existing customers that encouraged their family members to call to see if we could help them with regard to Covid-19, the furlough scheme or even advice about what they should do.
Please see below a small snippet of the vast information relating to the global pandemic and what it means to employees in the UK.
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic the government has introduced the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme. This allows all UK employers with employees on a PAYE scheme to designate some or all employees as ‘furloughed workers’. Employers can access to Government support to continue paying part of these furloughed employees’ salaries and potentially protect the employees from redundancy. The scheme has now been extended again to the end of September 2021.
This guide outlines the key facts about furloughed workers and details the extensions of the scheme. The extension until September 2021 means employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends. From 1 August 2021 employers now contribute 20% of furloughed workers' usual pay. This rate continues until the end of the scheme at the end of September 2021.
What is Furlough?
The word ‘furlough’ generally means temporary leave of absence from work. This can be due to economic conditions affecting one company, or matters affecting the whole country. The expression had previously not carried any meaning in UK employment law but was temporarily introduced in response to the unprecedented situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This does not mean that the fundamentals of employment law have changed, simply that this scheme adds to them.
Furlough leave temporarily provided employers with an option to keep employees on the payroll without them working at all. Under the flexible extensions to the furlough scheme (from July 2020 onwards) employees may either cease working completely or work reduced hours. As the furloughed staff are kept on the payroll, this is different to being laid off without pay or being made redundant. The ability to furlough employees was designed to support employers who are severely affected by coronavirus. The scheme and some other measures provide employers with other options when reviewing the circumstances of their business, and may be an alternative to implementing redundancies or lay offs without pay.
Redundancies in Furlough
The intention of furlough is that employees will be able to return to work afterwards. However, some employers will be unable to take all the furloughed employees back when the scheme ends and will consider redundancies. There are a number of redundancy aspects to consider:
Redundancy during furlough: Employees can still be made redundant during furlough, but no part of the furlough grant can go towards paying redundancy pay. Current government guidance confirms that employers cannot claim the furlough grant for a furloughed employee who is serving statutory or contractual notice.
Redundancy process: The redundancy process is likely to be unfair if the employer did not at least consider re-furloughing employees or using any alternative government scheme as potential alternatives at the planning stage. Employers can commence a redundancy procedure including furloughed employees and still claim the furlough grant up to the notice period. HMRC may question very rapid redundancies as the whole purpose of the furlough scheme was to allow employers to continue to trade and retain staff. Tribunal cases are starting to emerge where employees bring unfair dismissal claims because furlough was not considered as an alternative to redundancy.
As well as dealing with enquiries for the Covid-19 situation, we are also helping people who have found themselves released from Contracts or those that have been switched to zero hours contracts, we are speaking to a large number of people who just want advice about their jobs.
It is very important to understand that anyone who is working may have a need to speak with one of our HR experts, it could be to do with your job, holiday pay, sickness, redundancy or even a question about something that is happening to you or one of your family members, but if its worked related we will be happy to discuss things with you.
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