Furlough scheme ends – what next?
Following several extensions, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘Furlough scheme’) is finally ending on 30 September 2021.
Initially the government committed to paying 80% of wages, capped at £2,500, along with National Insurance and pension contributions paid by the employer. However more recent iterations of the scheme have seen the government’s contribution reduce to 70% in July 2021, with employers being required to pay 10%. In August and September, the government’s contribution was further reduced to 60% with employers paying 20%.
What will happen at the end of the scheme?
Employers will need to determine whether to reinstate their furloughed workers or make them redundant. Employers intending to make furloughed staff redundant, should have already done so. In assigning redundancies, an employer must ensure that they are complying with any consultation requirements that may apply. If more than 20 employees are being made redundant, for example, collective consultation will be necessary.
There is no legal requirement for employers to give furloughed workers notice that they are being called back to work, but it’s recommended that they should.
If employees are being required to return to the workplace, employees should be mindful of health and safety requirements whilst the risk of the virus is still looming.
In the recent case of Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting Limited decided in March 2021, the tribunal held that an employee who refused to return to work because he was concerned about COVID was not dismissed unfairly. The employee had tried to claim that his dismissal was automatically unfair because of a health and safety breach. However the tribunal found in favour of the employer, stating that they had complied with the requisite guidance and made the workplace secure. They also found against the employee on the basis that he had not raised any meaningful concerns about workplace safety, nor did he reasonably believe that there was ‘serious and imminent danger’ which is required for a successful claim under 100(1)(d) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act. Whilst this case isn’t binding on a future employment tribunal, it does offer an interesting snapshot as to how the tribunal may approach such situations.
To speak to us about your employment issues, whether to do with strategic business decisions or a particular issue involving an employee, get in touch with Kate Brown or another member of our Employment Law team on 0330 311 1950.