Significant job losses and business closures are on the horizon as the end of the furlough scheme fast approaches. It is imperative that businesses consider their ability to continue to employ and pay staff now and in the coming months, which, no doubt, will become particularly precarious when the government grants end.
To limit the risk of unfair dismissal or discrimination claims, employers must still follow the usual redundancy process under UK law during furlough. Even where employees are working from home, by law an employer must still ‘meet with’ the employee at risk of redundancy at least once; that can be done via video or telephone call.
If a business is aware that redundancies are looming, it is imperative it begins to put redundancy processes into motion as early as possible. Employers should prepare for staff redundancies now, as opposed to having to commence the process on 31 October when the furlough scheme ends. Preparation is the best opportunity for employers to discuss the planned changes within the business with the employee, how and why they are at risk of redundancy and what the selection process involves.
Employees want open communication from their employer. Employers should aim to keep their employees up to date with the latest decisions regarding staff retention and whether anyone is at risk of redundancy. What employees do not appreciate is out-of-the-blue redundancy decisions with no prior warnings or awareness that the business was struggling. Maintain an open dialogue with employees at risk of redundancy and consider any suggestions put forward by them to assist the business in retaining their job.
Employers that are prepared can ensure that their staff feel supported and fairly treated. Putting redundancy processes in motion now, under the current furlough scheme, can allow employers to take advantage of the scheme in both their and the employees best interest.
Employers can offer furloughed employees being made redundant the opportunity to remain as a furloughed employee for an agreed period of time after notifying them of their redundancy.
Essentially, this will allow the employer to offer employees, as a gesture of goodwill, to receive an extra month or two furlough salary at no or little cost to the employer, as the employer will receive the reimbursement from the government. This can be greatly appreciated by employees, as it will give them that little bit longer to find new employment, or can be extremely beneficial to employees currently on visas or going through application processes such as mortgages, which require them to be employed.
Cacy-Leigh Neilson is an associate solicitor at Oury Clark Solicitors.