The end of furlough is here! The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) closed on 30 September 2021 and those involved in payroll have been dancing a jig, partying the night away and relaxing for the first time in eighteen months.
Final figures won’t be available until later this year, but the Government has recently released data which covers the period to the end of August 2021. In that time, over £69bn of furlough funding has been claimed which has helped to keep over 11 million jobs safe.
The CJRS is just one of seventy-one different measures introduced to help businesses during the pandemic and it’s estimated that all these measures together will ultimately cost in the region of £154bn. The National Audit Office has a frightening tracker which estimates that the Government will spend a total of £370bn to help guide the Country through the COVID-19 pandemic. To put that into some context, if Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bernard Arnault all sold up and gave their money to the UK, it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for our COVID bill. So, in short, I’m reiterating what my colleagues have alluded to in their previous blogs, be aware because tax rises are coming!
But I digress, the real purpose of this blog is to provide you with some guidance as to what to do now that the furlough scheme has ended. Most practices benefited from the furlough scheme during the first lockdown, and several have continued to use the scheme while patient numbers were below pre-COVID levels. Now that the funding is no longer available, what should you do with the staff that were previously furloughed?
The initial expectation is that returning staff will come back to the practice to work (and be paid for) their previously contracted hours. This is obviously the most costly option but may enable you to open the practice for longer, increase patient capacity or develop the practice in other ways.
Then again, staff may be reluctant to return. The most important thing to do in this situation is talk to them and encourage them to raise any concerns they may have. It may be that offering them flexible working arrangements or revised working hours could benefit you both, but any contract changes should be documented and made clear so that staff are aware of what is expected of them in terms of their job role and the compensation that they will receive in return.
Even with reassurances that you have a COVID safe working environment, a staff member may still be unwilling to return. In this situation you could agree to a period of unpaid leave to give them time to adjust but, if such a situation continues, we would recommend obtaining professional advice as a refusal to return could constitute a dismissible offence.
The final and probably most drastic option is redundancy. If over the past eighteen months you’ve made changes to the practice which has left the staff member’s job obsolete, it may be that you would have to consider making them redundant. I’ve previously written a blog about this process but I’ll reiterate that, as with any situation which could be contentious, we would strongly recommend you engage the services of an employment law or human resources expert before starting such a process.
If you’d like to find out more about post-furlough challenges or our payroll services in general, please call us on 01872 300232 or email email@example.com.