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Where to now?
Notwithstanding that COVID-19 still remains very much a concern and a part of our lives in the UK at the present, we have largely seen a return to a nearly normal way of life; most businesses are now back open in all sectors, the need to wear face masks has greatly reduced, and many who want it having been vaccinated.
With effect today, 1 October 2021, a further step is taken in that there will no longer be support available by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’) to support businesses and under which the Government effectively underwrote a large percentage of the wages for employers.
It is estimated that the CJRS Scheme has supported some 11.6 million jobs and is estimated to have cost somewhere in the region of £66 Billion pounds.
What does the loss of the CJRS mean in real terms? For many, there has already been a return to work and so there will be no difference.
However, for those employers who have struggled and relied upon the support that the CJRS provided, the ability to have employees on furlough and utilise a more flexible workforce at reduced costs and claim CJRS grant payments will no longer be an option. Practically this will mean that:
(a) Where there is insufficient income or work to justify the work force level, employers will have to consider making redundancies. If they are to do so they will need to engage with a full and fair procedure before any decision is made.
(b) Where staff are unwell or shielding, there will need to be discussions about their return to work if they are able and any adjustments that may be required, or if they are unable then there will be the need for considering the alternatives such as continuing being off due to illness and being signed off in the usual way, and for some that will mean engaging with processes around long term sickness.
(c) For those returning to work there may be a degree of uncertainty and employers may face issues about bringing staff back. As part of that process employers will almost certainly need to be reviewing their Risk Assessments, and ensuring safe environments for their staff to work in.
(d) Employers may see, and need to be prepared for, a rise in the number of Flexible Working Requests that are made as employees look to change their working patterns.
Wherever there are to be changes in the workforce and employees being required to depart, employers may wish to consider whether the easiest way may be via negotiated settlement agreements. Whilst these will require a payment to the employee and for an employee to take independent legal advice, they may be cheaper and quicker than becoming locked in expensive and time consuming litigation before the Employment Tribunals.
If you would like to discuss any concerns regarding the Employment Law implications of the Furlough/CJRS, the impact of Coronavirus, dealing with issues such as Redundancies and Absence management, Settlement Agreements or generally around issues arising from employing staff, please speak to Jason Alcock, an experienced employment law solicitor in our dispute resolution team, on 01543 267 196 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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