In March 2020 the Government introduced the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) which allowed employers to furlough employees. The aim of the CJRS is to avoid mass job losses and help prevent the spread of COVID19. Much of the public were uncertain of what this meant and how it would apply to businesses.
We are now well in the midst of furlough and being on lockdown has almost become the norm in our lives. However recent Government briefings have suggested the possibility of easing the lockdown restrictions and to start bringing communities and businesses back to some normality but with caution.
The effect of COVID19 has brought many businesses to a grinding halt; with the exception of key workers; many of the workforce are forced to stay at home for their own safety. As the Government now enters into talks of lifting the lockdown restrictions, businesses are now having to look at ways to bring back staff on a staggered approach.
Return to work
Communicating with your staff is key. Employers must write to inform furloughed staff of a date of when they will be required to return back to work. This may not be a smooth process as many will still be in fear of COVID-19. It is useful to have written guidance and conduct an induction in the workplace to inform employees of all the appropriate health and safety measures that have been implemented to support the return back to work process. Businesses may need to consider new ways of working by introducing a staged return or to encourage more home working where they can. Remote meetings via electronic tools such as Zoom or Teams will be encouraged to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
There will, undoubtedly, be some uncertainty and hesitancy from staff; people managers must listen to staff concerns and reassure them that health and safety measures have been put into place. Companies must do all they can do protect the staff and the business. Government guidelines which include social distancing, use of face masks, 2 meters distancing, hand sanitizers/gloves and temperature checks and so on must continue to be adhered to.
Some staff may not want to or be able to return to work during the COVID-19 period. They may be worried about being exposed to the virus or are living with a vulnerable person who is shielding. In these circumstances you should explore other options available; for example home working, unpaid leave, take holidays or to continue to furlough until the end of June (within the Government guidelines). Should the employee continue to refuse to return back to work, the employer may need to investigate the situation further which may lead to disciplinary action.
The current crisis affects all companies and industries in different ways. Companies must ensure they comply with legislation, the guidelines and meet the needs of their staff and the business. This is not an easy task and can lead to complications. At Quest we can offer further advice and guidance in all these areas. Please contact the advice line for further advice and guidance on 01455852028.