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Getting in shape for the future – avoiding the pitfalls

The beginning of October will see the end of the furlough scheme, as the current extension period comes to a close at the end of September.  This will be a massive blow for many businesses who are still suffering from the impact of the recent pandemic and various lockdown(s). Many businesses, not least the retail and hospitality sectors, have seen a huge reduction in footfall and are still nowhere near back up to capacity.  

Unfortunately, the removal of the furlough scheme will mean that difficult decisions will have to be made. Whether you are considering diversifying into an area that is more likely to withstand any future lockdown, or you are simply having to cut down on staff numbers we wanted to offer some headline advice to help you on your way.  

Training 

For many the prospect of returning to work whether it be to the same job or in a new role will be daunting for many staff.  Processes may have changed as will the equipment staff are required to use.  But are you up to date with what training is required and what your legal obligations are around establishing safe systems of work?   A quick call to us and we can put your mind at rest. 

Flexible Working Requests and Job Changes 

Recent events have seen an increase in the number of employers receiving flexible working requests, particularly from staff who have been working from home.  Employee requests to change their terms and conditions must be considered if they have worked for you for at least 26 weeks, in line with the Flexible Working Legislation.   The procedure and time frames are less prescriptive than they were originally, but you still need to be careful not to exceed the 3-month timeframe.  

There are only seven reasons that an employer can reject an application, so please check with us that you’re not leaving yourself open to a claim by refusing or ignoring an application.  

For staff members who may be returning to a new role, or those who you may already have already agreed a change to their terms, such as hours or place of work (possibly working from home or a hybrid working arrangement), then you are required to issue a new contract of employment or a letter confirming the variation to terms, within one month of the change having taken place.  

Imposing changes to staff contracts 

For some businesses, the removal of the furlough scheme or even having to pay back loans, particularly before being back to “business as usual” is a daunting prospect.  In these circumstances, cutting costs by making staff redundant is not always feasible due to the financial outlay this presents.  

In these circumstances, it’s worth considering what other changes you can make.  If you would like to call for an initial chat, we will be able to explore other options for you.  These will depend primarily on what is contained in your employees’ contracts of employment.  Options generally include a change to working hours (including a reduction in hours), removal of certain benefits, such as bonus payments or even a pay cut.  

Whilst nobody likes having to take such measures, if it prevents having to cut jobs, even in the short term, then, unfortunately, it may be the best option. 

Redundancies 

In the event that all else fails, and you are in the position of having to restructure and considering job losses then there are statutory guidelines to follow, especially if you are making 20 or more employees redundant.  Although there are no set rules for fewer than 20 redundancies, if staff have over 2 years’ service you are still at risk of an unfair dismissal claim and possible discrimination if your selection process has not been fair and transparent.   

In order to avoid Tribunal Claims, let us support you to: 

  • Ensure you have a robust business case for making staff redundant. 
  • Fairly consult with your staff, to show you have explored all options. 
  • Have selected fairly, using non-discriminatory criteria.  

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