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Coronavirus discussion thread

Ask your Covid-19 work-related questions here

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With the Covid-19 outbreak escalating rapidly, each day brings new guidance, measures and schemes from the UK Government, alongside a new set of challenges for businesses and their people. Understandably, as we all try to navigate through these challenging times many questions and concerns will arise. To help you get those questions answered, we at HRZone have set up this coronavirus discussion thread. 

If you're an HR professional, business leader or employee with a question related to work and the coronavirus, please submit in the comments section below for our HRZone audience to respond to. Likewise, if you see a question you feel qualified to answer, please reply to the comment. 

We also encourage you to share resources, tips, stories and suggestions that might be useful to fellow people professionals and their businesses.

As an online community it's important for us to join together, collaborate and support one another in these challenging times!

 

Replies (7)

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By Michelle Wood
25th Mar 2020 09:30

Hi and thanks for setting this up.

My husband has a shop which has now closed as per the Government ruling and the staff told to stay at home. It's a small business so we are looking at using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for our staff, however, we have to try to keep the business going by trading online if possible.
Ideally, we would like to give the staff some work to do from home if they can (we are not sure if that's possible yet and even so it would be minimal hours), but I have heard that if they are on this scheme they cannot work at all, is this true?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Replying to Michelle Wood:
Emma Swann
By Emma Swan
25th Mar 2020 15:26

Emma Swan, head of commercial employment law, Forbes Solicitors said:

“If you opt to furlough an employee and they join the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, they will need to stop doing work tasks and cannot complete any active duties until they leave the Scheme.

“In this particular case, where you need the support of employees to do some work, but are looking to reduce costs, it might be more effective to see if staff will consider a reduction in either their working hours and / or salary. You could, for example, ask them to take a 50% reduction in both, meaning you’ll pay less in staffing costs and they’ll work less hours accordingly. Or, you could possibly ask them to take a pay cut, whilst retaining their usual working hours.

“Similar to any furlough related changes, you will need employees to agree to any changes in their employment terms and they have the right to refuse these. However, your employees are already seeing the impact of coronavirus – you’ve shut your shop – and they will no doubt be aware that, like in many other businesses, jobs are at risk. If you clearly explain how coronavirus is causing a loss in trading and trying to work around this by changing working terms, rather than having to make redundancies, you’ll probably find that employees are much more willing to change their employment terms including levels of pay. They’ll be focused on trying to protect any level of income during these difficult times and to also safeguard their jobs for when trading does improve.”

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Replying to Emma_Swan:
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By Michelle Wood
25th Mar 2020 15:41

Thank you for the advice, that's really helpful.

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By PaulStrange
26th Mar 2020 11:07

If you furlough an employee, but the furlough is limited to the time that the Job Retention grant is available - say end July, do you continue to consult on redundancy at the end of the furlough period. It may be the only option if the grant is discontinued.

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Replying to PaulStrange:
Becky Norman
By Becky Norman
27th Mar 2020 14:08

Hi Paul,

Please see the response below from Kevin Barrow, a partner at International Law firm Osborne Clarke below.

“Based on the additional Government guidance published late last night, 26 March, there does not appear to be an end date for the scheme. However, it does state that when the Government determines this (or employers wish to end the furlough leave) employers can decide whether any furloughed employees can return to their duties or make them redundant. If redundancy is the only option at that stage, we expect that employers will need to consult as normal and we have not seen any guidance confirming that consultancy obligations will be relaxed in these circumstances.”

Hope this helps.

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Replying to Becky Norman:
By PaulStrange
27th Mar 2020 15:08

Thank you Kevin. I saw this guidance too. It seems that employers will not be able to consult employees on redundancy while on grant assisted furlough leave, as consultation would be 'work', and is not allowed. I am not sure. However, it will be frustrating to employers to have to reinstate employees to full pay and then start consultation. There should be a way of consulting employees on this alternative while on they are on urlough leave.

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Replying to PaulStrange:
Emma Swann
By Emma Swan
30th Mar 2020 17:20

Emma Swan, head of commercial employment law, Forbes Solicitors said:

“If the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) closes and a company finds it still has insufficient funds to make employment feasible, it would then look at redundancy as an option.

“Any redundancy after furlough would still be subject to consultation (or continued consultation if it started before the CJRS was introduced and the proposed redundancy was for the same reason). The redundancy terms would be as per legislative requirements and any stipulations in the existing employment contracts they have with employees. Redundancy payments and notice periods would still need to be honoured and would not be affected by furlough. At this point, businesses are advised to follow Government announcements, as the CJRS might be extended beyond its initial three-month period.”

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