How to bring staff back from furlough

Peninsula Team

June 19 2020

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You may have seen that the Chancellor has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until October 2020, with some changes possible from August.

At the time of writing, we must wait for updates on how the new rules will impact employers. Still, it’s great that financial support is available to help businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.

However, with the Executive publishing a five-stage plan for moving out of lockdown, it might be wise to start thinking about bringing your employees back to work.  

To help you ‘unfurlough’ your employees when you need them, we’ve covered the necessities below. We also consider what to do if you’re worried about staff levels post-lockdown…

Don’t forget the three-week furlough minimum

You need to put your employees on furlough for at least three weeks to claim grants from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Bringing an employee back earlier means you will forfeit the right to your funding.

Of course, if you need staff to return urgently, you may have to take the hit. Whatever you decide to do, you mustn’t let employees work for your business while they’re on furlough.

We can’t emphasise the importance of following this rule enough. HMRC has the right to retrospectively audit your business if they suspect you’ve brought staff back to work while still claiming grants. And, according to recent reports, about 800 people have reported their employer to HMRC for misuse of the Job Retention Scheme.

Choosing which employees to bring off furlough

Choosing who to bring off furlough could prove tricky. Ideally, you would bring your workers back based on your business needs. But with COVID-19 affecting people in different ways, there are many factors to consider when choosing who returns to work and when.

For example, those who are shielding in line with Government advice shouldn’t return to the workplace. Likewise, employees at greater risk, such as those with caring responsibilities for highly vulnerable people, shouldn’t return too soon either.

However, while it’s important to consider the welfare of your staff, you also need to be careful about making employment choices based on protected characteristics, such as disability.

It’s important to discuss your plans with employees first. It’s possible that those in a high-risk category who cannot work from home will welcome the chance to stay on furlough.

Inform staff that their furlough is ending

Once you’ve spoken to your staff and decided who should return from furlough, send them a return to work letter to confirm their start date.

When employees begin returning to the workplace, it would be wise to conduct a COVID-19 secure risk assessment.

While you don’t need to inform HMRC that your staff have returned to work, you do need to keep accurate records on the length of your employees’ furlough periods. As mentioned above, HMRC will expect to see this info during an audit.  

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