Back to work?

Back to work?

26/04/2020 Peter Lawrence – Human Capital Department.

When the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the Furlough scheme on 23rd March 2020 many SME businesses took an ethical stance to furloughing employees, putting health and wellbeing before profits. Other sectors [including Construction] were considered essential workers and continued as normal, while office-based employees were encouraged to work from home.   

It is estimated that some 9 Million employees are now on Furlough [26/04/2020] at an estimated cost to the exchequer of £40 - £60 Billion which has been extended another month to the end of June 2020. At the same time, it is estimated that about 4 Million employees have been working from home throughout the crisis. 

Both these groups of employees have been out of their normal work routine [either on Furlough or working from home] for four weeks or more now. How do SME businesses welcome back employees and psychologically re-engage them? It was interesting to hear how many employees wanted to be Furloughed – perhaps partly for health and safety reasons but also, I think a reflection of how disengaged many people are. Given the choice they would rather not be at work. In the past much government effort has been in getting unemployed people back to work quickly, as it is recognised that the longer people stay out of work the harder it is to get people back into the work habit. Furloughed workers are no different.   

It is difficult to predict how quickly the economy will recover – different businesses are affected differently -after world catastrophes such as The Spanish Flu [1918], 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the Banking Crisis of 2008 economies took time to recover, and it seems unlikely that we will see a quick “bounce back” in overall economic activity. 

During the lockdown many SME business Owners and Managers will have had chance to reflect and re-ratchet sales budgets, and re-visit workforce numbers and will be facing tough decisions as we come out of lockdown, with uncertainty around demand, and the need to save costs, which will inevitably mean reducing headcount. 

Firms having to make redundancies should:

  1. Develop a Redundancy Policy and Procedure that is consistent with Individual Contracts of Employment and Employee Handbook.
  2. Go through a Consultation Process.  
  3. Provide support and help for those to be made redundant.   

SME Owners and Managers often neglect to follow this process which can result in Employment Tribunal claims for Unfair Dismissal which are time-consuming and can be costly. For large scale redundancies [over 20 employees within a 90-day period] it is essential to follow a full consultation process which includes, amongst other things, developing an assessment criteria and assessment matrix to determine which employees will be at risk of redundancy. The assessment criteria must be objective and may include; attendance, disciplinary record, performance, skills & competencies et al.

Even with small scale redundancies [less than 20 employees] it is important to go through a consultation process to adhere to the law on individual consultation [Employment Rights Act 1996] and to mitigate damage to reputation. 

Firms having to make redundancies should also try to provide some level of Outplacement Support such as help with CV writing and Interview Skills as well as allowing employees reasonable time-off to attend interviews and by providing references to potential new employers. 

Book on to our free Redundancy and Outplacement Webinar – 14th May 2020 2pm please email or book on Eventbrite   



Contact us

Please contact us if you have any questions about people management & development and see how we can help you.