When was flexible furlough introduced?
From 1st July the furlough scheme changed to become more flexible since it commenced in March. From 1st July employees can work part-time and be furloughed for the remaining hours of their working week. Hours of work need to be agreed upon between the employer and employee.
What is flexible furlough and how does it work?
The flexible furlough scheme allows companies the opportunity to introduce part-time working, which allows them to keep employees on the payroll, working reduced hours depending on the business requirements.
This could mean that companies could start to bring back employees who have been on furlough full-time in the last 3 months on a part-time basis.
For some employees, this could be the first time they have worked on a part-time or flexible basis. Employers and HR professionals will need to support employees to help them adjust to new working patterns and workloads. Employers will also need to ensure they are continuing, under the guiding principle of caring for employees, to safeguard their health and wellbeing.
Who can be furloughed
Only employees who have been furloughed for at least 3 weeks before the 30th June can be furloughed after 1st July. The exception to this rule is parents that have returned to work following maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or parental bereavement leave.
The last date an employee could be furloughed for the first time was 10th June, any employees furloughed for the first time on 10th June can be placed on flexible furlough from 1st July.
Any employee who has been re-furloughed since 10th June, will need to wait a full three weeks before they can be placed on flexible furlough.
Limits on numbers
The number of employees that can be furloughed after 1st July in any period cannot exceed the maximum number of employees that were claimed for under the original furlough scheme, any returning parents are excluded from this figure.
New working patterns
Employees and employers must formally agree with the new working patterns and how much time will be worked by the employee and how much time they will be furloughed for.
Things to consider:
- How many days or hours does the employee need to work currently?
- If working part-time should this be a reduction in the number of days worked or just a reduction of hours per day worked?
- Other commitments or personal circumstances that may affect the number of hours the employee can work, e.g.an employee still has childcare issues due to the schools being closed or they are caring for someone who is clinically vulnerable.
If an agreement on working hours cannot be agreed, the employee may need to remain on full-time furlough.
As a last resort, if furlough is not an option, you might be able to change an employee’s terms and conditions. However, if this is to be done, legal advice should be taken.
Managing employees on flexible furlough
Flexible furlough or part-time working could consist of:
- Employees working fewer days
- Employees working fewer hours each day
- Job sharing
Any employee who is working part-time should not be treated any differently than an employee working full-time.
Before part-time working begins managers need to:
- Agree on expectations with the employee;
- Review employee workloads in-line with their new working hours;
- Communicate the expectations and carry out regular reviews with the employee.
Employers may need to look at how they record employees working hours, if there is already a system in place, such as time and attendance software, these can continue to be used, if no system is in place employers may wish for employees to record their working hours on timesheets or similar and submit to their managers.
Managers must ensure that their employees are not working more than their contractual weekly hours and that employees stick to their agreed working hours and do not work during any hours that are recorded as furlough, as this could be deemed an abuse of the furlough scheme.
Many part-time employees say that their work activity can go into their non-working time and they can find themselves working more hours than they are contracted to do so.
Communication with employees
Effective communication with employees is essential, it is up to managers to ensure their employees are included in all department communications, when you have several part-time employees it can become tricky having them included in team discussions.
Things to consider include:
- Rescheduling team meetings on a day where all employees are at work;
- If an employee cannot attend a team meeting, ensure that they are provided an update of what was discussed at the meeting;
- Having a temporary communication method such as WhatsApp or a team group email as an informal communication channel;
- Hold regular one to ones between manager and employee.
The coronavirus pandemic may have reduced the overall wellbeing of employees, with mental health issues being a main focus of concern, resulting from being in isolation for so long, coping with childcare issues, lack of contact and support from family and friends and just a change to ‘normal’ life.
Employee wellbeing should be high on organisations agendas. Being furloughed can have a negative impact on an employees’ health. Some employees may be returning to work on a full-time or part-time basis from months of furlough, and may feel anxious about the return to work, or they may feel a lack of purpose or structure.
Many companies have wellbeing support in place, whether it be an employee assistance programme, or occupational health. These systems of support need to be frequently communicated to employees and employees encouraged to use them if they need to.
Managers can also help to support employee wellbeing by monitoring workloads, adjusting targets and objectives, and having regular one to ones to see how employees are getting on.
The flexible scheme is due to end in October where it is expected that employees will return to work on a full-time basis. However, some employees may want to continue to work part-time on a short-term basis or even long term because they have decided they would prefer part-time.
Any such requests to continue to work part-time would need to be done under their right to request flexible working and must be done in writing.
If you would like further guidance or support on managing employees and the flexible furlough scheme ,please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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