We are about to start our fourth month of calculating furlough pay for employers who have been furloughing staff on and off since early March. From 1st July we will have an even more challenging set of calculations if employers have employees working some of their normal hours and furloughing them the rest.
We will be able to do the calculations but how well will flexible furlough work for small businesses?
There will have been employees who have been furloughed throughout because they can't do their work from home. There will be those that are shielding and can't do their work from home. There will be those who have to be at home because they have children who can't go back to school. There will be those who are in training and need to work alongside others. There will, of course, be a few who have enjoyed their time at home and don't really want to go back to their job or have perhaps decided on a different path.
Employers will have used the last 3 months to re-evaluate their businesses and their staff and decide how the business can move forward and what staff they need to support them with this. Those decisions will have to be made based on which staff are needed and whether they can return to work. It may be that some staff cannot continue in their role because they can't do it from home and they can't be available in the workplace to do it.
It will be hard for employers to get their staff back to working as before but it may be that they won't need as many staff as before or will need them for less hours.
Flexible furlough creates an opportunity for small businesses to have staff working less hours while the business builds up again but if the staff they need can't return to work their position with the business could be taken by someone else who can return to work. This is a time when business owners have to do what is best for their business to get it back on track.
Flexible furlough may put off the inevitable. There will be positions that will no longer be available but do employers cut the tie now or do they wait until furlough stops? If the furlough period takes the employee over a period of 2 years from the start of their employment redundancy pay will be due so an early decision may have to be made. Some employees may have to continue with reduced hours permanently so should the employer let them know during furlough or when it comes to an end?
Flexible furlough will help small businesses to get and keep their businesses running but whether they will need the full complement of staff and hours they had previously by the end of October and whether employees are able to return to work when they are needed remains to be seen. There will be some difficult decisions to be made in the months ahead.