The extension of the government furlough scheme to March 2021 is a warning to employers that the second lockdown may not be a quick fix, according to HR expert Nicky Jolley.
Nicky, the founder and managing director of Darlington-based HR2day, is urging employers to make sure they’re up to date with the latest furlough guidance and to use it if necessary, to avoid running into crisis if the lockdown lasts beyond 2 December.
The extended furlough scheme is available to all businesses across the UK, whether open or closed, and will cover 80 per cent of an employee’s salary for the hours they cannot work, up to £2500 per month, providing they were on the payroll as of 30 October.
The latest changes mean that employers who have never been furloughed before can now take advantage of the scheme, and employers who made staff redundant after 23 September can rehire them and put them on furlough.
As with the previous furlough scheme, employers can undertake training while on furlough and can volunteer or work for different organisations if their contract allows but cannot work for the organisation they are furloughed from during a time they are furloughed.
The job retention bonus of £1000 for any previously furloughed staff still employed at the end of January has been put on hold.
Nicky Jolley said: “Since the announcement was made, I’ve had many business leaders get in touch with me, very confused about what the extension to the furlough scheme means to them.
“There have been a number of changes to the furlough scheme since its launch, and now some employers aren’t sure how to correctly use it. This latest change is almost like a reset button – people who had never been furloughed before can go on the scheme, and even businesses that chose not to furlough back in March can essentially change their mind. We are excepting further clarity on 10 Nov.
“It’s very telling that the government has extended its generous furlough scheme to March, rather than the beginning of December, when the lockdown is proposed to end, but this is positive news for businesses. It will allow them to save jobs long term, rather than feeling they need to make rash decisions.
“Businesses, particularly SMEs, are doing their best to survive during this difficult year. It’s fantastic that the government has stepped in, but now it’s up to employers to get their heads round it and get the help they need to make it through the winter and beyond.”