New flexible furlough rules could act as a lifeline to businesses looking to regain their footing after the coronavirus crisis, according to HR2day in Darlington.

The firm, which manages HR issues for SMEs across the UK, has dealt with a number of queries on furlough since the initiative was introduced in March, with growing concern as the government announced the scheme would change in the coming months.

However, the flexible furlough scheme will allow employers to invite staff back to work for some of their hours and receive government support for the time they don’t work. This will ease the strain on businesses which require staff to be present, but perhaps don’t have the funds available for full time wages.

From July, if an employee is given a part time furlough, they will be paid by their employer for the hours they work, and receive furlough pay for up to 80 percent of their salary for the hours they are not employed.

The government has reassured businesses that there will not be a limit to the number of contracted hours their staff can be in work or furloughed, however from September, employers will be expected to contribute to payments and the scheme will be wrapped up at the end of October.

Nicky Jolley, managing director of HR2day, said: “Many SMEs have been concerned about the furlough scheme coming to an end and whether this means they’ll have to start thinking about finding funds or considering redundancies.

“Giving them the option to bring back staff part time, while the government continues to provide support, is an ideal stepping stone, which provides the opportunity for businesses to build themselves up without shouldering all of the costs immediately.

“The government has set out a clear timetable with milestones for employers to keep in mind when they’re planning for the next few months. Ending the scheme in October is sensible, as the schools will all be back, and businesses will have had a few months to build up reserves to get their teams back to work.

“We would, as always, advise employers to communicate openly with staff about the furlough situation, about how many hours they will be expected to work and what their pay will be. It’s incredibly important to maintain openness and honesty at all times, but now more so than ever.”