Whilst the coronavirus is set to be around for some time, the financial assistance currently provided by the government, in the form of the Job Retention Scheme, will be reduced in the coming months.
With this in mind, there are lots of actions to explore before considering redundancies.
Changing terms and conditions
In order to keep costs down, organisations may consider making changes to staff contracts, such as reducing their hours or salaries. Contractual schemes such as enhanced sick or maternity pay could also be reviewed, as could introducing the option for job-sharing. These could either be temporary changes until the situation improves or permanent. In the absence of a specific term already in a contract permitting the change, organisations will need to seek their employee’s express agreement to it before going ahead.
Reorganising job roles
To meet business demand, organisations could require staff to undertake different roles on a temporary or permanent basis if their contract of employment allows for this. If not, organisations should again seek agreement with staff to change their roles, and further training should be provided if necessary. If staff can take on additional work, it may be that only some of them need to be made redundant.
Withdrawing job offers
Organisations could consider postponing the start date for new members of staff or withdrawing their offer entirely. However, if the individual has accepted their offer and been given a start date, withdrawing it now is likely to be in breach of contract. To avoid a potential claim, organisations may consider giving the new employee notice of termination and pay them for their notice period.
Implementing short-time working
Instead of seeking to vary contractual hours, organisations could pursue short-time working, where hours are reduced on a temporary basis. Again, in the absence of a contractual term, staff will need to agree to this beforehand.
Instead of using the Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff, an alternative option is to lay them off. Also known as ‘temporary redundancy’, this is where staff are not provided work by a company, and therefore not paid when their pay is dependent on them receiving work. Unless there is a specific clause in the employment contract allowing the company to lay staff off without pay, staff will also need to agree to this. Even with this clause, laid off staff who have been employed for at least a month may be entitled to statutory guarantee pay (SGP), which is currently £30 per day for a maximum of five days.