HR2day, specialist HR support for SMEs based in the North East, is calling on the government to release clear guidelines about furlough, as confusion increases amongst the business community and its employees.
The concept of furloughing employees has become more prevalent as the COVID 19 crisis has escalated and HR professionals have been inundated with questions about what the impact of furlough will be on businesses, employees, and how to ensure it is enacted in line with employment law.
Nicky Jolley, founder and managing director of HR2day, has written to the business secretary, Alok Sharma MP, to urge the government to release comprehensive guidance to put business leaders’ minds at ease.
Nicky said: “These are difficult waters for everyone to navigate and business leaders really need some clear guidance about the rules around furlough – what employees can and can’t do, and how to avoid inadvertently getting things wrong. The last thing anyone wants is for us to survive the coronavirus crisis then face tribunal action.
“Furlough is a tool employers can use to give themselves some breathing space before making difficult decisions about lay offs or redundancies, but it can still be quite a scary prospect for employees if they feel that their jobs may be at risk. Communication is key throughout the whole process, so employers can explain their rationale.
“We’ve had a number of concerned businesses get in touch asking for help with how to approach furloughing staff, whether there’s a set length of time staff need to be out of the business to be eligible for grants, whether any staff are out of bounds for offering furlough too, or if staff can take on second jobs to earn extra money while furloughed. It can be particularly difficult for smaller or newer businesses to understand, so we’ve been giving a lot of help to people who didn’t think they needed HR until now.
“Some clear guidance from the government, such as explaining if people living with extremely vulnerable request furlough to reduce their risk of exposure would go a long way to helping both parties understand expectation during the furlough period.
“I would also like to see some clarity on whether the 90 percent statutory maternity pay received in the first six weeks of maternity leave will be affected by a period of furlough or sickness, or if furlough will cover 80 percent of average earnings or just of basic salary. These are genuine concerns worrying people day to day, and they deserve answers.
“Many furloughs have already begun or will start in the coming weeks, so it is the ideal time for the government to ensure that the relevant information is easily available and clearly signposted, to avoid unnecessary confusion.”