Major changes are being made to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1st July, including the ability for employees to return to work on a part-time basis and a tapering off of the support available to employers leading up to the scheme ending on 31st October.

The changes avoid a cliff edge scenario, which employers and employees alike were dreading. Employees will be able to work for their employer part-time from 1 July while furloughed, with employers paying them for the hours worked and claiming for the scheme for the time they do not work.

From 1st August, employers will be required to pay employer National Insurance and minimum auto enrolment pension contributions. From 1st September they will also have to pay 10% of furloughed employees’ pay which will increase to 20% from 1st October. This increasing contribution towards the costs of furlough leave has led to genuine concern for employers and this may be enough to tip some businesses over the edge and generate redundancies anyway.

Where an employee is unable or unwilling to return to the workplace, an employer will need to tread very carefully and explore alternative options. Employees have a right not to be dismissed or subjected to a detriment for bringing to an employer’s attention circumstances they reasonably believe are potentially harmful to health and safety. This could potentially lead to claims under the discrimination and/or whistleblowing legislation.

Employers need to prepare for the changes now and there are a number of areas they should consider.

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