Unless there’s a last minute change of policy, we are now into the last few weeks of the furlough scheme. It was first introduced in March 2020 and at the time we all thought it was a temporary measure to see us through a few months of pandemic turbulence. Oh how times have changed – by the time it ends, it will have been around for nearly 18 months.
I spent a lot of my time in the first part of last year answering questions about furlough and grappling with the details of the scheme which seemed to twist and turn every time I turned my telly on to tune into the 5pm government briefings! Looking back now I can see what a life saver the scheme was for several of my clients and their employees. However, as with all new initiatives there have been some unintended consequences.
Furlough fraud has long been a concern. HMRC has stated that over £1 billion of fraudulent or mistakenly claimed furlough funds are set to be recovered over the next two years which include activity such as organisations telling furloughed staff to continue to work or claiming for working members of staff without their knowledge. We have also started to see the first Employment Tribunal judgements coming through in relation to furlough and redundancy so it will be important to keep an eye on these to understand how interpretation and application of the scheme is tested by the courts.
From 1 August 2021, the Government paid 60% of wages up to a maximum cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. For those employers that still have staff on furlough, here are the key dates for making claims for payments:
• Claims for furlough days in August 2021 have to be made by 14 September 2021
• Claims for furlough days in September 2021 must be made by 14 October 2021 and any amendments must be made by 28 October 2021
The end of furlough will be a big change for many employers. It’s not just deciding whether your business has enough work and can afford to pay those coming off furlough, it’s also about planning a smooth return to the workplace and helping employees to reintegrate fully. If you are looking for support with the end of furlough and/or potential redundancies resulting from the end of the scheme, do get in touch and I’d be happy to advise.
By Ruth George – HR Consultant
This is not legal advice and is provided for general information only. © Ruth George HR Consulting.