Furlough scheme latest: difficulties of non-eligibility for furlough
A recent BBC article suggests that whilst the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Furlough Scheme) is supporting a quarter of the workforce, or 9.3 million people, there are many groups of workers who have “fallen through the cracks”. Notably, those not officially on payroll and those continuing to work part-time for their employers were not eligible.
Whilst the recent introduction of “flexible furlough” will cater for the latter group in the coming months, it remains that they will already have lost out on months of earnings, as the Furlough Scheme does not have retrospective effect.
Meanwhile, those workers not on their employer’s payroll will still be ineligible for the Furlough Scheme until such time as they are officially employed by those organisations.
The Furlough Scheme has been seen as largely positive by the majority of organisations, but, as with any legislation that has been drafted in a hurry, it is not without its “holes” and the effects on those which it cannot help have been severe, with many saying that the lack of income and resultant uncertainty has put them in dire financial straits and caused them huge stress.
In some cases it would have been open to employers to flex their employees’ working arrangements so that they could benefit from the scheme e.g. postponing part-time work until such time as it was allowed under the Furlough Scheme, to allow employees to be furloughed full-time whilst this was still a requirement.
The Furlough Scheme has also created stress for those not furloughed, with many employees having to take on additional duties or managing with less supervision or support, with their colleagues absent. Many may also experience “survivors’ guilt”, particularly if their furloughed colleagues suffer a loss in income, deskilling or a blow to their mental health as a result of having been furloughed. Others will also worry about the longer-term implications for the business and whether their jobs are still secure, even if they are currently in work.
Again, it has been open to employers to mitigate some of this stress, with the ability to rotate staff on and off furlough, so that the burden is shared.
However, it is always difficult for businesses to be flexible in times of economic crisis, and this has undoubtedly prevented many an employer from doing so. Further, the extra administrative burden involved in being flexible is more than some companies can cope with at a time when they are already having to adapt significantly and making huge sacrifices – many companies have furloughed HR staff too, leaving them without the capacity to implement this flexibility. In addition, the unclear guidance from HMRC on what is and isn’t allowed under the Furlough Scheme, coupled with the threat of penalties for erroneous or fraudulent claims, has made many companies understandably reluctant to think creatively about how they might help their employees, preferring to be safe and abide by the rules to the letter.
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