The Job Retention Scheme has provided 2.3 billion days of furlough, covering the wages of 11.6 million people at a cost to the Government of almost £70bn.
However, just because the scheme is coming to an end, the issues surrounding it are far from over. Employers have had to adapt to so many changes over the last 19 months and the change in business dynamics means many may now not have enough work for all their furloughed employees.
The end of furlough is predicted to hit older workers the hardest, especially women. Sectors with predominantly female staff, for example hospitality and travel, have relied on furlough to survive, with many employees remaining on the scheme right until the end. While most of these employees should return to their jobs, its estimated that hundreds of thousands will need to find new employment in October.
Kate Palmer is HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula. She says: “Here at Peninsula we’ve seen a 500% increase this month in the number of clients accessing information about furlough compared to recent months. 65% of these enquiries were specific to the rules surrounding the end of the JRS and redundancy.
“Although the furlough scheme is ending, changes to SSP and annual leave still apply. Additionally, employers are still required to ensure a safe working environment to reassure staff that they aren’t being put at risk of COVID in the workplace. Shielding has officially ended but many people are still clinically vulnerable, so employers need to remember their duty of care to these employees.
“People retuning from furlough may be able to apply for flexible working. It’s up to each employer to decide whether or not they will adopt a hybrid working pattern, implement permanent work from home arrangements or follow the Government’s advice to relax them and encourage employees back to the workplace.”