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Resource roundup: Get help with important furlough scheme-related decisions

As the current furlough scheme ends, business owners need to effectively manage how and when employees return to work.

Our resource roundup includes links to useful advice and information to help your business get moving in the right direction, from creating a safe working environment to managing employee mental health.

Need information on how to bring staff back from furlough?

Furloughed staff should be available to return to work at any time. However, you should give reasonable notice where you can. 

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has an overview of your responsibilities as an employer, as well as a more in-depth guide on bringing employees back from furlough

Some people will feel anxious about returning to work, particularly if they’re deemed high risk or live with elderly family members. Remember that employers have a legal duty to protect workers from harm. You may need to take extra precautions to reduce the risks for people in vulnerable groups.

This article from Citizens Advice outlines some common concerns your employees may have. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has more advice about protecting vulnerable workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Require support managing remote workers for the first time?

Some staff returning from furlough may be working from home for the first time. As an employer, you need to provide support while people adjust. This could include supplying the correct equipment, offering training in new technology or regularly checking that lone workers are healthy and safe.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has a template questionnaire you can use to gauge the preparation needed for remote working. This guide from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) provides a good overview of remote working practices.

If your staff members will be working from a screen, it’s important to understand some of the risks associated with using display screen equipment. The HSE has a useful checklist that your employees can use to review their work station.

Acas is also running online events via Zoom on how to manage remote workers, so you can improve your own management skills in the area. There is currently availability in November and December.

Need advice on making your workplace coronavirus secure?

The current recommendation is that people should work from home if they can. 

If that’s not possible, the government has prepared detailed guidance on how to make your workplace secure. These guides factor in different types of workplaces, like construction and outdoor work, restaurants and working in or from vehicles.

There may be local restrictions in place that affect how you work. You can find a list of areas with local restrictions here, as well as more detailed information on your local council website.

Looking for recommendations on supporting staff mental health?

It’s more important than ever to support mental health in the workplace. According to mental health charity Mind, 60 per cent of adults and 68 per cent of young people said their mental health got worse during the pandemic.

Local lockdowns, ongoing restrictions and isolation can lead to stress and a lack of motivation or purpose. Many people will be worried about money and job security. 

The good news is that there’s a wealth of resources available to help you support your employees through the next stage of the crisis. 

NHS-backed Every Mind Matters provides guidance on helping others with mental health problems and overcoming coronavirus anxiety

The Acas guide on coronavirus and mental health at work includes advice on supporting staff mental health and spotting possible signs of a mental health problem. You can also download Mind’s Wellness Action Plans for line managers, employees and home working.

You can read about how other business leaders like you are supporting employee mental health in this Rebuild article.

Want to learn more about your options for avoiding redundancies?

The Job Support Scheme replaces the furlough scheme at the end of October.

You may also be eligible for the government’s Job Retention Bonus, a one-off taxable payment of £1,000 for each eligible employee that you furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021.

There are suggestions for ways to avoid redundancies on the gov.uk site, like asking staff to work flexibly, filling vacancies elsewhere in the business with existing employees and short-time working or temporary lay-offs

Bear in mind that you can only invoke short-time working or lay-offs if there are specific clauses that allow it in your employee’s contract. If not, you’ll need to get the employee to agree to vary the contract’s terms.

Need advice on the correct procedure for redundancies?

If redundancies are unavoidable, make sure you’re following the correct procedures before you begin the process. Talk to a HR representative to get relevant advice for your business and situation.

The CIPD has published a guide to redundancy procedures during coronavirus. The rules around redundancies haven’t changed, but business owners should be aware of additional logistical issues created by the crisis. For example, selecting staff for redundancy based purely on the fact they are furloughed could lead to an unfair dismissal claim. 

For more general information about redundancies, the CIPD has an extensive knowledge hub. You can also find a useful step-by-step approach to managing redundancies on the Acas website. 

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