Businesses anticipating change as we try to get back to "normal"
There is an expectation that the UK Government will publish a lockdown exit plane. Although there is no expectation that there will be a sudden return to normal, moves towards that are expected.
Relaxing of restrictions is likely to coincide with end of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Some businesses will focus on managing their workplace issues, such as social distancing, testing and contact tracing. They will also continue to adjust to new ways of working with more employees working from home more of the time, less staff interaction and less client contact. Other businesses will be assessing the effect of permanent damage to their business sector and to permanent new ways of working. Many businesses will be considering all of those factors.
The CJRS was created to help businesses avoid making redundancies. It is inevitable that, as it comes to an end, businesses in sectors that have sustained lasting damage will be forced to consider significant changes including redundancies. The current anticipated end date for the CJRS is the end of June. It is possible that it will be extended again or tapered rather than suddenly ending, but it is clear that it will not continue indefinitely. Businesses cannot wait until the furlough end date to make changes. Significant changes and fair redundancy process require consultation. Businesses need to consider, plan and act now.
There are alternatives to redundancy businesses can consider but many, such as salary reduction, working hours reduction and other variations to terms and conditions of employment, all require employee agreement. That will require consultation. Where employee agreement is not given, the business may have no alternative but to look at redundancies. All the more reason for businesses to consider, plan and consult.
Businesses proposing to make 20 or more redundancies in one establishment within 90 days are required to carry out a collective consultation process before redundancy notices are given. It must start at least 30 days before the first redundancy notice – 45 days if 100 or more redundancies are planned. Consultation should start as soon as redundancies are proposed. Those businesses will need to have employee representatives in place before consultation starts. Those representatives could be a recognised trade union or a standing body of elected representatives, but where there are no such representatives in place businesses have to help and allow employees to elect representatives. As this will almost certainly be done remotely, it will be time-consuming.
Businesses planning less than 20 redundancies from one establishment are still obliged to consult and should aim to allow 30 days. They will still need to consult remotely, which will be time- consuming.