Prioritising people: your options as an employer
‘Bring your employees into the problem; make them part of the solution’
That was the message from Kate Palka of The Legal Director at the webinar, Prioritising people: your options as employer, hosted by The Industry Club on 14 July.
Throughout the webinar, the first of two Back in Business events for owners, MDs and CEOs of creative comms SMEs, Kate discussed alternatives to making redundancies as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme enters its ‘flexible’ (ie tapering) phase.
Between now and 31 October, the government will gradually wind down the furlough scheme. When it ends, many employers will, for the first time since March, have to pay their employees’ salaries in full again.
For some this won’t be possible, and they’ll inevitably contemplate redundancies. However, as Kate explained, there are alternatives that are well worth exploring before taking that step. And remember too, the government will pay businesses a one-off bonus of £1,000 for every furloughed employee they retain up to 31 January 2021.
Where a reduction in headcount is necessary, Kate set out a range of options and their legal implications. These included:
· withdrawing job offers
· deferring start dates for new joiners
· secondments for employees
· redeployment and retraining
· early retirement / shadow redundancies.
Another way to cut people costs is through temporary stoppages. Options here range from sabbaticals, unpaid leave and layoffs to overtime bans and reducing workers’ contracted hours.
Employees may also be open to the option to continuing to enjoy the work/life and financial benefits of working from home in return for a salary cut.
Meanwhile options such as reducing your business’s outlay on benefits, bonuses and enhanced pension contributions and optimising expenses policies could go a long way to avoid making job losses.
In all cases, Kate stressed the importance of bringing employees into the discussions around the financial health of the business. If you demonstrate how their flexibility will benefit the company, they will be more inclined to support your measures.
Many of these measures will call for changes to a worker’s employment contract, a subject Kate expanded on in the webinar.
If, having explored all these avenues, redundancies are unavoidable, Kate’s advice is to plan the whole process in advance.
Again, be open and frank with your employees and set out clearly why redundancies are absolutely necessary. Similarly, be open with people about which roles (not individuals) are affected and how you will select the people to be made redundant or, if appropriate, offered a voluntary redundancy package.
Kate concluded the webinar with an overview of the legalities of making redundancies during the flexible furlough scheme. Watch the webinar in full here.