The sudden and dramatic impact of Covid-19 for many employers has been partially mitigated by use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The scheme is giving employers critical breathing space to review resource requirements, an almost impossible task for some employers at the current time, whilst being able to reassure employees that they will continue to receive income for their period of furlough.
The extension of the CJRS until the end of October, on a modified basis from 1 August, will help the transition back to work for millions of workers but the reality remains that some difficult decisions are still likely to be at the forefront of many employers’ minds following assessment of future business need. Employers will be concerned about the yet to be announced extent of their contribution to wages from 1 August and these extra costs will require tough employment choices to be made. Whatever the decisions are, these will need to be communicated to staff over the coming weeks and months and where necessary consultations with staff prior to implementation will need to take place.
The announcement of the changes to the government supported furlough scheme may accelerate the introduction of bespoke employer funded furlough arrangements to mitigate job losses. These will require careful thought as to how they will operate and what contractual arrangements need to be put in place.
Every employer will have its own unique challenges but in situations where demand for products and services are reduced and the delivery of those products and services are changed there will be a need to consider headcount reductions and/or changes in terms and conditions, including remuneration. To achieve these changes fairly within a framework of economic uncertainty, significant changes to ways in which people will be required to work and compliance with employment legislation will be one of HR’s biggest challenges.
The uncertainty of continuing impacts of the pandemic on resource needs will require a flexible approach to workforce planning. The extension of the CJRS may cause employers to change decisions on collective consultation timings and possibly provide a reprieve for notice being served on employees. Being clear about why changes are needed e.g. downturn due to the reduced work or changes required due to new operating models, will maximise the effectiveness of decision making.
Many employers have approached their resource planning with a view to business re-generation for a post Covid-19 world but it is likely that living with Covid-19 in its various states will be the norm. Whilst continued furlough, redundancies and pay reductions are the negative aspects of managing resource, re-positioning the change dial to look more positively at opportunities brought about by reviewing organisational structures and the way people work may be the sanity check that HR needs to get through the next few months.