Under two weeks left to register employees for furlough

Employers must move quickly to place employees on the government’s furlough scheme before it closes to new entrants

Employers have just eight working days to place employees on furlough that have so far not been on the government’s job retention scheme, leading to fears there could be a spike in claims.

On Friday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to ‘ease back’ the furlough scheme. From July onwards, furlough will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme or previously furloughed employees.

Employers will also have to share more of the cost, paying employers’ national insurance and pension contributions from 1 August.

However, the last three-week furlough period for new entrants will have to commence 10 June, as the scheme closes to new entrants on 30 June, which could mean a spike in the number of employers registering for it.

“What will make a difference is that employers now know they can bring people back part-time, so there’s some flexibility on how they use it,” said Alison Loveday, partner at law firm Kennedys.

Even if employers do not keep those employees on furlough beyond the end of June, it could be worthwhile registering them for the scheme as it provides organisations with some flexibility in the summer months, she added.

“Employers know they can use the part-time option to get employees who may have been away for a while re-acquainted with work,” she said.

From July to October, employers that are registered for the scheme can bring furloughed employees back part-time.

Through June and July, the government will continue to cover 80% of furloughed employees’ wages up to a cap of £2,500 – from August, the government payments will be the same as before, but employers must cover national insurance and pension contributions.

From September, the government’s contribution to wages will fall to 70%, with a cap of £2,187.50, while employers must continue to pay NICs and pension contributions, as well as 10% of wages up to the £2,500 cap.

In October this falls to 60% of wages, with the employer increasing its payment to 20%, alongside NICs and pension payments.

When the changes to the scheme were announced last week, director-general of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn said that employers understood that the “the scheme must close to new entrants at some point and that those using it in future will need to make a contribution to help manage the costs”.

“However, previously viable firms not able to open until later, particularly in leisure, hospitality and the creative industries, may need further assistance in the coming months,” she added.

Employers for which the furlough scheme has not been able to prevent redundancies will also have one eye on the time periods required for collective consultation.

The Institute of Directors revealed last week that almost a quarter of company directors it surveyed would not be able to afford the 20% payments they will need to make from October, so will face “difficult decisions” about redundancies.

Those looking to make more than 100 people redundant will need to consult for at least 90 days. If furlough support finishes at the end of October and organisations are looking to lay staff off after that, consultations will need to begin by early August at the latest.

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