If you are needing to take advantage of the Government’s new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and place staff on ‘furlough’ due to a lack of work at this time, then unless you have a lay-off clause in your employment contracts (which most small businesses do not), you’ll need their consent.
In most cases this shouldn’t be too difficult to obtain – for many people at the moment the prospect of staying at home and not having to come into work while being paid 80% of their salary is probably quite attractive, particularly those who perhaps now have children at home because the schools are closed.
But you may have some who are refusing to agree, so in that case what do you do?
If you have a number of people doing the same job and you are only putting some of them on furlough, you could see if someone else is prepared to do it and keep those who have refused in the workplace.
Make clear the alternatives
As with anything you need staff to agree to, you need to ‘paint a picture’ of the alternative to agreement being worse than if they agree! If you are placing them on furlough that means the work is not there, therefore presumably the alternative is losing their job altogether and being made redundant. When they understand this, most people will be more comfortable opting for furlough, keeping their job and having an employer there to come back to when this is over.
If there is no work available for the person and they are refusing furlough, the only real alternative available to you is making their position redundant. You can therefore go ahead with this in these circumstances. It may be that the person is refusing because they would prefer redundancy. Perhaps they have long service and would be in line for a reasonably good redundancy payment, or have been considering leaving anyway and would like the opportunity to do so with a pay-off.
That’s all fine, however it is of course entirely likely that for the same reason you are furloughing people in the first place, you cannot afford to make redundancy payments and/or payments of long statutory notice periods for those who have been with you some time.
As with any redundancy situation in the event of the employer being financially unable to pay, the employee may end up having to go through the process of making a claim from the Government, which will be a long process. If they realise you simply cannot pay them at the moment, therefore they are not going to get a pay-off right now, you may find the option of going on furlough and continuing to receive 80% of their salary become more attractive.
If you’d like some guidance on your options regarding furlough leave, do get in touch.