Furlough scheme deadline extended

The cut-off date for companies to apply to the furlough scheme has been extended

The scheme, announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak last month, allows employers to claim a grant covering 80% of wages for a furloughed employee, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Its original deadline date was 28 February yet following a review of the delivery system, the Treasury has announced the deadline has been extended.

Employers can now claim for furloughed employees who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on our before 19 March 2020.

Speaking to HR magazine, Tom Blake, managing director at consultancy The People Performance Experts, suggested HR should take a ‘human approach’ when it comes to having difficult conversations with furloughed staff.

He said: “Leading organisations through a constantly evolving scheme, with a lack of detail to a workforce who have read the guidance at the same time, is nothing short of a career defining opportunity for the HR community.

The ones who have stepped up to the challenge by leading with a ‘values’ approach, to do the right thing, rather than a ‘the policy says this’ approach is what marks the difference between an HR practitioner and an HR leader.”

The scheme is expected to help more than 200,000 employees and is due to be fully operational next week.

Although it has been set up to help retain jobs, furlough will undoubtedly cause both uncertainty and feelings of exclusion, according to consultant Lena Durbec.

She said: “Brain-wise these are very harmful emotions because they create the emergency state of survival in our body and make us experience high levels of stress. Understanding and recognizing this by managers is the first step.

“Managers can reassure their employees by giving them the most of information available and giving a promise. For instance even if they cannot promise to sustain all the jobs, they can at least say ‘everybody will receive their salary this month’ or ‘our project is still alive and will continue after the end of the crisis’.”

Durbec also stressed the importance of keeping in touch with furloughed colleagues.

She added: “Even if everybody is stranded at home, it is necessary to remain in touch with employees, remind them of how great they are and how important their work is, organize an informal meeting online, communicate in the foreseeable post-Covid future.”

VAT due for the next quarter will also be deferred and self-assessment sums have been deferred until January 2021.

Further reading:

Government to pay workers’ wages under furlough Job Retention Scheme

Workers at risk because of ‘essential’ job confusion

Five companies going the extra mile during Coronavirus