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May 12, 2020

Legal Issues – Coronavirus update (12 May)

Following the announcement by the Chancellor in Parliament today, the headline story is that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now going to run until 31 October 2020.  We have already had 3 extensions and more are possible but what is clear is that what started as a 3 month scheme is now going to run for at least 8 months.  While many are no doubt concerned about the cost to the country from funding the scheme for even longer, it is clearly important that the Government does as much as it can to support businesses through a uniquely challenging economic downturn and help with recovery when lockdown finally ends.

During his announcement, the Chancellor did make reference to the cost of the scheme being shared between employers and the Government and a part time furlough leave option has been proposed allowing employees to return part of the working week and be on furlough leave for the rest.  While that is not going to start until August (the existing scheme will continue until the end of July), a middle ground option makes a huge amount of sense in terms of easing the return to normality for those on furlough leave already and to help those working full time to get some help with the existing workloads which they have been carrying.  Full details have not been provided and a proper analysis of the revised scheme will follow when that is released.

In the meantime, it is important for employers to try and stay positive and look forward to the start of the reversal of lockdown and consider the options that might be available to them between August and October when this becomes operational.  Although rotas have been possible since the scheme started, experience suggests those have not been popular and it is to be hoped that the new scheme will make that much more realistic and ensure a fair sharing of the burden we face collectively.

If you have any questions on any of the issues mentioned in the above article, please contact Russell Eadie.

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