The UK Government has confirmed that in the event of redundancy, workers’ wages will be protected regardless of being on furlough.
In response to a minority of firms taking advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic to pay a lower rate of redundancy, any furloughed workers that lose their jobs will now be eligible for redundancy pay based on normal wages, rather than the furlough rate. The UK’s 95 million furloughed workers are currently only being paid 80% of their normal wage, raising the anomaly in redundancy pay level.
Workers with more than 2-years continuous service that are made redundant are usually entitled to a statutory redundancy payment that is based on their length of service, age and pay up to a maximum statutory level. Additionally, the new law will also apply to statutory notice pay, which is where employees must be given a notice period before their employment ends. Notice periods can vary from one week to up to 12 weeks’ notice, depending on length of service. Another change will ensure basic awards for unfair dismissal cases will be based on full pay, rather than furlough-level wages.
It is estimated that 150,000 people have so far been made redundant during the crisis, but there are estimates that this figure could climb much higher, especially when the Government’s furlough scheme ends in October. Indeed, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research think tank warned that the ending of the furlough scheme could lead to 1.2 million people being unemployed by Christmas.
In a recently announced step by the UK Government to encourage employers to retain staff, further details about the Job Retention Bonus Scheme have been publicised. The plan will see businesses receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for every previously furloughed employee that earn at least £520 a month on average, if they are still employed at the end of January 2021.
To claim the bonus, employers will need to have relevant up-to-date payroll RTI records for the period to the end of January, and for an employee to be eligible employees must have been paid at lease £520 a month on average between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021. Details guidance on the process of how to claim the bonus will be issued in September 2020.