Furlough fallout - Time to take responsibility?

Furlough fallout - Time to take responsibility?

The ending of the furlough scheme in a few weeks’ time is going to bring a period of major change for many people.

For some it’s likely to bring about redundancy and the search for new work in a hugely difficult market.

For others, the thought of returning to work will be laced with the anxiety of mixing with people again after a long period of relative isolation.

But for another group, the ending of furlough will also mark the end of an extended period where they have become used to literally being paid to do nothing. And there is no doubt that there is now a small group who will resist the return to work because they have simply become accustomed to – and feel entitled to – the ‘perks’ of furlough.

In the last few weeks, we have handled cases where one employee declined her employer’s offer to return to work from furlough because they were having their home redecorated.

Another case involved an employee who had returned to her family home in Eastern Europe and said it was simply too difficult to get back to resume work.

It’s understandable that after so long away from the workplace, some will have grown used to a new way of living and will be reluctant to return. But there are some very real legal reasons why telling your boss you are not ready to come back could harm you.

Simply not turning up when requested is likely to start disciplinary procedures – and ultimately could lead to your dismissal without any form of redundancy payment. Whilst you have the right to request to work from home, you have no legal right to refuse to return to work when it is appropriate to do so.

Many standard employment contracts include a clause which states that an employee should follow reasonable instructions – such as when and where they should work.

Failing to comply with a request to return to work – particularly if the employer can show the workplace is Covid secure and has followed all the necessary procedures – is likely to place you in breach of this contract.

Of course, if your employer has not taken the steps needed to make it safe to return to work and you have reasonable concerns about your health and safety, then you should raise this with them immediately. Your health and safety at work remains their legal responsibility regardless of the pandemic.

Here, it is sensible to suggest alternative working arrangements, such as returning to work from home or even changing the nature of your job to overcome the difficulties.

But whatever the case, some of the responsibility for managing your return to work has to fall on you. This is a two-way process and it is just as important for you to play your part as it is for the employer to play theirs.

It’s a complicated business - and staying on top of everything in the middle of a global crisis is far from easy. But we are here to help. If you need support on any of these issues just click the button for a free consultation and expert advice from people who care.

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