Food manufacturers should ‘gain consent’ from furloughed staff

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The Government scheme has been set up to help save businesses and jobs
The Government scheme has been set up to help save businesses and jobs

Related tags: coronavirus

Food manufacturers should gain consent from employees it intends to furlough on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or it could face a “boat load of claims”, a leading employment lawyer has claimed.

Andrew Rayment, partner at law firm Walker Morris, has said that companies need to gain consent to reduce workers salaries and place them on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

Speaking during a webinar he said one of the key points of the scheme was to avoid redundancies and give businesses more “breathing space”.

“At its heart you need to get people’s consent to reduce their pay. We have essentially a perpendicular relationship going on here. You have got to keep the Government happy or HMRC, should I say, so that you can get hold of the furlough money,”​ said Rayment.   

“You need to your workforce happy. Partly, it is the right thing to do and, partly, because you want them to come back content and engaged. But probably more importantly, if you don’t get their consent to do things when the tribunals open up, you will get a boat load of claims.” 


Be clear

He said that employers needed to be clear and tell people that they were being placed onto furlough. He also advised them to make sure that they had clear paperwork on who was furloughed, why and when.

He said that staff should be informed in a letter detailing the furlough and employers should ask for a signed or emailed response, which accepted the terms. 

He said that employers would need an evidence trail that people were clearly told not to expect to do any work and they should not do work. 

Rayment added that employers would face a challenge if the employees failed to agree to furlough terms, but said that people needed to see the “bleakness” ​of not accepting. 

Employment laws

Meanwhile, Charlotte Smith, associate at Walker Morris, said that the Government had been clear that despite the situation employment laws still stood. 

But she said the Government had confirmed that employees could take a second job while they are placed on furlough leave without their original employer losing their entitlement to reclaim money.

She said this was a good move, as many food manufacturing clients had staff shortages due to the increased demand for food items.

Employers should consider temporary waivers on employment contracts that said workers should not work for another employer, she added.  

While Smith admitted the Government guidance still needed some clarity in certain areas, Walker Morris believed holidays should still accrue for staff on furlough leave. 

She also advised employers to be careful that they used “objective criteria” ​when deciding on which workers to furlough as they were still obliged to meet the requirements of equality and discrimination law. 

Related topics: COVID-19

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