After 18 months and numerous extensions, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) finally ended on the 30th of September 2021.

It is estimated that around a million workers remained on furlough or flexi furlough in September, although with a record number of job vacancies and skills shortages in some sectors, there is a troubling picture in the recruitment market.

Some employers are so desperate that they are having to consider retention bonuses and “golden handcuffs” to assist with retention strategies.

The end of the CJRS will however have an impact on many employers.

When a furlough agreement ends, the employer and employee go back to their earlier contractual arrangements, unless a change is agreed.

Those who remain concerned about the cost implications of the end of furlough may need to consider some creative solutions to ease the financial pressure.

To avoid redundancy there may be options of alternative roles, reduced hours and short-time working.

Consultation with staff on how to navigate the first few months post furlough may help develop alternative working strategies to help support in the short term.

As always, consultation and reaching an agreement is key along with clarity on whether proposed changes are short or long term.

If redundancy is necessary, voluntary packages can be considered to ease the financial strain on staff and alleviate difficult processes.

With furlough now at an end, it may be that some offices will be returning to pre-Covid staffing levels.

Many employers have been successful in maintaining a Covid-secure workplace for staff but with increased volumes, this may become more of a challenge.

Employers may need to consider additional health and safety measures and assess whether hybrid working will be feasible.

Some employers are requiring mandatory lateral flow Covid testing or even requiring staff to provide their Covid pass.

This passport scheme might seem like a good idea but the government is only advising the use of the NHS Covid Pass in certain settings, i.e. nightclubs, festivals and spectator sports.

Whilst employers have not been specifically ruled out from using the NHS Covid Pass, they aren’t specifically permitted either so employers can’t force an employee to obtain a pass.

And then there are the data protection and potential discrimination reasons for not doing so.

And let’s not forget how staff may feel who have been on furlough for a long time.

Employers should fully consider employee wellbeing and how to ease the transition back into work with phasing and support such as training and buddying.

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