Yet another legal firm is reducing pay and hours, as lawyers all over the country continue to see a downturn in work. The housing market is still very slow, many clients have temporarily mothballed their businesses and litigation has taken a nosedive. The only lawyers likely to benefit from three months of lockdown will be those specialising in divorce.
Some firms were reluctant to furlough their staff at first. There was still a reasonable pipeline of work and furloughed staff aren’t allowed to make any money for, or provide services to, their employer while furloughed. But as this pandemic drags on and work shows no sign of returning to previous levels, is it too late to furlough staff?
The answer is it’s not too late, but you must act very quickly.
The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this date, employers will only be able to furlough employees who they have already furloughed for a full 3-week period prior to 30 June.
This means that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be this Wednesday, 10 June, in order for the current 3-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June.
Even if you think work will pick up in the next month or so, it may still be worth taking advantage of the furlough scheme as there will be added flexibility in July. From 1 July 2020, businesses will be able to bring furloughed employees back part time. Firms can decide the hours their employees will work on their return, so they can decide what works best for them. They will be responsible for paying their wages while in work (including tax and NICs) but will still be able to claim from the Job Retention Scheme for their normal hours not worked.
Firms will need to agree the new flexible furloughing arrangement with their staff and confirm that agreement in writing.
Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims will be published on 12 June.
National firm Thompsons Solicitors has become the latest to confirm reductions in hours and pay in response to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.