Media headlines in the UK this week have been dominated by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) and the CIPD has been at the forefront of the debate.
The CIPD has called on the Government to make the scheme more flexible, to allow short-time working. In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese explained that a more flexible approach, whereby workers could work reduced hours and have their wages topped up by the Government, would benefit both employers and employees, as well as reducing strain on the public purse.
In the meantime, the CIPD has been focused on making sure that funding is as easy as possible for employers to access and that the mechanisms for doing so reflect the realities that HR teams are facing. Having already fed into the HMRC’s step-by-step guide for employers, issued last week in advance of the JRS portal going live on Monday, the CIPD is continuing to share feedback from employers to help iron out teething issues.
In response to concerns that some employers may take advantage of the scheme, Peter Cheese has urged employers to only furlough employees as a last resort, to avoid redundancies. In an interview on BBC News at Ten on Monday, he said:
‘It's almost impossible to put in all the checks and balances - there aren't enough resources. We have to trust businesses are doing the right thing, and they need to weigh up the financial, legal and ethical considerations first.’
And in an interview with Bloomberg, he added: ‘I think the public will call companies to account if they do not see them acting in a shared interest.’
Meanwhile, we’ve continued to champion the needs of the self-employed, including independent HR practitioners. After a survey by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and Self Employed), highlighted that almost half of self-employed workers fear they won’t have enough money to cover basic living costs during the coronavirus outbreak, we supported a number of recommendations that IPSE put to the Government to support the livelihoods of small business owners, sole traders and freelancers. Amongst these was a call to make company directors, who pay themselves through dividends, eligible for funding under the Job Retention Scheme.
We continue to engage closely with officials from HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on this topic, as well as a range of other issues on behalf of the people profession, and have encouraged our members to lobby their MPs for more support for independent practitioners.
The CIPD’s experts have also been raising awareness about a range of other workplace issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including health and well-being, recruitment challenges and domestic abuse.
Rachel Suff, Public Policy Adviser, spoke to the Financial Times about employers’ duty of care for the employees’ mental well-being – whether they’re working from home or on the front line, or have been furloughed or put on paid leave. And Senior Policy Adviser, Claire McCartney, has been offering advice to employers on how to support employees who may be at increased risk of domestic abuse during lockdown – advice which we’ve also shared with media to help raise more awareness.
Gerwyn Davies, Labour Market Adviser, spoke to the Guardian about the impact the crisis is having on graduate recruitment, and we’ve been speaking to sector-specific media, such as Drapers magazine, about how employers can successfully start to reintegrate staff after they've been furloughed.
We’re in regular contact with media and policy-makers on all these issues and more, taking every opportunity to speak up for the needs of both workers and employers.
Championing better work and working lives
About the CIPD
At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.