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Part-time hours and furlough: How to handle work overload and childcare

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The flexible furlough rules are now in place which mean employees can come back to work on a part-time basis. But what if you’re concerned about work overload or childcare?

From this week, flexible furlough means those on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) can come back to work on a part-time basis, for any amount of time.

While some employees will be raring to get back to work and to some kind of ‘normality’, for others, the part-time work may cause problems or concerns particularly around childcare or what it means for a probationary period.

In our latest furlough Q&A, Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, gives the following advice:

Q) I’ll be going back to work part-time following a period of furlough. I’m worried I’ll come back to a backlog of work and won’t be able to manage. What can I do? Will my boss expect me to work harder seeing as I’ve had so much time on furlough?

A) Speak to your manager about their expectations of you. It may be that you are being offered part-time work because there is only limited work available, but if this is not the case and there is a backlog, your employer may set specific targets for you so that you can get through it all quickly.

These targets should still be reasonable. The most important thing to do is to understand from your manager what they expect you to do and if you think the targets are unreasonable, be able to explain to them why.

Q) I’ll likely be called back to work after being furloughed since March. But with part-time work, I won’t be able to afford childcare. Can I refuse to go back or request to go back full-time instead?

A) You should talk to your manager about your predicament and see if a mutually satisfactory resolution can be found. Some employers are being lenient with employees who have childcare issues and are willing to find a compromise, so it is best to open up this discussion.

Your employer may decide to keep you on furlough and ask another employee to come back to work instead. Refusing to go back to work without a valid reason could be tricky for you, but talking to your employer will help them understand what part-time work means for you.

Q) I was in my probation period before being furloughed. Will the part-time work count towards building up to my six-month review?

A) It is very likely this will be the case, yes, unless there was anything to the contrary in your contract of employment or otherwise agreed. However, likely, the period on furlough will not count.

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