Restaurateurs who have reduced their staff’s working hours or temporarily laid off employees because of the recent floods (or other unheralded situations) should be aware of the legal implications, according to commercial law firm Wedlake Bell. The company warns that employees can claim full redundancy pay after not being able to work for just four weeks. Staff who are either laid off short term or whose pay is reduced to less than half for either four consecutive weeks or any six weeks out of 13 would be eligible for redundancy pay.
Julian Yew, Head of the Hotel and Leisure Group at Wedlake Bell said, “Employers whose businesses were interrupted by the floods back in late June and who have laid staff off or put them on short-time working to save money while they could not work, urgently need to re-consider whether they can continue with this strategy.” He added, “While they may save money in the short term, it could cost them dearly in the long run if they lose valuable members of their team and have to make substantial redundancy repayments.
“Employers should seriously think about whether there is any way that staff can be put to effective use, such as sending them to another branch or helping get the business back up and running.” Yew advised restaurateurs not to assume that a flexible approach could be taken when problems arose just because their staff worked on rotas. He urged them to ensure that their employment contract anticipated problems such as flooding, hence giving them contractual rights to lay off employees or put them on shortterm working. Yew has the advice below for affected restaurateurs:
- Mobilise employees and, if you have other restaurants, get them to work there in the interim
- Use the time wisely. If you only have one restaurant, get staff to do training or ask them if they could use the time off as annual leave.
- Just assume it’s better to cut your losses and lay staff off – it’s a short sighted approach and you’ll still have to pay staff redundancy.
- Do anything without checking your contracts.