Operators looking to utilise flexible furlough will need to adopt clear and clever management in juggling workers and shift patterns, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls has said.

Speaking at MCA’s The Conversation, Nicholls explained that in order to put an employee on part time furlough, they need to have had at least three weeks of full furlough before 30 June, and they must have been entered into the scheme before the 10 June.

So, to ensure as many employees as possible qualify, businesses “might need to look at rerouting people, bringing them on and off furlough, or making use of the fact that people can have holiday payments whilst they are on furlough,” she said.

As part of the part-time scheme, Nicholls said that employers will effectively be able to furlough people on a daily, hourly, or weekly basis, and will have to set an individual’s shift pattern to fit expected levels of business.

With the removal of the three-week minimum - a necessary stipulation in the current furlough scheme - the minimum period come July will be a week, but it can be extended if employers choose to rota on a fortnightly or monthly cycle.

“You need to give certainty to your worker for that week on what hours you are going to allow them to work,” Nicholls explained, “and then you provide the Government with the normal hours that the employee would have worked in a similar reference period.”

“Then, exactly the same way you would with the current CJRS, you pay the employee for the actual hours worked, and Government tops it up at the 80% rate.”

“You might decide that a person is going to remain fully furloughed for four days a week and come back for a short period of time, or you might move them in and out,” she said, “but importantly, you will lose that three-week minimum that we’ve got at present which is inhibiting businesses making swift decisions about rotas.”

However despite these positive changes, Nicholls was keen to stress that furlough should not be considered as the only mechanism for saving jobs.

Whilst the tapering of the scheme is a clear signal from Government that they want to bring furlough to an end as a whole economy measure, she said that it doesn’t rule out a different form of sector-specific support to prevent mass job losses in hospitality.

“We’re having an active discussion with the Treasury about how they will support a sub-economic restart,” she said. “They acknowledge that some businesses will look to make people redundant, so they’re actively talking about how to save the 1.2 million jobs that are at risk in hospitality.

“The Treasury has been signalling that there will be another financial intervention around about 6 July that will look at further support for businesses as they come into the restart phase.

“So, there’s been quite a lot of optimistic noises from the government supporting a sector reopening in short order, with the best possible support in terms of social distancing, and more importantly in additional financial support.”