|Date:||24th April 2020|
Good afternoon and I hope you are staying safe and as well as can be expected.
Here we are now at 33 days into virtual lockdown and a minimum of another 13 days before there is any chance of any significant change. Overall, I think the trends are starting to show a positive track, albeit there are still too many people who are losing their lives to COVID-19 and I think we still have a long way to go before the government are prepared to consider lifting the restrictions. I think all eyes are on what’s happening in Germany, they have lifted the majority of the restrictions and I suspect it’ll be the middle of May before we know if COVID-19 cases are continuing to fall.
We have in excess of 95% of all employees on furlough leave (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) and if it wasn’t for this support from the government, we would have more than likely run out of money before the end of May. I have heard many stories about people being furloughed and still being asked to work where necessary and we as a business would never ask you to do that. This isn’t about playing the system for our own gain, this is about adhering to the furlough rules and using it for what it is intended. Where we have work for people, those people are on our payroll. We continue to take a small amount of the team off the furlough programme and our return to work plans see us experimenting with different ideas which requires us to do this. It may be the case that some people are taken off furlough to do something for the business and then put back onto the programme, but what we are doing is adhering to the rules. It is therefore essential that those of you who are on furloughed leave do absolutely nothing for the business. We currently have cover in most areas of the business and any activity should be directed to Paul Neale, Peter Redfern, Mitch James, Anthony Cooper, Karen Evans, Richard Jones, Steve Liddle or Alex North or the stay at home email address. I know that some of you would like to do as much as you can to help the business through this extremely difficult period but it is in the interest of the business that I’m telling you not to get involved.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of June and this will help with our phased return to work plan. There have also been a number of changes made to the scheme since its quick introduction at the end of March. We therefore would like to confirm that you are able to take additional employment or voluntary work whilst you are furloughed – whether at a local supermarket, volunteering for NHS or fruit and vegetable picking. If you decide to do this please be safe and ensure you are following social distancing guidelines. Please inform them you are on furlough leave as this work must cease to allow you to return to your duties when asked.
I have heard about a few businesses (not Cotswold) asking furloughed staff to return to work with a response from the employee saying that they would rather have 80% of their salary and stay furloughed. The CJRS scheme is intended to support the employee and protect them from being laid off (potentially permanently) without pay. If you are asked to return to work and refuse, then the furlough support stops and you are switched to unpaid leave. However, those who are considered vulnerable will be the last people we request to return to work, just as they were the first to leave prior to the business being forced to close.
Whilst you are furloughed, you continue to accrue holiday. As detailed in the handbook, you are required to use holiday to cover bank holidays. Therefore depending on the days you work in the business you will be required to take holiday for Easter and for the two May Bank Holidays that the business will be closed.
If you have booked holiday during w/c 23rd March, April, May and June, we require that these days are also to be taken if you are furloughed. All holiday days are paid at full daily rate.
Should you still be furloughed for the end of June, as detailed in the handbook, you will be required to have taken 10 days holiday. If you have not already taken these days earlier in the year, this will be processed and paid in June. If you have returned to work by the end of June, in these unprecedented times, we may relax this rule so some of the days required to be taken may be carried forward into the 2nd half of the year, depending on the amount of time you have been on furlough leave.
April payroll has now been processed and as detailed in your change of contract, you will be paid 80% of your basic salary, which will be claimed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Any overtime, bonus or commission for March or Q1 will be paid in full. Holiday pay will be included and paid in full for Easter Bank Holiday or any days booked from 24th March to 30th April.
For May payroll, whilst furloughed you will be paid 80% of your basic salary. Clarification is still needed whether commission, overtime or bonus can be claimed through the CJRS for those furloughed based on average pay over 12 months, up to the maximum of £2,500 per month. This will be claimed and paid, if we are able to do so, however this will be confirmed with you prior to May payroll. If you return to work in May you will be paid 100% salary from your first day back to work, having the opportunity to earn bonus or commission if this is included in your pay plan. Holiday pay will be included and paid in full for 2 Bank Holidays and any days booked from 1st to 31st May.
June payroll will be as May, with holiday booked from 1st to 30th June, or up to a maximum of 10 days before 30th June, if you have not already taken these days, being paid in full, if you are still furloughed.
We as a management board are busy working on our return to work plans and currently our thoughts are on a partial return to work in aftersales (Service, Parts & Bodyshop) with effect from Monday 11th May and then a gradual increase over the next few weeks, albeit this is not set in stone and will inevitably change. With regard to our sales operations, I think this will follow the aftersales pattern but will start circa two weeks later. We are still determining the finer details of our return to work scheme but this will fully adhere to the Governments social distancing guidelines and will therefore include us changing a number of processes.
These return to work plans may include the business being open for longer and us operating shifts, or some staying on the furlough scheme until its end date, albeit we believe that once things are fully back to normal, we will revert back to processes and procedures that we are all far more familiar with. Many businesses have adopted new processes and whilst it was all a little strange to start with, these practices are now being embraced and accepted by the majority. Supermarkets have had to drive many of these practices and after the initial hysteria where the shelves were very much depleted, things now seem to be pretty much OK and that includes the availability of toilet rolls!
Part of our return to work plans include us re-budgeting the business for the remaining 7 months of the year. It is very evident that just because we’re back at work it doesn’t mean that everything is OK again. Cash will continue to be tight for the remainder of the year and that is if business gets back to something close to levels enjoyed prior to the shutdown and therefore we will have to manage the business tighter than ever and there will inevitably be a few changes.
From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worrying, these are without question the most challenging times we have ever faced. This is a difficult time for me personally and if I allow my heart to take over, I’m filled with huge concern about the future of the business but then my head kicks in and the logic says it’ll all be OK. Cotswold is a great business and a business that I’m very proud to be involved with, it is full of so many good people and its success is greatly respected by the manufacturers and our peers both within and outside of the industry. Tough times indeed but we’ll get through it.
Sending you and your families much love and as I said last time “We will meet again and it will be in the business”