Calls for a more flexible approach to employee furloughing are gathering momentum.
The Independent Garage Association has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to request an amendment to the current scheme – allowing employees to ‘partially’ return to work as restrictions ease.
With no definitive date set for the end of lockdown, and levels of demand for sales and servicing unpredictable, dealerships and garages face difficult decisions when it comes to furloughing staff members.
Under current rules employees can be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks at a time, and are unable to work for the business during that time – even voluntarily.
Stuart James, the IGA’s chief executive, points to smaller businesses as those most affected.
‘Garages have been classified as an essential service throughout this crisis, however it has been very difficult for many of them to remain open in the current climate,’ said James.
‘It is common for garages to have staff dedicated to the role of MOT testing who do not repair cars. Due to the drop off in work volumes caused by the MOT extension and lockdown restrictions, garage owners have been left with no choice but to furlough these dedicated staff and, in many cases, close their business.’
The IGA points to the French government’s furlough scheme as a model to follow. It proposes a set-up where businesses have the flexibility to use employees on an ad-hoc basis – then claiming back money for any hours not worked.
‘If testers were able to return to work part-time with the help of an enhanced furlough scheme it would reduce the costs to the government, help garage businesses reopen in a phased, progressive manner, and help the economy work its way back to normality,’ added James.