Bosses should manage changes to their workforce sensitively – and plan for more digital skills in the “new normal”.

Speaking at this year’s Travel Convention, experts from tax and consulting firm RSM also advised employers to keep a good audit trail of payments made under the furlough scheme as HM Revenue & Customs is contacting firms about possible errors.

Carolyn Brown, employment legal partner, said: “There will be new ways of working in the new normal.

“[Covid] is the accelerator for one of the greatest workplace transformations in our lifetimes.”

October marks the end of the government’s Job Retention Scheme and many travel businesses have criticised its replacement, the Job Support Scheme.

Brown said employers may have to agree pay cuts or unpaid sabbaticals for staff if they cannot afford salaries from November onwards.

Other strategies could include changes to staff benefits and flexible working, while bearing in mind factors such as sales targets and health and safety.

“Find out the appetite of the workforce for those changes…have conversations,” she advised.

“It’s important to build up trust and confidence.”

Some employers may even consider remote monitoring technology, she added.

Another option is to terminate a contract and employ people on new terms but employers must take care to consult and follow regulations.

With more consumers buying online, it is also important to offer more support for training in digital skills, she added.

However, research by RSM among Abta members found that only 15% of businesses said they would be focusing on hiring staff with a different skill set in the future.

MoreFuture workplace needs to be flexible and based on mutual trust, says HR expert

Furlough scheme used by majority of travel companies

Susan Ball, partner at RSM, urged employers to check how they made claims under the Job Retention Scheme as mistakes may have been made.

Also, records must be kept for six years in case HMRC decides to check at a later date.

“Go back through the furlough agreements and check documents,” she urged.

“If you get a letter from HMRC, you must respond.”

Earlier on Wednesday, RSM revealed new research showing that almost 90% of travel businesses made use of the government’s furlough job support scheme throughout the Covid pandemic.

However, the costs of the replacement Job Support Scheme will be too much for many struggling travel companies.

Furthermore, 60% don’t expect to return to pre-lockdown booking volumes and values until 2022, according to the survey of 255 mainly Abta members.