Some Northern Ireland employers are facing staffing challenges as furloughed workers shun a return to work, it has emerged.
Two business owners have said they are struggling to get enough workers to help as business resumes.
The furlough scheme pays 80% of a worker's wages but is in theory only open to workers where their employers no longer have work for them as a result of the pandemic and lockdown.
A south Belfast ice-cream parlour owner said some of his staff were seeking legal advice to ensure they could remain on the government's furlough scheme. But the business has been opened for the past two weeks.
He said: "My wife and I run the business.
"We are in our 70s and need the help of staff but they have refused to come back.
"Some of those staff have legitimate reasons like sharing a household with someone who is very vulnerable, others just simply don't want to return.
"We have put a lot of safety measures in place including a one way system, masks, hand sanitiser and two-metre distancing but it's hard to know where we stand."
A Co Londonderry furniture manufacturer said his staff refused to come back to support a slight increase in business. "I think this is one of the problems we will have from the furlough scheme.
"I have rung around our lads about helping with an increase in production, with some coming back but not all. However many of them have it in their heads why should they come back and work for an extra 20% when they can sit at home for 80%."
Andrea McCann, partner at McKee's law firm, said if safety guidelines are followed and measures are put in place by an employer, employees should return to work where they can't work from home. "The only real grounds for refusing to work would be on health and safety grounds but employers are being advised to carry out risk assessments and plan a return to work so employees know that workplace is going to be safe. If that is carried out then they should return to work. If the employee unreasonably refuses to go to work that would be a disciplinary matter."
The job retention scheme has been extended until October with employers to contribute to the costs as time progresses. There are an estimated 200,000 furloughed in Northern Ireland.