Effects of Furlough

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This allows all UK employers with employees on a PAYE scheme to designate some or all employees as ‘furloughed workers’.

Starting on 1st March 2020, this scheme has been extended a number of times and the current extension runs to the end of September 2021.

Hopefully with the vaccination roll-out, the economy will start to open up once again, and these furloughed workers can return to the workplace.

However, having potentially been out of work for over 12 months, what issues will employers and businesses face?

Training

  • If they have been out of work for this period of time, employees are likely to require refresher training on the activities that they are required to undertake.
  • Workplace safety training may be required and qualifications for areas such as first aid, fire marshalling and food safety may have expired and need to be undertaken.
  • It is likely that new ways of working will be required in the workplace to deal with the risks of COVID, and employees will need to be trained in these. Similarly, new technology may have been introduced.

Anxiety

Those employees who have been furloughed and have not worked through the pandemic are potentially likely to be more anxious about returning to the workplace, an environment they have not experienced for some time.

Employers will need to ensure they have early discussions about the return to work with furloughed staff to find out how they feel about returning to the workplace. They should ensure they have put in place suitable control measures to make the workplace safe to provide comfort and reassurance to staff.

Employee Attitudes

Being out of work for such long periods of time may have had an effect on some individuals’ attitude to work. Whilst some may be keen to get back into the workplace, it is possible that others’ approach to work may have been negatively affected.

Think about the support available to staff when they come back. Employers will need to have open and ongoing discussions with staff, as well as monitor performance and productivity, as it may take individuals time to get back ‘up to speed’. They will need to consider ways in which staff can be re-motivated and re-engaged in the workplace.