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How can employers support their furloughed staff?

23 April 2020

How can employers best support their employees who have been furloughed under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Following the introduction of the furlough scheme, many employers have taken the difficult decision to furlough members of their workforce in order to protect their businesses. During these unusual times, employers have been considering how best to support their workforce while they make the transition to working from their homes, but it is important for employers also consider ways in which they can support their furloughed employees.

Here are a few practical examples of how employers can show their support:

Communicate: Be open and transparent with your employees as to why the decision has been taken to furlough staff, and why have been selected. This will ensure your employees are fully informed and will help prevent the circulation of misinformation, which could lead to unnecessary concerns.

Reassure: For some, being placed on furlough will be a welcome decision, allowing them to focus on childcare, for example. For others, it may bring uncertainty over their financial position and job security and may cause them to question their value to their employer. Employers can pre-empt such concerns and help allay fears by providing appropriate reassurance that the measures are intended to be only temporary and reminding furloughed employees of their valued contribution to the business.

Involve: While employees are furloughed it is important that they don’t do any work for their employer, but there is no need to cut contact entirely - in fact, this should be actively avoided. Keep in contact with your furloughed employees regularly by scheduling catch-up calls, inviting them to virtual team drinks/other activities and encouraging them to check in with each other.

Encourage: If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), furloughed employees will still be entitled to access this. Most EAPs provide advice on financial issues as well as counselling services, so may be useful for furloughed employees during this time. Alternatively, the government has produced some guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of Covid-19 with links through to some useful resources. Inform or remind employees of these services and encourage them to use them.

Develop: Employers are still permitted to provide training to furloughed employees. With many face-to-face training sessions being moved online, there are bound to be courses that will be relevant to your furloughed workforce. Equally, if you are arranging a training session for those employees who are still working, extend the invite to those who are furloughed. Such sessions will not only remind the employee they are still a valued team member, but also help them to continue developing their skills and facilitate their return to work.

Volunteer: Remind employees that while on furlough they can volunteer for charity projects, to support the NHS and so on. Volunteering not only has a hugely beneficial impact on the organisation an individual volunteering for but can also have a highly positive effect on their mental wellbeing.

Plan: The current situation will not last forever, so employers should think ahead to when furloughed employees will return to work and plan how to make the process as smooth and supported as possible. Set up a return-to-work meeting in advance of the employee’s return and put in place regular check-ins once they are back to work to provide ongoing support.

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