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Don't forget the furloughed

5 June 2020

Don't forget the furloughed

I don’t think I’d ever heard of the word ‘furloughed’ before the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, of course, everyone’s aware of it.

The government’s unprecedented Job Retention Scheme is currently paying 8.4 million workers 80% of their salaries, up to £2,500, to help companies who cannot maintain their normal workforce in these unprecedented times.

While this undoubtedly provides massive support until the economy recovers, it also brings challenges. This was brought home to me when I spoke with a senior executive from a major hirer, which has furloughed a significant number of its personnel.

“When we started bringing some people back as business started to grow again, we saw a risk of an ‘us and them’ approach developing,” the hirer said. “We wondered if those who had remained at work throughout might look down on others who had been furloughed, and those who were returning might feel under-valued, wondering why they had been furloughed and not others.

“Throughout this whole period, we have taken steps to ensure furloughed staff still feel involved and appreciated, and we have carefully re-integrated people when they came back.”

A quick look at social media platforms shows there have been diverse reactions to being furloughed. For many it’s been a chance to help family and friends or to volunteer. Some are busy with DIY or gardening tasks. But others are finding it difficult. They may feel isolated and guilty about not being with their colleagues, and they are fearful of their future career prospects.

MIND, the mental health charity, offers advice on coping with being furloughed. This includes establishing a daily routine, keeping in contact with other colleagues (whether furloughed or not), creating shared goals or challenges, and continuing to pursue personal development opportunities.

Protecting the welfare of workers while furloughed and re-integrating them will require care. They may not be as visible as they normally are, but they must not be forgotten.

(Photo by Vinzent Weinbeer from Pixabay)

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