Furloughing employees in reality. What to expect?

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Paula

Furloughing employees in reality. What to expect? 

  • Having spoken to a manufacturing company with 3 sites and 52 personnel. What does furloughing employees look like on the ground? 

Background 

  •  Due to major contracts being put on hold, the decision was made that part of the workforce would need to be furloughed in order to save costs but retain personnel. 
  • Senior management looked at what skills were absolutely necessary to be retained for work still coming through and those that could be put on hold. 
  • All necessary precautions were adhered to for safety measures across the sites. 
  • Obvious concern from the Senior management team of how the workers would respond but necessary to save cash for the business in the long term. 
  • It was announced earlier in the week to the whole company and individuals asked either face to face or via telephone and if self-isolating or away, via email.  The senior team as much as possible wanted to communicate the decision face to face (2M apart of course!) 

The Human Response  

  • As a business owner or manager, you can obviously understand that to save jobs in the long run by taking action swiftly, it will ensure that there is minimal impact to livelihoods for as many people within your organisation as possible.  You should communicate this to your employees too and communicate it well. 
  • Overall, the reaction from personnel was one of gratefulness and understanding and thankful that they hadn’t lost their jobs moving forward. 
  • The obvious impact on losing a fifth of their salary was something that was taken really well. 
  • Staff members who were not furloughed were kept in the loop and will continue to be informed regularly of any updates. 
  • This particular company have excess vans and have put forward a plan to the NHS whereby, they could take medication and deliver if necessary…The great thing is when the staff were asked if they would want to be involved in that…ALL of them wanted to help and didn’t hesitate to volunteer!   
  • Another great outcome of from the site, was that one member of staff who hadn’t been furloughed offered to take the drop in favour of someone else who perhaps wasn’t quite as financially stable as themselves……The management team were truly touched by this gesture! 

Communicate – Communicate - Communicate  

  • If communicated correctly, then your staff will be on board – reassure them, try and give them as much information as possible about what is happening and how this will affect them, but also the benefits to them and the business. 
  • Remember that it isn’t just business, IT IS emotional, people work hard and want to understand where they stand for their own income and supporting their families. 
  • Done correctly and with compassion and explanation, the majority of people will totally understand and most probably be thankful that you haven’t made them redundant and that their job is still open for when the tide turns. 
  • You don’t need to cut them off completely, schedule in keep in touch days or that you are available for them, should they be struggling in any way.

Wellbeing 

  • Remember – wellbeing of yourself and your employees….it is REALLY important at this time, (at all times of course) especially if your workers live alone.  Keep communication channels open, they can’t work for you, but they can be involved and have interaction with you.  Hold regular keep in touch days as often as you can. 
  • They can take other work if they want to and this would be deemed separate, dependant on your own company policy and individual contracts 
  •  If they have more than one job currently, each job is separate and can be furloughed as such. 

 

Q. I am the owner of a small business with less than 10 staff and the business can’t afford to pay the staff and wait to get it back from the government at the end of April. What should I do? 

 

There are other government initiatives like the Business interruption loan which is on offer to all businesses https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-through-the-coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme. This may tide you over, whilst cashflow is restricted. 

Talk to your staff.  If money to pay upfront is short, then perhaps they will agree to take part salary and owe the remainder. This would need to be agreed with each member of staff in line with their contract.  Communicate – communicate – communicate!   

 

Q. We are a small team and the business needs each skill set but not full time, can I still Furlough personnel pro rata? 

 

If you furlough personnel, then they can’t work for you. However, you could multi skill all personnel, so you can cover the skills being taken out of the business whilst you furlough others. 

You can also bring people in and out of furlough, which may mean you can take some skill sets out for a brief period and then bring them back and take others out for each period, to ensure you can still operate your business effectively.   

If this is impossible, remember there are lots if roles in supermarkets and other essential businesses in the supply chain and they could take an additional job to supplement their incomes and work part time for you.   Again, this needs to be agreed with personnel and in line with their employment contract. You can stipulate that it isn’t a competitor business.  This would both assist the employee and the supply chain as a whole, if they are able and it is safe to work. 

 

Q.  How long do I furlough the employees for? I am unsure what the business will look like in two months’ time?

Don’t worry, the government are suggesting 3-week time frames, so you only need to furlough in 3-week periods. You can extend it if necessary but also draw it back in if needed too every 3 weeks. 

Don’t be afraid to get it wrong! 

  • There will be an awful lot of people and businesses in the same boat and we will keep you updated on how different companies are handling the situation and responses as much as we can!  Good luck and keep safe and well :)