The employment landscape has changed dramatically in recent weeks thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. When the UK government began to announce restrictions that led to many businesses closing their doors, and many others within supply chains experiencing knock-on effects, the immediate priority has been to secure the future of businesses, and with that, jobs.
The new Furlough Leave Scheme has been a significant part of this conversation and way to help struggling businesses in these difficult times. There is official guidance being regularly updated, we also recommend you visit here.
Things to consider…
Having agreed a period of Furlough Leave with some or all of your employees, it is important to remember that whilst a serious problem has been addressed by doing this, they are still your employees – they haven’t been made redundant. Hopefully you will need them to be back with you and working hard again in the not-too-distant-future. As such, it is important to ensure that you keep in touch with your furloughed employees regularly over the coming weeks.
Collating a list of personal phone numbers and email addresses (of course ensuring appropriate data protection measures and agreement), is likely to be very helpful if you do not already hold this.
Whilst the government guidance does not allow for employees who have been furloughed to undertake any work for their employer, you are able to have virtual meetings (using Zoom, Skype or similar) to update them about what is happening with the business, how long you think the Furlough Leave is likely to last based on the government guidance and restrictions at that time, etc.
Most employees will be keen to find out this information, and this shows that you care and are looking forward to their return. Team members may also enjoy an opportunity for some social connection with their colleagues in this manner too. As employees may be undertaking home schooling with their children or caring for relatives currently, these meetings should be notified in advance to ensure that people are able to attend virtually.
The guidance on Furlough Leave also allows for employees to undertake training whilst on Furlough Leave. Clearly you are not going to be sending staff to any face-to-face training events at this time, however, if you have online learning packages for topics such as health and safety, for example, then asking staff to undertake them whilst furloughed is likely to be helpful in readiness for their return to work.
Time spent on training should be paid at basic hourly rate if it is required by employers.
Are all of your staff on furlough leave, or do you have some employees who may feel that they have been left “holding the fort” whilst others are at home not working? If so, these staff may feel some resentment towards their colleagues who are receiving 80% of their pay whilst not working. It is important that these staff are given a good understanding of the importance of their role in working to secure the future of the business, and are regularly shown appreciation for this – when you are under pressure yourself as a business owner, this is not always easy to remember to do! As with furloughed employees, regular updates are important. Depending on whether or not these staff are able to work from home, they may also have concerns regarding their personal safety, and those of their loved ones at home. Employers should listen to these and consider what measures may be appropriate.
The latest government guidance at that time regarding social distancing, and social isolation in the event that an employee develops Covid-19 symptoms, should be followed and is available here.
Our next blog due over the next week is going to focus on managing employees who are working from home. If in the interim you have any concerns or queries about looking after your staff in these uncertain times, please get in touch with a member of the View HR team who will be happy to discuss.