How Can HR Managers Help Furloughed Employees?

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Jayne HarrisonHead of Employment Law at Richard Nelson LLP

Monday, June 1, 2020

Furloughing is a temporary suspension for employees from their working duties, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in the UK. The scheme allows businesses to retain their employees whilst the majority of their salary (80% or £2,500) is funded by the government.

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The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is intended to reduce the number of employees made redundant during this period and to support businesses and their employees. With nearly ¼ of UK employees currently on furlough, HR managers across the country are seeking advice on how to best handle their furloughed employees.

What impact can being furloughed have on staff?

Although paid absence may not seem so bad for some, the reality of furloughing can be harsh for many employees. Being away from their team whilst others are still working runs the risk of triggering major bouts of anxiety for people across the UK. Employees may feel their job is less valued or less essential than others in their team, impacting the self-esteem of these furloughed employees. Therefore, it’s imperative for HR managers to take measures to protect the wellbeing of their employees during this period.

How do I tell an employee they’re furloughed?

Worrying about being furloughed is extremely stressful for employees, especially when combined with the uncertainty of the pandemic. Employees require clear communication on what the situation of the business is and how it will impact each specific team so they have clarity over what they should expect in the coming weeks.

If an individual is to be furloughed, they should be informed in a private conversation and not in front of other colleagues or in a team meeting. Employees may feel more comfortable if their line manager is present in the meeting so they have extra support and comfort. HR managers should be clear on the exact terms of the furlough agreement, the start date, the expected end date and what this means for the employee in terms of their existing contract and job role.

Can we contact our furloughed employees?

Although furloughed employees cannot conduct any work for the company, they can still be in contact with their colleagues and management if they chose to be. To support employees whilst they’re on furlough, HR managers should consider setting up regular wellbeing calls with their furloughed staff. This can aid in eliminating feelings of isolation and anxiety which employees may experience whilst they’re not working.

Furloughed employees should also be encouraged to take part in any social activities the company is putting on. Social video calls or quizzes are a perfect way to ensure furloughed staff still feel a part of the larger team and will aid their transition back into the group.

Supporting furloughed staff back into work

It may be difficult for furloughed employees to transition back to work if they’ve been off for a prolonged period of time, especially whilst they get back up to speed. HR should ensure furloughed employees receive a full handover and wellbeing support upon their return. Easing employees back into their role can also work effectively, perhaps allowing employees to work one or two half days before fully returning to their roles.

Ensuring that furloughed employees are supported should be a key priority for HR managers. By carefully managing the furloughing process, maintaining clear and regular communication and supporting furloughed employees back to work, managers can ensure their staff remain supported through the furloughing process.

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Jayne Harrison

Head of Employment Law at Richard Nelson LLP

https://www.richardnelsonllp.co.uk/

Jayne joined Richard Nelson LLP in August 2018 as a partner and head of the employment law department. She trained at a top 100 law firm. For the last 13 years Jayne was a partner and head of the employment department at Chattertons then at Cleggs Solicitors. Jayne represents employees and specializes in representing professionals such as teachers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and those in regulated industries.

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