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Following official responses to COVID-19 within the past few weeks, we’ve seen the word ‘furlough’ rise to become one of employment’s top new buzzwords. But what does it mean, and how does it affect you?
The Collins Dictionary defines ‘furlough’ as workers being told to stay away from work for a certain period of time because there is not enough for them to do. We’re seeing an increase in people being furloughed right now due to workplace closures in response to measures to slow the spread of Coronavirus.
We’re also seeing a knock-on effect within the staffing industry. While some sectors (such as healthcare) may be busier than ever right now, a lot of the industry has slowed down as a result of many employers pausing hiring plans.
How does the UK Government’s furlough scheme work?
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcements on emergency Coronavirus measures include a furlough scheme in which companies can furlough employees rather than making them redundant. Under this scheme, the government will cover up to 80% of salaries (up to £2,500) per month.
Considering furlough? Be aware of the conditions
In order to be eligible for the scheme, there is a range of criteria to meet. One of these is that employees should not undertake any work for the employer who has ‘furloughed’ them. Any employee breaking this may put their employer at risk of not receiving the government grant.
Don’t let technology let you down!
With technology being such a huge part of our professional and personal lives the line between work and home is becoming increasingly blurred. Figures have suggested that 60% of us check our work emails on a smartphone1, and most of these checks are done in the evening between 5.00pm – 9.00pm2.
Checking emails on your smartphone, contacting your candidates and clients, and doing a spot of data housekeeping on your CRM all count as work – even though you may not be officially working. There are a few steps that can be taken to limit the risk of breaking this condition:
- Disable logins on desktop and mobile devices – consider things like CRM access (such as Bullhorn) and any other logins (for example, social media or internal systems). Logging in to any of these could be seen as working, and there’s likely to be a digital trail of activity.
- Take advantage of email rules – furloughed employees shouldn’t be logging into their emails, let alone engaging in any communications. Setup rules so that emails to anyone who has been furloughed forward to someone who is still working, and setup automated responses from the affected employees email account to inform their contacts.
Maintaining relationships of furloughed employees is essential
Strong client and candidate relationships are essential to success for staffing and recruitment agencies. Following the 2007 financial crisis and subsequent impacts on the employment industry those agencies who kept contacts engaged during that time were the ones that came out stronger at the other side.
Don’t lose sight of these relationships just because their usual contact has been furloughed. Consider how you can keep communication going – ideally from a central place – so that you can let people know you’re still there as a company, enabling you to build on and maintain relationships during the period of furlough.
Find out more
At the time of writing this article, there are still lots of questions around the furlough scheme. We recommend consulting an official source such as the UK Government website for the most reliable and up-to-date information.
1Fluent "The Inbox report, Consumer perceptions of email” (2018)
2DDMA "Nationale E-mail Benchmark” (Netherlands, 2019)