With many experts predicting that the coronavirus will have a long term impact on our mental health, for those  furloughed employees this could be an extra contributing factor. With guidance clear that they cannot undertake work on behalf of the employer, what support can you, as an employer, give furloughed employees during this time?

Legally, furloughed employees are not allowed to generate income for the business, but can be involved in training.  How you manage your employees during this period will have an impact on your business brand and how you are viewed as an employer. Not only should you take this time to look after your staff wellbeing, but to also think ahead to their return to work.

Maintain communication

This is the single most important thing you can do. There is no such thing as over-communication at this time.

  • Reassure staff that they are still a valued member of the team. Furloughed employees can take part in weekly team calls / meetings as long as they are not actively undertaking work for the business.
  • Schedule in regular catch up sessions to check in and keep in touch. This doesn’t have to be work-related and can just be an informal regular chat. Use this conversation to gauge how they are coping and whether they need extra support from you as their employer (see below).
  • Be authentic: be open and honest about the situation and the state of the business. Staff will appreciate this more and it will help them understand the situation clearly.
  • Ensure they feel valued: remind them that they still have the same access to any perks and benefits as the staff who are still working.

Develop a training and development plan

Furloughed staff are allowed to undertake training and / or volunteering during this time. Some may not want to, and may be struggling with anxiety. Reassure them that it is ok to use this time to do whatever they wish, and that they are under no pressure to undertake training or development. If, however, your staff are bored and actively looking for things to occupy their time, you can use this as an opportunity to upskill or develop them in new areas.

This doesn’t have to relate to their job function, as now is a perfect time to learn a new skill or brush up an old one. There are lots of free resources available at the moment to improve learning and knowledge, such as TED Talks or free courses on alison.com.  Take a look at our best training resources guide and discuss with furloughed staff member what might work for them.

Make use of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

If you have an EAP this is a perfect time for staff to be using it. These services can provide advice and guidance on all areas, including financial and emotional wellbeing. Click here for more on EAP programmes and how to find a provider.

Share useful resources

There are so many amazing free resources available at this time for everyone, from free fitness apps to meditation and mindfulness courses, and these should be shared with staff. See our blog post on wellbeing resources or our guide on how to best look after your employees’ wellbeing. Consider sending a weekly update on information like this to the team, to keep them engaged.

Stay social

Think about virtual social events you can organise for your teams, such as pub quizzes or regular zoom calls. This will help furloughed staff to feel involved. We came up with some alternative staff events for Christmas, which would still be relevant throughout the year.

Plan and forecast

  • Returning to work: communicate clearly the likely timeline with your team. Will you rotate employees on furlough or keep staff off until the end of March? Be visible and honest about your plans as this will help to reduce anxiety and reassure the team. If it’s unlikely you will have roles for everyone in future, you should think about redundancy now to plan for the next few months. Get in touch for advice on how best to do this.
  • Employees with a second job: Another important consideration is if any of your furloughed employees have got another job during this period (which they are fully entitled to do under HMRC guidance). You may have to address the issue of when your employee can return to work for you, if they are also working for someone else, and anticipate that they might be required to give notice at their second job before they can return to your company. Please contact your HR Consultant if you need more information.
  • Holiday accrual: employees on furlough still accrue holiday, so it will be important to factor this into forecasting. Consider asking employees to take some holiday whilst on furlough so that you are not facing a resource issue when staff do return, as they are taking annual leave immediately. The government also announced last year that employees are entitled to carry over holiday into 2021; this needs to feature in any business plans.

For help with any of the issues in this post, get in touch.