How to support furloughed employees transitioning back to work?
As England moves to the final stage of easing COVID-19 restrictions and businesses work towards reopening ‘as normal’, many employers are planning how to manage their employees and workplaces. Although most organisations are embracing new ways of flexible working, there are still 1.9 million furloughed workers on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which is due to end on 30th September 2021 – some of whom haven’t been in their role since the first UK lockdown of March last year. Read on for our short Furloughed Employees – Returning to Work Guide.
Businesses using the furlough scheme have done so for several reasons: if an employee can’t work from home, the company is required to close under government guidance, or staff are unable to attend work for health-related reasons, including those deemed as high-risk.
Although many businesses will have kept lines of communications open with furloughed staff throughout the pandemic the CIPD recommends giving at least a week’s notice when bringing workers back off furlough to allow them sufficient time to make domestic arrangements. This also extends to communicating any changes to the workplace, such as new health and safety requirements, changes to work areas, car parking and so on.
Especially for workers that have been furloughed for long periods, consider holding a formal ‘reinduction’ on their return such as a company-wide welcome, health and safety briefings, changes to company rules in light of COVID-19, and anything else that could help ease them back into the workplace. Also, allow time for returning workers to rebuild connections with their teams. A large concern for many furloughed workers has been the disconnection they feel to the business and their colleagues, and consider some of the issues that may arise as workers return to the workplace, such as:
- Holidays – staff may have been required to use some holiday entitlement while furloughed, but others may have accrued a substantial amount of leave during that time
- Conflict in teams – it is likely there will have been some changes to headcount since March 2020, so encouraging colleagues to be empathetic to those returning from the scheme will help resolve any issues in a supportive manner
- Health concerns – some furloughed workers, particularly those who were furloughed for health reasons, may have concerns about returning to work. Consider your company’s policy on COVID-19 health and safety, and your stance on vaccinations
This may include signposting to wellbeing schemes, allowing a gradual return to the office, and providing retraining on some areas of the business that have been out of service since the beginning of the pandemic. Whatever it may be, keeping communications open and having insight into how each furloughed employee is feelings will help ensure a much smoother transition back to the workplace.
For confidential advice on any HR matters, including Furloughed Employees, we provide the opportunity for a 15 minute support call with Director Suzanne Hurndall – book straight to calendar below:
With specialist expertise in leadership, change management, strategy, acquisition, workplace culture, transformation and discrimination, Suzanne is passionate people leader motivated by unlocking the potential of people, teams and organisations through teamwork and collaboration.