Two thirds of furloughed workers to return by September



Two out of three people currently furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme could be back at work by the end of August, but around a tenth face redundancy, according to research from XpertHR.

Its survey of 191 HR professionals – the fifth of its kind – shows that employers expect nearly half (45.6%) of those currently stuck at home to be back working full time by the end of summer, and a further one in five (19%) to be working part time under the new flexible furlough initiative.

Figures from HM Treasury show that employers have furloughed more than 9.3 million employees under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with the government picking up 80% of salary costs.

From this week, employers are able to return eligible staff to part-time work using the flexible furlough rules.

However, they will also have to start paying towards national insurance and pension costs, with further contributions towards salary phased in each month from August to October, when the CJRS will close.

The XpertHR survey, conducted over the past week, reveals that one in three employers (35.1%) are now planning at least some redundancies. HR professionals believe that as many as one in 10 (9.9%) of those currently furloughed could be facing redundancy by the end of August.

However, the survey also found that employers are now beginning to reopen their workplaces.
Although government guidance is that people should still work from home where possible, 21.5% of HR professionals said that their workplaces were open for some employees with furloughed and home workers returning, and 18.8% said they had closed but were now reopening.

With most organisations (72.3%) predicting that employees will be reluctant to return to the workplace and many (26.3%) anticipating a fall in employee engagement, HR professionals are also working on plans to support and reassure people as they come back after lockdown.

HR professionals surveyed by XpertHR believe that they need to learn from the positive things to have come out of crisis – including much-improved staff communications – while refocusing on the difficult decisions that will be needed in a harsher economic environment.

XpertHR managing editor Sheila Attwood said: “Having employees on board as the business evolves over the next few months will be the key to success. Employers are already talking to people about how they feel about the return to the workplace and are aware that there are very mixed views on this, with some eager to get back and others still fearful about it. It will be especially difficult for those who have been furloughed and who will need some time to readjust to working.

“HR professionals need to do all they can to reassure employees about the steps employers are taking to keep them safe, offer mental health and wellbeing support, check in regularly with line managers to ensure they have the additional support they need, and keep communicating through a variety of platforms and media so that people know what is happening.”

The survey also questioned HR professionals about the proportion of their workload that is being driven by organisation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The amount of work is easing but it still accounts for around half of all HR work is now driven by organisational responses to the pandemic, according to XpertHR.

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