Yougov poll | Huge number of furloughed staff fear job loss timebomb

Huge number of furloughed staff fear job loss timebomb

Britain could be facing up to a wellbeing, anxiety and job loss timebomb with the latest YouGov survey finding that furloughed workers are anxious about finances and job security.

With a fifth of British workers currently on the Government’s furlough scheme, two thirds of these are fairly or very worried about losing their jobs.

This compares just a quarter of staff who are still working feeling similarly.

In addition, two in five of furloughed staff are worried about affording food and other essentials whilst 59% are concerned about their ability to cope with a financial emergency, such as the boiler breaking or needing to repair their car.

The figure is twice as high as among those working as normal or from home (29%).

Furloughed workers are also more worried about falling behind on utiliy bills and struggling to afford essentials like food.

YouGov concludes that this bodes badly for when the Government’s scheme ends in October – especially as OECD predicts that the UK economy will suffer the most from the coronavirus pandemic among all advanced economies.

Yet, it is not just furloughed workers that are worried. A fifth of the British public are concerned about not having enough money for essentials like food and clothing, or not being able to pay off debts or afford utilities.

The furlough scheme

Last month, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that the furlough scheme cannot go on forever and laid out several changes.

In June and July the scheme will continue as normal and employers won’t have to contribute.

From August employers must start contributing towards the furlough scheme until it winds down later in the year.

This means that employers will have to pay national insurance and employer pension contributions while the taxpayer continues to pay 80% of staff wages.

From September, employers will be expected to contribute towards wages – 70% will come from taxpayer money and 10% will come from employers.

By October, Sunak plans to wind down the scheme and employers will be responsible for contributing 20% towards staff wages while taxpayers make up the remaining 60%. The scheme will close after this.

As part of the UK Government’s plan to gradually get firms off the scheme and return staff to work, Sunak announced that flexible arrangements will come into play from July 1, 2020. This will allow businesses to bring back staff for a few days per week.

At the time of the announcement, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD welcomed the news and said that the introduction of more flexible furlough arrangements should be ‘encouraging for those who have been on full-time furlough’.

Statista revealed that approximately 8.7million jobs from 1.1million different employers are furloughed under this scheme, which currently sees the Government pay 80% of staff wages – capped at £2,500 per month.

Supporting staff who are currently on furlough

While furloughed staff can’t currently carry out work for the business, it is crucial that the people function does all that it can to support staff during this challenging period.

Karen Holden, Founder of A City Law firm, told the HR Grapevine Podcast that HR departments should think about furloughed staff returning to work in future and not just focus on the here and now.

Holden explained that employers and HR should check-in with employees regularly to assure them that they are a valued member of the team.

They should also involve them in virtual social sessions to keep the group feeling alive.

“Checking in will also help with their wellbeing and show that you are a committed employer. It's a fine balance between making sure that you are not expecting your staff to reply to you on your terms but also showing that you’re committed to them on their terms,” Holden concluded.

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