Research: Furlough is curtailing job losses

The government’s furlough scheme is discouraging companies from cutting jobs after research revealed that only one in 20 organisations have made redundancies as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly half (43.8%) of employers are already using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with a further 28.8% expecting to do so in future. Very few (5.3%) have so far had to make people redundant, although 22% are planning to do so in future.

HR departments often don’t get a lot of recognition for the work they do – but in this instance, both the senior leadership and individual employees owe their HR people a huge thank-you” – Mark Crail, XpertHR

Ninety-one per cent of employers surveyed by XpertHR said they had adopted working from home of other form of flexible and non-standard work patterns.

One HR manager respondent said: “We are focusing on making sure we provide support for people and being aware that everyone’s circumstances will be different so offering a range of support.”

Another explained: “Communications have developed to be both personally and professionally focused; sharing home events amongst staff, pets, quizzes and social chat groups to keep the workforce in the loop, have fun and respond individually to personal challenges.

“Wellbeing is critical and in the early weeks some people were feeling ‘cabin fever’ symptoms. We encourage exercise, time out during the day, regular breaks and change of room scenery in the house wherever practicable.”

The research also gauged how the coronavirus crisis had affected HR professionals. Approaching half (42.8%) of the HR professionals surveyed said 80-100% of their current work is driven by the coronavirus pandemic. A quarter (24.8%) said it accounted for 60-79% of their day, while only 5% said it comprised less than a fifth of their workload.

XpertHR content director Mark Crail said: “HR professionals have done an amazing job in managing their way through the crisis that has unfolded over the past few weeks. They are having to put in place, often at a moment’s notice, entirely new systems and processes for their organisations that would, in normal circumstances, take months to introduce.

“At the same time, employees are looking to them for answers, when they themselves are still waiting for some certainty from government or their own organisation. HR departments often don’t get a lot of recognition for the work they do – but in this instance, both the senior leadership and individual employees owe their HR people a huge thank-you.”

HR professionals taking part in the survey said that the main challenges facing their organisations were in:

  • Ramping up health and safety measures to protect key workers still required in the workplace
  • Helping managers acquire the skills and tools they need to manage remote teams, often with little or no previous experience, and
  • Supporting employees who may feel isolated at home, keeping in touch and providing social contact as well as help to work remotely.

Many said they were aware that employees were often struggling to juggle work and childcare or other caring responsibilities, and that this meant being as flexible as possible in the working hours expected of them.

The findings came from a survey of 400 invited UK employers conducted 1-2 April.

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