Here to Help: discussing Furlough Leave with your employees

By Anthony Wolny | 24th March 2020 | 8 min read

Businesses around the world are facing difficult decisions that need to be made quickly.

As part of this, a concept new to most UK employees has been introduced – furlough leave.

So, with businesses across the UK considering whether this will be a necessary route, we wanted to share a few tips on discussing this topic with your teams…

The facts – what is Furlough Leave?

  • An employee can be placed on ‘Furlough Leave’ instead of being dismissed, asked to take unpaid leave or made redundant.
  • As part of the Government’s measures to protect jobs during the Coronavirus pandemic, it is going to cover up to 80% of the wages of employees who are asked to take this type of leave instead of being made redundant or asked to take unpaid leave during the crisis.
  • Part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, wages will be covered up to £2,500 – but employers can top up salaries above this threshold if they choose to.
  • Expected to last for at least three months (and likely to be extended), the scheme applies to all employers and will be backdated for those who have been unable to work since 1 March 2020.

HR software for UK companies can help with furlough requirements.

Communicating – how do I discuss Furlough Leave with employees?

Be ready

In difficult times, we crave information. So, if you don’t explain this process in a way your employees will understand, they’ll find the information they need from a different source – which may not be helpful. Be clear on the decisions your business has made around furlough leave, and decide what information and resources will be useful to help your employees understand these.

Be human

Communications solely about business needs are not likely to be suitable in this situation. You’re a human being and your employees are too – just as you’re likely to be worried, so are they. So, while it’s imperative to communicate factually and clearly (without unnecessary opinion), be empathetic too. What would you be worried about in this situation? What information would you want access to?

Be inclusive

A ‘one size fits all’ communication approach isn’t going to be enough. You need to make sure that all levels of your organisation have the information they need to be able to support employees at this time. So, make sure all of your leaders understand this process, including the Executive team, your managers, but particularly your team leaders – they’re likely to be the ones employees will turn to with questions around the detail. Give them all the information you can, in simple language, and let them know how to pass queries back to you about anything they don’t know the answer to.

Be open

Your employees – furloughed or not – will have questions around the detail of how your business’ response to the Coronavirus crisis is going to affect them, what else might change, and when it will all end. Encourage this discussion by setting up Q&A forums through as many communication channels as you can. Even though you won’t know all the answers right now, inviting the discussion will help your employees feel valued.

Be in touch  

Regular communication is what’s needed right now. Tell your people – furloughed or not – where and when they’ll be able to get the latest updates from you in the coming days, weeks and months.

For more on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and other initiatives to support your business, you’ll find the latest information on the Government’s help pages.