Preparing for the end of furlough

laptop and other stationary ready to handle the end of furlough
By Caroline Gammon | 27th August 2021 | 3 min read

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) acting as a lifeline for both businesses and employees alike, it’s no surprise that people are concerned as an end to the support is quickly approaching.

Unless we see a sudden and last-minute change, the Government is withdrawing its furlough support at the end of September.

So, is your business ready?

What is the furlough scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), more commonly known as the furlough scheme, was part of the Government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

UK employers have been able to furlough their employees and the Government has continued to pay a portion of those furloughed workers’ salaries to minimise redundancies. 

Furlough has supported a total of 11.6 million jobs at some point since the scheme started.

A devastated UK highstreets during the covid-19 pandemic protected by the furlough scheme.

When is furlough ending?

Currently, the deadline for furlough support to finish is 30 September.

The Government has based the end of the furlough scheme on their predictions for when the economy will have had enough time to fully open up.

Will furlough be extended?

Since the start of the pandemic, the furlough scheme has already seen four extensions.

Both the Chancellor and Prime Minister have confirmed that they want to avoid another extension.

The last extension we saw that took the deadline to 30 September was an attempt to give businesses some added certainty and prevent the need for further delays.

Boris Johnson recently confirmed this plan, stating: “on the basis of what we can see now in the data, we don’t think we’ll need to change.”  

How can businesses prepare for the end of furlough?

If we don’t see another extension – which we expect to be the case – businesses will be faced with the decision of whether to bring back furloughed employees or make them redundant.

To help you make that process as smooth as possible, below are a few tips:

1) Make sure you’re communicating with furloughed employees

Whether you’re bringing people back or making redundancies, communication is going to be your greatest tool over the next month.

Employees returning to the office will need information on what to expect, timelines for their return and updates on how their day-to-day may have changed.

While for those employees losing their jobs, you must make your decision clear to them and kickstart the redundancy process.

More resources: make sure your redundancy process is compliant and correct – check out our handy blog that covers everything you need to know.

2) Consider additional training and reskilling for returning employees

As furlough started in March 2020, some employees may have been out of the workplace for over a year.

It’s understandable that they’ll be feeling somewhat apprehensive and anxious about returning.

To help ease them back into work, we recommend that you offer them additional training on their roles to help them hit the ground running.

Additionally, for those employees who may be facing somewhat of a role change rather than redundancy – they’ll undoubtedly benefit from some upskilling in their new area.

For help with your training, check out our IRIS Cascade HRi Training and Development module.

3) Determine if hybrid working is right for returning employees

As previously furloughed employees begin to return, you need to assess whether they’ll be coming back to the office or working remotely.

A few points to consider when coming to that decision are:

  • Has remote working been successful?
  • How is your business currently operating?
  • What does the returning employee prefer?

More resources: see how you can keep pace with the changes of hybrid working in our recent blog.

4) Address COVID-secure concerns

While COVID-19 vaccines are becoming widely available, it will still be daunting for people to return to the office. 

To help people feel comfortable, directly address their concerns and detail the steps you’ve taken to ensure a safe work environment.

More resources: double-check your workplace is COVID-secure – read our blog.

How can IRIS help?

If you’re looking for a better way to manage all your people processes, check out our industry-leading HR software.