The furlough scheme was originally introduced at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020 and scheduled to finish at the end of June 2020. It was then extended five times with extensions to June 2020, then October 2020, followed by a last-minute extension to the end of March 2021, and then April and then September 2021. It is currently due to end on 30th September 2021.
With the majority of restrictions lifted, most people are back to work whether that’s remotely or in the office. However, industries continue to feel the effects of the pandemic, hospitality is one of the sectors most affected. Despite being given the green light to re-open, many restaurants, cafes and other places are being forced to close or are unable to welcome the full capacity of customers due to staff being pinged by the NHS app or contracting the virus. This negatively affects the wellbeing of innumerable people, some of those who have been furloughed are unsure whether or not their job still exists in a post-pandemic world, others have seen a reduction in their hours or feel unable to return to life as normal while Coronavirus remains to be a very present aspect of our lives.
As an employer, it is crucial that you communicate with employees about any updates and ensure that all employees have access to a safe work environment. Furthermore, many people may have had their mental health negatively affected due to being on furlough for a continuous period of time. They may feel under confident in their role and require some extra support to integrate back into a working life again. Others may have had a positive experience of furlough due to the extra time spent with family and the break from work that they otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. Some people used the opportunity to undertake some further education opportunities that may benefit them in their role and may even lead to promotions upon their return.
Everybody has had their own experience with furlough and the pandemic, so it is important to be sensitive to people’s feelings and emotions. We need to take the positives from the last year and a half while also being aware of the negative impact it has had.