Our Lockdown Lowdown series looks at how the coronavirus lockdown is affecting those employed in London. In part one, we looked at the positive effect of homeworking, an ideal solution for many of the city’s office support workers. In part two, we look at those who’ve been furloughed.
While furlough may seem like a troublesome time, we’ve spoken to several people in contact with our London recruitment agency who are finding it has some surprising plus sides.
Furlough as the first choice
A few months ago, it’s fair to say that most Londoners hadn’t heard of furlough. Now, it’s a term in common usage.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers can keep their staff ‘on the books’ (paying them 80% of their wages up to £2,500 per month) for the duration of the scheme, claiming the money back from the government. This means that employers who may be experiencing a temporary downturn because of the crisis can keep their staff.
There are obvious worries about furlough, and we don’t want to dismiss these. However, in most situations where an employer can’t pay their staff, they have no option but to resort to redundancy. Furlough presents another, more positive option.
The end result will hopefully be employees continuing their employment with their employer without any disruption to their service record, and employers quickly having their valued talent back on board once lockdown is over.
Furlough assumes the current difficulties being faced by employers are temporary and works to help workers and employers. Therefore, the government is calling on businesses to strongly consider furlough over redundancies, wherever possible.
The effect of furlough on your working life and career
The immediate effect of furlough on employees comes down to pay. As well as covering a large percentage of their wage bill, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme also covers an employer’s National Insurance obligations and pension contributions. A furloughed employee can’t do any work for the employer.
Different employers are approaching furlough differently. Some are ‘topping up’ pay to 100%, others sticking to 80%. Some are furloughing all employees, whilst some are only furloughing those who cannot work from home. Some staff are being furloughed for the duration of lockdown, others for a limited amount of time, sometimes just three weeks. It depends on the unique situation of the business.
However, most furloughed employees are finding that contrary to their original fears, they’re managing, even if they’re only receiving 80% of their normal pay. Joe, an office manager who usually works in Holborn, explained his experience to us. “At the beginning of the lockdown, I was needed to help set up everyone working from home. However, now that’s been sorted out, many of my usual tasks don’t need doing. Since week two of lockdown, I’ve been put on furlough at 80% of my usual pay.
“I was obviously a little worried at first. Financially, however, I haven’t noticed the hit. I’m not commuting or buying lunch and coffees, and it’s amazing how much those costs stack up. I’m also finding it much easier to manage lockdown than some of my colleagues who are working from home, especially if they’ve got children off school. I’m basically on holiday! Once this is over, I’ll be able to go back to my current employer and won’t lose out — I won’t have a career gap on my CV! To be honest, I think I’m very fortunate compared to many.”
Furlough – a good option for employees and employers
No one likes to experience a downturn, especially when it’s out of the business’ hands. However, furlough is providing a workable solution that’s helping employees and employers to weather the storm.
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