HR case study: a furloughed employee

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Prior to the pandemic Jane, 26, was the highest biller of a recruitment agency in London.

In April, she was put on furlough and at the time of speaking to HR magazine had spent 19 weeks out of work. She was still uncertain about whether she would be able to return once the furlough scheme is wound up later this month.

Though communication from her employer overall has been good throughout, Jane says being unable to have definite answers about the future of her and other colleagues’ jobs has been frustrating.

“We had a furlough call with one of the directors just to give everyone an update, but basically there hasn’t been an update. It’s just the fact that they don’t know what’s happening and that’s not the employer’s fault.

"The questions that we have they can’t answer.”

At the beginning of August, being out of work proved more challenging as the government had started encouraging people to return to work.

“It almost feels like everyone around you is going back to normal […] I think everyone’s had good days and bad days: not knowing about the future but also being able to have a bit more freedom around when I can learn certain things.”

Having pushed for her employer to give more of a specific timeframe about when they could start to consider bringing people back, Jane was able to refocus her time to retrain and took a course on HR fundamentals.

“I've been kind of grateful for the time to take a step back and look at what I like about my role, what I don't like, and kind of developing from there, because I don't think I'd have looked at doing an HR course if I hadn't had this time.”

With a reduced workforce, Jane’s employer has had to adapt its business model and combine the teams it would usually have for interim and permanent recruitment contracts.

In addition to reintegrating into a potentially different team, Jane says that any return to the office could be challenging.

“As much as I've been trying to keep my mind busy and learn new things, it's the practical day-to-day of working in an office and Zoom calls and all of that, but also the discipline of working 9-to-5 rather than when I want which would be quite difficult I think, in first few weeks anyway.”

She also agrees that there has been a perception that those on furlough have been on an extended holiday, which creates some concern.

“We have been told that if we are brought back to work, holiday will be given to people that have been working as a priority which, on one hand I do completely understand. On the other hand, it hasn’t been our choice that we've been sat at home and not been able to work for seven months as it would be at the end.

"I appreciate we’ve had more time to switch off where people at work haven’t, so I understand why it has to be done, but I don't think this is a win-win situation for anybody. It’s just a case of looking at the human approach and sort of accepting that.”

This case study is an excerpt of the September/October 2020 cover story Back to life, back to (a new) reality: the workplace after furlough. The main text can be read here and in the September/October 2020 print issue.

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