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Furloughing employees risks fracturing the workforce

HR teams must be aware placing employees on the furlough scheme for long periods of time risks causing fractures in the workforce.

The UK government’s furlough scheme has had a severe negative impact on workers as wellbeing, job satisfaction and personal confidence have all significantly decreased since the scheme was introduced.

The scheme has helped businesses retain money and avoid having to make mass redundancies during the pandemic, yet it has lead to employees feeling isolated and side-lined.

Using an analysis of variance (ANOVA) system, business-psychology consultancy Pearn Kandola found there has been a greater decrease in job satisfaction scores in workers who have been placed on furlough.

Furloughed employees have experienced a significant decrease in personal commitment towards their organisation and are more inclined to agree they now feel very little loyalty to their employer.

They also feel less inclined to put more effort into their work than their non-furloughed colleagues.

Stuart Duff, head of development Pearn Kandola said the best way for HR to rebuild trust with furloughed employees is to be open with them when discussing the impact of it has had.

He told HR magazine: “To consciously recognise that the furlough scheme will have a lasting impact and that employees will be harbouring a range of potentially negative feelings and reactions is important.

“HR has to be alert to in-groups and out-groups forming, which creates the risk of blaming each other or feeling unfairly treated,” he said.

Duff said it will take many years to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on organisations and employees.

“HR has to try to understand the impact that the decision has had on individuals and avoid giving the rational ‘it was for the good of the business’ explanation – everyone knows this, but it doesn't help to hear it,” he said.

No organisation can change what has happened over the past year, but they can manage the positive and constructive reintegration of employees, said Duff.

“The major risk is for any organisation that relied on furlough to see it as something that happened in 'the past'.

“Employers can’t ignore how employees may be feeling, our research has highlighted there may have been a profound psychological impact for staff which they could feel for some time in the future," he said.

Pearn Kandola surveyed 530 employees across the UK in April 2021, 253 of them had been furloughed.

The pandemics effect on the workforce: 

Workers missing teamwork and friendship in pandemic

Employees quitting jobs in record numbers due to toxic workplaces

Pandemic disconnects frontline workers from head office