Hot topic: The politics of furlough, part one

Heralded as a safety net by many, the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has supported the livelihoods of 9.6 million people and 1.2 million businesses to date.

However, as the scheme draws to a close some organisations’ acceptance of furlough money has become controversial. So has furlough been good for business overall? Or, for some, could the scheme have done more harm than good in the long run? And what should happen next?


Marshah Dixon-Terry, interim HR project consultant, Homes England

My overall perspective is that furlough has been good for businesses in enabling them to retain their employees during extremely uncertain and difficult circumstances.

For organisations that did not have to furlough some or all of their employees, there has been reputational harm, which is why it’s really important that the scheme was used appropriately i.e. for those that really needed to make use of it.

It's really interesting that some organisations have opted to pay back the money. There’s an ethical perspective on this – recognising that if an organisation can afford to pay back the money, then they should.

Branding is another significant point in this space. It helps an organisation’s image – potentially demonstrating that they are strong and will continue to thrive despite a very challenging backdrop in the UK.


Jacques Samama, head of people, LondonEnergy

Though we have had no employee at LondonEnergy on the scheme I have mixed feelings about the impact of the CJRS. Of course, it was extremely important to have it in place, especially to support businesses in great difficulty.

However, I think companies needed to have more guidelines to apply it. Equally, the cap of £2500 may have also created some unfair situations with companies who still had to top up salary of employees who earned more than the cap.

Although the CJRS has helped in the current circumstances, it is now vital to carry on with further support. Closing the scheme in October is in my view too early, especially with an increase of COVID-19 cases.

Companies will also need more help to avoid redundancies and potential business closure as their activity, despite the end of the lockdown will still struggle during the next coming months. The situation is far from over.


This article is the first part of the September/October 2020 hot topic. Check back tomorrow for part two.

The full piece appears in the September/October 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk