Redundancy fears rise as UK faces end of furlough

Over half (54%) of UK employees are worried either they or someone in their household will lose their job when furlough comes to an end this month.

The majority (71%) of respondents to the survey from virtual psychology clinic My Online Therapy also expressed worries about having enough money to pay their bills going forward - 67% about having enough for basic essentials like food and clothing.

More redundancies are likely to be inevitable when the government’s financial support for furloughed workers ends.

In September, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) estimated that the autumn could bring up to nearly half a million redundancies to the UK job market.

Recognising the potential risks ahead, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged government to consider launching a new local furlough scheme giving businesses forced to close due to local lockdowns access to financial support.

It has asked for a 40% rise in the payment rate of the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) up to 60% of taxable monthly profits and reiterated its call to make all working people eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) at the rate of a real living wage.

It also recommended that the Job Support Scheme (JSS) be expanded to give businesses in locked down areas of the UK with low demand “financial assistance over and above the national scheme.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “We all hoped the economy would be starting to reopen and recover this autumn. But with further restrictions imminent in some areas, we need the chancellor to adopt a fresh approach to protect jobs and livelihoods.

“Local lockdowns put jobs in peril, but across the country families are worried for their livelihoods. Ministers need to get round the table with businesses and unions and hammer out a plan to save jobs and protect whole industries from going to the wall.”

After money worries, peoples’ top concern about the months ahead was about the impact the pandemic has had on their personal relationships.

Approximately one third (34%) of people responding to the survey said the pandemic has put a strain on their relationship with their family, 30% are now experiencing tension with their partner, and a quarter (26%) said it had had a negative impact on friendships.

For HR teams facing the challenging winter months ahead transparency will be key.

Elena Touroni, co-founder and co-CEO at My Online Therapy, advised leaders to try to remain as “honest and straight forward as possible.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Touroni said: “If you’re having to make redundancies, stress that any decisions being made are not a matter of choice but rather survival. Be validating of any anxieties and fears your employees may have and be sensitive to the fact that many people are likely to be struggling with their mental health right now.

“Try to create an open culture as much as possible whereby people feel comfortable coming forward about their concerns and any difficulties they’re currently experiencing.”

My Online Therapy’s survey is based on the 1,000 customer respondents and was conducted between 1 and 6 October 2020.

Read more about what the end of furlough means for HR teams in the September/October cover story - Back to life, back to (a new) reality: the workplace after furlough.