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East Midlands Chamber News

How to manage your workforce post-furlough

On 31 October, the Government's furlough scheme comes to an end, leaving a huge question mark against the futures of millions of employees. East Midlands Chamber's director of resources Lucy Robinson discusses how employers can reintegrate their staff into the workplace, manage the expectations of middle managers and, should they no longer be able to retain workers, ensure they carry out redundancies properly.

Reintegration/Re-motivation of furloughed employees

It was estimated by the Office for National Statistics that the number temporarily away from work, including furloughed workers, reached about 7.5 million in June, with more than three million of these being away for at least three months.

As employees eventually return to workplaces, there are many challenges for employers – one of which is reintegrating people, especially those who have been on furlough leave for up to half a year.

Clear communication channels are important when smoothing the transition back to work for employees.

This may include virtual meetings and Q&As to help break down any barriers or taboos around those on furlough versus those who continued to work, or people sharing their experiences of “lockdown” through employee social channels.

Regardless of the channels, this should certainly include regular conversations for employees with their manager and team to encourage an inclusive culture.

Managing the expectations of middle managers

Managers need to consider their expectations of people when they return to the workplace to ensure these are fair and achievable, considering many people will likely be dealing with their own worries outside of work. 

Reintroducing people to the workplace, therefore, is going to play a key part, maybe by looking at a mini reintegration plan – much as we would an induction for someone starting a new job or a plan when someone comes back from any long-term absence.

In some workplaces, managers themselves may have been on furlough leave, so the organisation needs to ensure they are up to speed to deal with any queries their direct reports may have, and open communication will play a large part in this.

The world of work has changed and, as we enter a “new normal”, there will be a mixture of people returning to workplaces, continuing to work remotely and a combination of both.

Managers need to adjust to this new way of working by listening and empathising with staff, offering flexibility and providing support where required.

These behaviours are the ones that build trust, which provides the foundation for the employment relationship and is a pre-requisite for high-quality jobs.

What if redundancies need to be made?

With the Government furlough scheme coming to an end on 31 October, it is possible that organisations will need to review employee numbers, roles or other changes needed to ensure they can survive. 

It is important they follow the guidelines for redundancy provided by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

However, navigating the situation can be difficult and there are many places organisations can turn for advice if they are unsure.

The Chamber runs regular HR forums, which are a great source of information and include legislative updates from member solicitors. Members also have access to an HR helpline and document library via the free Quest service.

Once again, during the redundancy process, communication with those involved is key.

But before taking this ultimate step, it is important for organisations to consider if they can risk losing the skills.

Can people be repurposed into other roles and areas of the business? Could the organisation put a recruitment freeze in place, stop overtime or offer early retirement to volunteers? Could you look to agree through consultation to reduce hours for a time, or could sabbaticals and secondments be a solution?

With each solution, there is a process to follow, so always ensure this is understood before progressing as you could risk a fine.

And for those impacted by potential redundancy, companies can support them by developing their CV skills, contacting local recruitment agencies, getting in touch with job centres or liaising with the Chamber’s employment services team, which offers free support for jobseekers.

Did you know about Quest and ChamberHR?

All Chamber members benefit from free access to the Quest service, which offers support for HR, health and safety, legal and tax issues.

Members can access our Information and Knowledge Hub at www.chamberhr.co.uk.

It features more than 400 free downloadable documents on aspects such as redundancy, maternity, absence, disciplinary and recruitment. The news feed is regularly updated with the latest HR news.

As part of ChamberHR, members are entitled to a free health check via a one-to-one review with a Quest business manager to check your level of HR compliance, advise on any issues you may have and then give an honest appraisal of what you need. Employment law services are also available, including up to £1m of cover for employment tribunals and £100,000 per claim.

Members also have unlimited 365-day access to experienced specialist HR advisors via our advice line by calling 01455 852037.

Popular HR enquiries include disciplinary issues, long-term sickness, persistent absence, redundancy and holiday pay.