Next steps: what the end of furlough means for HR

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After 30 September, the furlough scheme will cease. This is going to have an impact on both employers and employees, and will make them think about what their business will look like going forward. Some have argued that the scheme has artificially supported businesses that were already struggling, while others have pointed out that the economy as a whole has, and will continue, to benefit from the initiative in the long-term. Hopefully, companies can simply bring their staff back as normal and business will pick up again. But not all companies are in as good a shape financially as they were before the pandemic and bringing all their staff back might not be an option.

Unemployment spike predicted

Economists are predicting that there will be an inevitable spike in unemployment after the end of September – and HR professionals should be prepared for their companies to think long and hard about what resources are actually needed in the present economic climate. The winding-up of furlough will remove this false sense of security that is present in the economy at the moment. It’s impossible to accurately chart how the economy is doing, or indeed predict how it will recover – both post-Covid and post-furlough. And it’s also difficult to pinpoint with any accuracy the UK’s current unemployment figures or get an accurate snapshot of the jobs market. All these unknowns are creating uncertainty for economists and business managers alike.

The shape of things to come

As ‘normal’ returns and people return to work, HR professionals will need to start looking at the structures in their own organisations. The big question is: will they need to bring everybody back? There have been some significant changes to the way offices function during lockdown, with remote working being implemented for many people. HR will have to look both at the people required to carry out the work but also in relation to the office space the company has available. If you’re adopting a hybrid model of working – with flexible home and office placement – then you’re not going to need as much office space all the time.

The value of outplacement

At times like these, outplacement advice is extremely valuable, when people are already feeling vulnerable and wondering what the future holds for them post-furlough. So, talking to an experienced consultant can help allay fears and give employees focus on where their future direction may be.

With so many different predictions of the landscape of employment, it’s impossible to predict what happens next. But looking at the overview now and preparing various HR scenarios could give your company an advantage, when the inevitable happens and furlough ends.

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