How to welcome back staff from furlough leave
With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) coming to an end today, many employers across the country will be welcoming back and reintegrating workers who have been on furlough leave throughout the pandemic.
In some cases, employees may have been furloughed since the scheme was first introduced in March 2021, meaning the return to work might be a daunting prospect. Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor specialising in employment law at Nelsons, shares five steps employers should take when welcoming back furloughed workers.
- Maintain an open dialogue
This is just as crucial now as it was throughout the pandemic when people were furloughed, as it’s important to make sure employees feel they are a pivotal part of the business and alleviate any concerns they may have about the security of their job.
While employers aren’t legally obliged to give notice when recalling staff members from furlough, it’s advisable to do this with at least a week’s notice as it allows the employee the opportunity to make any necessary arrangements.
When notifying employees that they’ll be returning to work, they should also be made aware of any new requirements, including issues directly related to the pandemic – for example, if they need to carry out regular lateral flow tests – or any other changes, such as car park arrangements or office seating plans.
However, this dialogue works both ways as it also affords workers the opportunity to raise any concerns or questions they might have.
- Re-induct employees
After a significant amount of time away from their role, this is vital to ensuring a smooth return and that they feel welcome. First and foremost, it’ll give the opportunity to remind them about how important they are to the business and that they’ve been missed, while simultaneously reminding them about any new Covid-related health and safety measures, company updates and any other health and safety changes.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some staff members may benefit from receiving training as certain aspects of their jobs may have changed, or they might simply need re-familiarising after such a long period of time away from their role.
These induction sessions will also provide time for employees to socialise with each other and begin to rekindle the rapport and working relationships that might have been affected by the pandemic.
- Communicate business changes
While workers have been on furlough leave, the business may have seen significant changes to how it operates, primarily as a consequence of Covid-19, such as:
- Personnel changes;
- Business strategy and service changes;
- Changes to company policies, procedures and rules; or,
- New company protocols or procedures required by law, e.g. Brexit.
As these could have implications for the team, it’s important to ensure all these factors are communicated to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace.
- Focus on wellbeing
Employees who’ve been furloughed might have been affected by their prolonged period away from work in a number of ways. They may feel disliked, have lost their confidence, have concerns about safety, or their mental health might have been affected by their time away.
The most important thing to do links back to maintaining that open dialogue to find out what their concerns might be and what steps can be taken to alleviate them. For example, if an employee has concerns about using public transport at busy times, there might be the option to change working hours or provide alternative travel arrangements.
- Be flexible and responsive
This has never been more important than after a year where so much has changed in the way we work. Reintegrating workers who’ve been on long-term furlough is unknown territory for both employers and employees, which is why it’s important to constantly monitor and adapt return to work strategies.
Whether that be by simply having informal conversations with staff or conducting formal surveys and one-to-one meetings, there are several ways to gauge how everyone is feeling and ensure a return to work phase that’s as stress-free and successful as possible.