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How to communicate with furloughed employees

Do you have furloughed employees in your workplace? I’ve been having conversations today with my clients and with IC practitioners via Twitter about this topic.

I’ve written this article to point you towards advice and guidance and to discover what others are doing, including a brand new guide that was released today by CIPR Inside, plus a video from CIPD.

Let’s just bust some jargon before we start…

What does being furloughed mean?

I had never heard of the word furloughed until recently. Are you the same? You’re not alone. It had never crossed my path, yet now seems to be in everything I’m reading and watching.

According to the dictionary, furloughed refers to a period of time that a worker (or soldier) is allowed to be absent.

According to the UK Government, it means temporary leave: If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’. Your employer could pay 80% of your wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, up to a monthly cap of £2,500. You’ll still be paid by your employer and pay taxes from your income. You cannot undertake work for your employer while on furlough. We expect the scheme to be up and running by the end of April.

From what I’ve read and understand, I think of it as a paused employee.

Do speak with your HR colleagues to understand what it means for your company.

Rachel Miller All Things IC

 

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: How to communicate job losses in your organisation.

Rachel Miller All Things IC

Advice from CIPD

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) here in the UK has an excellent section on its website, which I recommend checking out. It includes practical advice for employers.

CIPD guidance states: As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic the government has introduced the coronavirus job retention scheme. This will allow all UK employers with employees on a PAYE scheme to designate those employees as ‘furloughed workers’. The employer will have access to government support to continue paying part of these furloughed employees’ salaries and protect the employees from redundancy.

In the video from CIPD below, Lisa Ayling, solicitor and employment law specialist states: “Furlough describes a new type of leave, where you keep employees on the payroll, without them working.”

Further reading: How to communicate with remote workers during the pandemic.

Further reading: Furloughing employees FAQs – your questions answered by Wright Hassall.

So what does this mean in terms of internal communication?

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Inside group has created a brand new guide to help tackle this topic. It’s hot off the press as it was released today. Well done to the volunteers on the team, it’s exactly what is needed, thank you.

I asked Chair Advita Patel why it was created. She told me: “There has been some uncertainty from communicators on the term furloughed and what it means when communicating with employees. This short guide from CIPR Inside explains what employers should be aware of and what communicators should consider before communicating with furloughed employees.

“Some organisations across the UK have started to furlough employees and questions are being asked on what can and can’t be communicated to these employees. The government guidance quite clearly states that as soon as an employee is furloughed they should not be doing any work for the organisation until their furlough period ends, this also means that any comms they receive from the organisation should be non-work related.”

Access the guide via the CIPR Inside website.

It states: “If your organisation has furloughed some employees, this means that these employees are no longer allowed to undertake any work for the organisation until their furlough period ends. Understandably, there are questions on what this means for organisations, particularly on how they should communicate with this group during this period. The most important thing to be aware of is that you cannot communicate anything work related while they are on furlough.

If you have any questions or you’re unsure, speak to your HR or legal team. CIPR has also offered to help.

 

What are others doing?

Jamie Angus from PDSA asked this question on Twitter today, I’ve collated the conversation below and hope you find it useful to see what your peers are doing. :

I hope this helps you think through what to do. As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllThingsIC with any queries.

Additional resources to help with your COVID-19 internal communication:

Recent articles on the All Things IC blog:

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Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel

First published on the All Things IC blog 2 April 2020.

 

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