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Furlough, the new F word.

Only recently, if you had asked anyone what furlough meant, the response would probably have been a blank look. Not so today, furlough has now become the new F word.

Organisations are past the stage of deciding whether to furlough and the question is more about ‘how do we furlough responsibly?’.

James Potter is the Vice-Chair of the SJCC, representing IStructE. He explained his company’s rationale around furloughing.

The natural ‘knee-jerk’ reaction was to furlough as many employees as quickly as possible. But we sat back, took stock and considered the medium to long term impact that our actions would have on getting us back to the same financial position we were in before COVID-19.

“We value every member of our team and therefore our main objective was to ensure that everyone felt they were treated fairly.

“We want to emerge from COVID-19 with a full team, stronger than ever in terms of ability and culture. Yet, we need to continue to operate at the highest level and look after the performance of the business. So, when deciding who to furlough, we looked at individual skills, experience and considered personal circumstances.

“We didn’t just go for the highest paid employees – in fact we did the opposite. We considered the effect on the personal lives of our team, as well as the versatility, experience and diversity of the team left working.

“The result was that we retained all our senior staff and we encouraged those we furloughed to use their time to develop themselves professionally. We continue to allow them access to our resources, such as software and our technical library and we still allocate team leaders to help personal development.

“We have remained resolute that if you carry out the furloughing process sympathetically, the team will emerge from this crisis stronger and more committed than ever.”

However, the crisis has impacted different businesses to different degrees. Contractors and builders have been hit hard. As soon as the government announced the lockdown, and in support of the directive and its attempt to relieve the pressure on the NHS, many construction firms decided to suspend all its site activity and that led to all site-based employees being furloughed.

Mark Hart is a member of the Chartered Institute of Building and sits on the SJCC committee representing the NFB. He commented on his business; “The one thing that matters more than everything else is the wellbeing and safety of our staff and supply chain. I think one of the main things we would want to emphasise is that the people we furloughed; we see as intrinsic to the future success of the business.

“As soon as it is deemed safe to restart our operations, we will be relying on them to be back on the construction frontline getting our projects moving again and playing our part in rebuilding the local economy.”

Written by Sue Wilcock with quotes by SJCC committee members for an Article in the East Anglia Daily Times. Click here for the full article

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