In a matter of weeks people across Europe have become prisoners in their own home, with some businesses already struggling under the weight of the uncertainty – not knowing how long lock downs and staff absences will go on. With the outlook for the economy looking precarious, many businesses in the UK are turning to the government’s furlough scheme to fund staff salaries while much of ‘business as usual’ is slowed down.
Clearly, if it’s a choice between letting staff go and furloughing, then of course businesses must take the latter option. But furloughing must not – under any circumstances – be used as a cash flow exercise as an immediate ‘quick fix’.
And yet that is exactly what some companies are choosing. This is the time to be agile – to accept hits to nonessential areas if and where possible, and reinvest staff time in core business areas. This is not the moment to let staff go, albeit temporarily, unless there really is no other course of action.
As employers, we have a duty of care to people’s wellbeing as much as to the future of the economy. To furlough people unnecessarily when they are already isolated and are without the support networks they usually rely on is an act of irresponsibility which will have a high social cost in the long-term. We must care for our staff, we must look after their wellbeing in this difficult time, and we must do everything we can to ensure that we remain economically active, we keep employment figures strong, and we lay the firmest foundations possible for the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.