After furlough: Three ways employers can act responsibly

Post author image. Nicola Inge
An image of Nicola Inge

As the furlough scheme comes to an end, Nicola Inge, Employment and Skills Director at Business in the Community (BITC), discusses three ways that organisations can act responsibly: mitigating the impact of tough decisions; make a positive contribution to a young person’s future; and setting their businesses up for success in the long term.

Times are tough and set to get tougher. Redundancies have risen to an 11-year high1. The end of the furlough scheme is widely anticipated to trigger a new wave of redundancies2, despite the Job Support Scheme waiting in the wings. 

For younger and older people, the picture is particularly dark. Experts predict the youth unemployment rate may hit 27% by the end of 20203, as those industries that provide young people with an important start to their careers suffer the greatest blows due to COVID-19.  Recent statistics show that the employment growth trend for the over-50s that has continued for over a decade has stopped4, presenting a worrying outlook.

Long-term unemployed people, who were beginning to see their employment prospects looking more positive in a less competitive pre-COVID jobs market, may find themselves struggling once again as the labour market is flooded and competition intensifies5.

Keep sight of your purpose

For responsible businesses grappling with the challenges COVID-19 brings, this is not the time to lose sight of your organisation’s purpose. There has never been a more important time to make sure that your purpose and values are baked into every strategic decision.  

Here are three ways in which you can mitigate the impact of your tough decisions; make a positive contribution to a young person’s future; and set yourself up for success in the long-term.

  1. Restructure responsibly
    Employers are balancing the tough economic choices they need to make now, with longer term business success and sustainability. For some, this will mean reducing employee numbers.  However, data shows that the burden of COVID-related redundancies is falling disproportionately on diverse groups, with older workers6, younger workers3, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people7 and women8 at particular risk. We cannot allow gains of the last few decades in terms of gender equality, race equality and workplace inclusion to be undone in our response to this crisis. In Business in the Community’s (BITC) Guide to Responsible Restructures, we call on organisations to understand the demographic make-up of their staff and conduct Equality Impact Assessments to ensure no groups are being unfairly disadvantaged by decisions about redundancies.

    We are also asking employers to ensure that they are acting now to develop essential, transferable skills for employees so those at risk are better placed to succeed if their futures lie outside their business.
  2. Kickstart new careers
    Against the backdrop of a rising tide of youth unemployment, the government launched its Kickstart Scheme to create opportunities for meaningful work experiences for young people. Kickstart enables employers to provide six-month paid placements for 16-24 year olds at risk of long-term unemployment. The government pays their wages in return for a quality experience of work from employers. BITC has set out guidance on what a quality work placement should look like, supporting employers to offer the best experience for young people. A critical component to ensure a quality work placement is to offer participants the means, motive, and support to develop their essential, transferable skills. 

    The Skills Builder Universal Framework sets out the eight essential skills that everyone needs to succeed in work. It provides a common language for supporting young people in education, as well as employers in their recruitment, and learning and development programmes. If you are planning to engage with Kickstart, this framework will help young people develop the skills they need.
  3. Make every opportunity count
    Whilst recruitment has slowed dramatically across most sectors, for some businesses the challenge of responding to COVID-19 is leading to a greater demand for employees rather than a reduction9. There is a real opportunity for those employers who are still recruiting to tap into a diverse workforce by working with partners to reach those who may otherwise find it difficult to access the opportunities available. And if employers are serious about attracting a diverse workforce, they need to scrutinise their recruitment processes and remove barriers, such as jargon or the criminal records tick-box

These are difficult times. But we all have a role and a responsibility to make sure we’re taking difficult decisions responsibly and maximising every opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s futures.

References

  1. Office for National Statistics (2020), Labour Market Overview, UK: October 2020, 13 October 2020, available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/
  2. Russell Hotton (2020), ‘Millions of jobs’ at risk as furlough lifeline nears end, BBC News, available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/
  3. Resolution Foundation (2020) Class of 2020: Education leavers in the current crisis, 6 May 2020, available at https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/
  4. Business in the Community (2020) Chilling signs of the impact of COVID-19 on older workers, 10 September, 2020, available at https://www.bitc.org.uk/
  5. Richard Partingdon (2020) Covid-19 job losses sees record numbers in UK seeking temporary work, 6 August 2020, available at https://www.theguardian.com/
  6. Centre for Ageing Better (2020), A mid-life employment crisis: how COVID-19 will affect the job prospects of older workers, 9 August 2020, available at https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/
  7. Niamh McIntyre, Aamna Mohdin and Tobi Thomas (2020) BAME workers disproportionately hit by UK Covid-19 downturn, data shows, The Guardian, 4 August 2020, available at https://www.theguardian.com/
  8. Anu Madgavkar, Olivia White, Mekala Krishnan, Deepa Mahajan, and Xavier Azcue, (2020), COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects, McKinsey Global Institute, available at https://www.mckinsey.com/
  9. Simon Goodley and Jillian Ambrose (2020), The companies still hiring in the UK during coronavirus crisis, The Guardian, 31 July 2020, available at https://www.theguardian.com/