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How to support employees who have been furloughed

A caring employer always wants to do their best to help ensure the mental health and wellbeing of their people. But unprecedented times bring unprecedented challenges.  Furloughed employees in particular may face a number of additional pressures. So how do businesses look after people who may be unable to work through no fault of their own?

Support for furloughed workers

There are a number of reasons why furloughed employees may be vulnerable to mental ill-health, such as financial, pressures of child or elder care, and the sheer inability of being able to interact with colleagues in a working environment.

Ensuring your employees have access to vital resources and support could not only help their wellbeing now, but may be key in preventing any long-term mental ill-health in the future. 

Here’s our list of practical resources to help your furloughed workforce tackle the issues they may be facing.

Financial

Your employees may be worried about how they’re going to cope with a reduced income, how soon they’ll be getting back to work or even if they’ll have a job to come back to at all. Always make sure your stay in touch regularly and that your communications are clear and transparent. Don’t make any false promises and stick to the facts.

Remember, financial concerns can have significant knock-on effects to people’s health and wellbeing, so helping them to access advice and support can be crucial during this time.

Let them know that they may be eligible for additional benefits or payment holidays. Here are some resources that you can signpost them to potentially help with some expenses:

Managing finances:
https://www.mentalhealthandmoneyadvice.org/en/top-tips/how-to-budget-your-money-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/

Energy bills: The ‘Big Six companies and many others have updated advice on the support customers experiencing difficulties can access.

Water bills:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/water/water-supply/problems-with-paying-your-water-bill/

Mortgage, loan and credit card breaks: Get information at the National Debt Line.

Support with rent:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/if-you-cant-pay-your-bills-because-of-coronavirus/

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Council tax reductions: Get in touch with Citizens Advice, or employees can contact their local authority to discuss their individual circumstances.

Health and wellbeing

As well as the problems that being furloughed may cause work-wise, sudden or increased caring responsibilities, sticking to ‘lockdown’ rules, and continued uncertainty can all affect people’s mental health. A lack of purpose and routine, the inability to get out and see friends and family, plus increased anxiety and stress can all impact wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing:
For people who may be having trouble with their mental health, the NHS’ Every Mind Matters offers support including self-management resources, plus urgent help for anyone in crisis.

Encourage your people to create and keep to a daily routine, including healthy eating and exercise programmes, and using technology to keep in touch with colleagues. MIND also has hints and tips on how people can look after their mental health and wellbeing.

 It’s important to stay informed – but not too informed! There can be a lot of misinformation out there, pushed by people with their own agendas, so stick to credible sources you trust, like GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and remember to fact check any info from social media, newsfeeds, or other people.

These are worrying times for many, but in even restricted circumstances, encouraging your people to do things they enjoy, learn something new, or just take time to relax and focus on the present can all help their mental wellbeing.

Physical wellbeing:
During lockdown, maintaining physical wellbeing can be difficult. But eating healthily, limiting alcohol and making the most of the ‘once a day’ exercise window can all help. For those whose responsibilities may restrict their opportunities to get outside, there are a number of exercise videos online or apps available. And even gardening or the ‘joys’ of housework are useful physical activities. Setting goals can also be a great motivator.

Two examples include the NHS fitness centre which gives free exercises classes, and Sport England’s #stayinworkout which provides advice, tips and guidance on how to keep or get active in and around your home.

Finding a purpose:
Even during a lockdown, there are still plenty of volunteering opportunities available for your employees who want to spend time while they’re not working in helping others. Not only does this give back to the local communities and to people who need help, it provides a sense of purpose – which may be missing for some furloughed employees. 

Covid Mutual Aid helps local communities come together to provide each other with support.

Other volunteering opportunities can be found at:

Volunteering Matters
Do-it.org
Reach volunteering- for employees with specific professional skills
Red Cross Reserves - co-ordinates support for public services.
Princes Trust - lets employees provide offer online support to a young person who may be starting their own business  or looking for work.
Independent Age - provides home-based, telephone volunteering offering advice and support to older people, weekly or fortnightly, and can be as simple as a 30-minute to an hour chat.
United Nations Volunteers – connects volunteers with humanitarian and development organisations requiring skills like research, writing, design and art – from one hour a week and up.

Home and relationships

For some people, being furloughed at home may put them in a vulnerable situation. Where possible, it’s recommended that a relevant manager keeps in touch, but where this isn’t an option, external resources can be a source of vital support

Covid-19 Mutual Aid community resources offers support for vulnerable people such as  migrants, people with disabilities or autism, LGBTQ+ communities, and people affected by domestic violence.

For employees caring for the elderly or people who are highly vulnerable, Carers UK offers advice, while those who may be worried about elderly relatives should keep in touch by phone, or by using video apps. 

Working parents can get advice and support from Unicef’s COVID-19 guide for parents.

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