working from home, laptop

Millions of furloughed workers are expected to return to work either full or part-time by the end of August, according to new figures.

Employment specialists XpertHR found that nearly half (45%) expect to return full-time by the end of summer, with a further 19% expecting a part-time return under the flexible furlough scheme.

From this week, employers are able to bring back staff part-time under the new flexible furlough rules. Despite two thirds set for a return to work, 35% of employers are now actively planning some redundancies. The survey suggests as many as 10% of those currently furloughed could be facing redundancy by the end of August. With nine million workers enlisted on the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it would suggest nearly one million people losing their jobs.

The research found that less than 5% of workplaces are currently open for all employees, with the majority of employers open but only for a reduced workforce (33%). Over a fifth (21%) said they are open for some employees with furloughed workers now returning in some capacity. A further 18% are currently closed but are planning to reopen soon with another 6% closed with no plans to reopen in the near future.

Returning challenges

The study also found that nearly three quarters of employers are predicting a reluctance among employees to return to the workplace and a further 26% anticipating a fall in employee engagement. HR teams are divising plans to support and reassure workers as they return to the office setting. Many of those surveyed believe they need to learn from the positive things to have come out of the crisis, including improved staff communication while refocusing on difficult decisions needed in a harsher economic environment.

XpertHR managing editor Sheila Attwood said: "Having employees on board as the business evolves over the next few months will be the key to success. Employers are already talking to people about how they feel about the return to the workplace and are aware that there are very mixed views on this, with some eager to get back and others still fearful about it. It will be especially difficult for those who have been furloughed and who will need some time to readjust to working.

"HR professionals need to do all they can to reassure employees about the steps employers are taking to keep them safe, offer mental health and wellbeing support, check-in regularly with line managers to ensure they have the additional support they need, and keep communicating through a variety of platforms and media so that people know what is happening."