Furlough scheme extended: why not use this time to train your staff?

When the second national lockdown commenced at the beginning of November, the Chancellor announced that the furlough scheme would be extended until 31 March 2021 to combat the impact that the additional downtime will have had on the economy.

This will allow employers to keep staff on furlough with the government paying 80% of their wages for another five months if needed.

Employers who have managed to avoid using the coronavirus job retention scheme up to now could choose to make use of it if business has plummeted again during or following the second lockdown. Although many businesses may see a rise in business over the festive period, many will not and January could prove even worse with people tightening the purse strings even more than usual.

The fact that any businesses finding themselves with little or no work in the New Year could still opt to furlough their staff is a huge benefit. It will give them the ability to take a step back and get plans in place to re-enter the marketplace with a bang in the spring.

Employee confidence

Being furloughed could quite easily knock the confidence of any employee. Although it will have nothing to do with ability, performance or how much they’re valued by their employer, it’s still a blow to discover that there’s not sufficient work to keep the role active.

At this time, it is important to reassure any furloughed staff that their jobs will be waiting for them when the scheme ends. Keep them informed of the company’s position and what is being done regarding working with partners and clients to secure work for the coming months and beyond.

You should also keep in mind that any staff that have remained in their roles may also be feeling concerned and insecure. Hold weekly team meetings - remotely if working from home - with your retained team and separate ones for those who are on furlough. Communication is key to increasing employees’ trust in the company and confidence that their jobs are safe.

It will benefit you too - if staff are feeling neglected and worried about their future with your company, they may start to look elsewhere for another job. At a challenging time like the one we find ourselves in now, managers do not want to add recruitment to their to do list as it is costly and time-consuming. If you have good people in position, do all you can to keep them!

Provide support

Some staff may be struggling - whether they’re on furlough or have remained in their roles, the additional pressure that the pandemic has put on them could quite easily have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. This may be clear to see during team meetings and video calls, but in some cases it may not be obvious, so be sure to keep your eye on your people to ensure they’re coping.

Working from home week in, week out without any real contact with colleagues or clients could take its toll. People may start to feel isolated and down, and any small problem that would normally have been resolved quickly in the office could grow and become magnified to someone working alone.

Our courses in this area - Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health First Aid Champions could be a huge help to managers who have not had previous experience in dealing with supporting staff in this way. This year it’s more relevant than ever.

Use this time to upskill your staff

As an employer, you could use this time to invest in your staff, in their continuing professional development, which could be of benefit to both them and you. They will feel included and valued and you will gain an upskilled employee when they return from furlough as well as the opportunity to interact with them more during their time away.

Choose your training

What training would be good to undertake at this time? It could be any one of a number of things. Perhaps some training that has been discussed at a previous appraisal would be a good way to reassure them that they will be returning and continuing on their career path as planned. Or it could be IT training on the software they’ll need to use when they return from furlough, especially if they’ll be working remotely from home. Software such as GoogleMeet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom have all been utilised widely in the workplace since the start of the pandemic, so ensuring your staff know how to use these will be essential.

Skills gaps

Another training option to consider would be plugging any skills gaps that may have arisen as a result of any changes that have occurred within your business in the past nine months.This could be due to redundancy, restructuring or simply a change in direction of the business to meet current demand. Any of these events could mean that there are areas in which your workforce lack the skills needed to carry out all the necessary tasks.

You could solve this problem by training your furloughed staff in these areas; it would give you additional skills within your team and give your employees a sense of purpose and something to focus on now, as well as when they return.

Ask your staff

You could also ask staff if there are any areas they’d like to receive training in and how they feel this could benefit the business. They may have thought of something you haven’t and not only will it give them a feeling of being valued, but that their opinion is of value too.

Train with us


PETA offers a range of courses in professional skills, business improvement and technical skills. These courses are held at our COVID-secure Training Centre in Portsmouth, where we’re operating reduced numbers and have measures in place to ensure customer and staff safety at all times.

Professional coaching

We offer a range of services that will provide you with the training you’re looking for. Our professional coaches can help employees and employers alike, whether it’s overcoming individual challenges, leadership development or changing direction. Our team of experienced coaches will work with you to create a bespoke coaching package that meets the needs of all involved. An initial consultation meeting with your dedicated Business Coach will give them the opportunity to recommend and tailor a bespoke package from our gold, silver or bronze services.

Bespoke training

Our bespoke training service allows us to design a training programme that is personalised to your requirements and those undertaking the training. Programmes will focus on your subject of choice and can range from one-day courses to longer term training, incorporating industry-recognised qualifications or accreditations if that’s what you’re after.

Remote learning

Any training that is undertaken with us can be done remotely with a mixture of online learning and live video links. So if you’re isolating or simply feel more comfortable keeping your distance right now, we can accommodate your needs and still deliver the valuable, quality training you expect from PETA.

Face-to-face training at PETA or your premises

You could alternatively opt to undertake your training at our COVID-secure Training Centre or at your own premises if that would be more beneficial to you. If we are to deliver training at your premises, we will seek your assurance of your site risk assessment and measures, to enable our team to feel safe and adhere to the controls you have put in place.

Explore our courses and training options and get in touch to discuss your requirements with our helpful team.


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