Should Furloughed staff retain access to business systems?

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Written by Glenn Elliott

Last published at: March 31st, 2020

When you furlough staff under the UK Government's Job Retention Scheme you are saying that you have no work for them and the government is giving. grant for part of their wages to avoid redundancy.

  • Furloughed staff remain employees of the company
  • They remain bound by their employment contract and employee handbook and all confidentiality and other clauses apply as normal
  • They remain on your payroll.

It is important that staff know that they must not do any work on behalf of the company whilst furloughed as if they did, that could invalidate your claim for a grant to cover part of their wages.

But it is not necessary to remove access to business systems unless you have another reason for doing that, such as reducing licencing costs. You might do that if you have particularly expensive systems that are paid on a per-user-basis.

Early feedback from portfolio companies is that many employees who are being furloughed are being very understanding of the situations that some companies are in. They want to play their part in helping the company to get through this difficult period and then get back to work at the end.

Removing access to systems can be sensitive - it could make employees feel that they are being cut off and abandoned. Bear this in mind when thinking about which systems, if any, you wish to restrict access to.

Consider how furloughed employees feel.

If furloughed staff feel they have been labelled immediately as a security risk they will likely feel less loyalty to you as an employer and will feel that they are a "redundancy in all but name".

This could damage employee goodwill and reduce your ability to bring the team back together when the crisis abates and revenues start to come back.

Involving furloughed employees in communications 

You can, and should, involve furloughed staff in ongoing communications from the senior team as the crisis develops. There is a precedent with staff who are on parental leave - they are off work but we often involve them, voluntarily and at their discretion, in social calls and events so that they still feel part of the workplace.

If you host any form of online coffee morning, "ask the CEO"  or other event that isn't part of real, normal work, but is a social gathering then consider involving your furloughed staff in that too.

Key is reminding your furloughed staff that they must not do any work and their attendance is voluntary, but they are still an employee and they can join those events if they wish.

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