Businesses in some parts of the UK who are making efforts to get back to business are facing a new uphill struggle - employees alarmed by stress and anxiety or simply requesting outright to be furloughed for another three months.

Workers who were furloughed back in April are being gradually invited back to work, although some are being asked to work from home. However, many small businesses are reporting major issues in getting staff back to their roles, after three months being at home.

“It’s crazy to think that after all this uncertainty and worry – that happy time arrives when you can invite staff back to work and that they don’t want to actually come back!”, says Jonathan Ratcliffe who runs office space company Offices.co.uk

Reports from SMEs include:

  • Workers being too scared to come back to work and are being signed off due to anxiety
  • Staff not wanting to come back to work, who would rather be furloughed for a bit longer
  • Employees deciding to have a change of career

“Those struggling mentally you can well understand and have my sympathy – but we have seen, first-hand, staff simply asking if they can stay on furlough for a bit longer, it’s crackers, I couldn’t believe my ears”, adds Ratcliffe.

Businesses must tread carefully and understand the employee’s rights. Employers now face the daunting challenge of rebuilding businesses across a wide variety of sectors with a lack of motivated staff due to the long spell of lockdown.

The issue is complex, and the situation is unique for every type of business and every employee.

However, as companies see demand for services increase over the next month, the issue of reintroducing staff from furlough into a routine of work is going to be a challenging one.

“I totally sympathise with everyone who has been furloughed, it’s a tough time, but we must realise the scheme cannot go on indefinitely. We want to welcome employees back with socially-distanced open arms and build our way back out of this mess”, Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk concludes.

Meanwhile UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said they welcomes pragmatic evolution of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, 

“This is a positive and pragmatic step towards reopening the economy while recognising that this recovery will take time, particularly in hospitality. Giving businesses increased flexibility from the start of July is extremely welcome as hospitality looks to reopen its doors to the public.

"The move, which UKHospitality had been calling for, will allow more people back to work on a part-time basis and help venues ensure safety for customers and staff. Flexibility is going to be crucial if businesses are to open and be economically viable with social distancing measures in place.

"The introduction of employer contributions to the scheme from August will put some businesses under particular strain, but the way it is tapered allows for a gradual adjustment. Further support for the self-employed is also helpful for many in our sector.

“The Government still needs to recognise that these costs will be difficult for hospitality businesses to bear, and consider other measures to support the sector. This must include brokering a solution on rents, with Treasury contributions if necessary, and considering further grants to support businesses to reopen.

“If we can find a solution on rents and get an extension of the grant scheme, this will mitigate much of the impact of the reduced furlough. If we do not, a very difficult Spring would become a disastrous Summer for hospitality.

“We hope the Government bears in mind that many high street businesses will be reopening in the next couple of weeks, whereas hospitality will be forced to survive for an additional month, at the very least, on this reduced form of furlough.”