You might be reading this because your company has put you “on furlough”. Perhaps a friend or family member has had the news.
Or maybe you’re now hearing rumours that furloughed workers might not be able to return to work.
So what exactly does being on furlough mean?
Unpaid leave, more or less. You’re not unemployed because you’re still on your employer’s payroll. In theory, you’re ready to start work again once the economy gets back into gear.
But in the meantime you’re not earning the same level of income or any income.
That can be a problem and that issue will be addressed issue in just a moment.
Just know that if you’re one of those affected, you’re not alone. Entire industries have used this tactic including airlines, hotel chains, department stores and the like. In fact, the retail, hospitality and travel sectors have been hit particularly hard.
Various governments around the world have been supporting furloughed employees, but the level of support and eligibility requirements vary considerably.
If you’re in the UK, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme launched on March 20 will cover 80% of pay up to a maximum of £2,500 per worker per month. There’s no limit on how many full-time or part-time staff can be furloughed, but you must agree to it and your compensation will last no longer than three months starting from March 1. You may not work (even part time) if you wish to qualify.
If you’re in the USA, part of the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package is set aside for the wages of non-working staff who remain on payroll or those who just lost their jobs. Companies will be compensated for two months or more of payroll as long as they don’t lay off workers.
European countries have responded with similar measures to pay workers temporarily out of work, including subsidies as high as 90% of wages in Sweden and 75% in Denmark.
Australia has made wage subsidies as larger as AUD$3,000 a month available for eligible businesses.
Even China is providing 70% of the minimum wage for temporarily suspended workers.
So all this might be fine in the short term, but what about the longer term? What happens to the money if the coronavirus crisis drags on and on?
The short answer is that right now, no one knows. The universal hope is that by the time each scheme ends, restrictions will have lifted and businesses can start paying full salaries again.
However, companies don’t have to keep employees on when furlough ends.
Suppose they don’t. Or can’t. In that case, your job might be in trouble.
And that means the time to start preparing for the worst is now. You’re probably not keen on doing fill-in jobs like picking fruit or other physical labour work because you feel it’s beneath you. Or perhaps health issues prevent you from doing so even if you’re willing.
The alternatives include online training, skilling up, and building self-esteem so you’re ready to go on a job hunt as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait until the hammer drops, after all.
Why waste time doing nothing when you could be getting a good head start on your potential competitors?
That means that even if life is good at home right now – let’s say you’re really enjoy gardening, tidying up, decorating, and de-cluttering – you might want to spend some time ensuring you’re not facing a bad scenario a month or two down the road.
In fact, the pleasant aspects of home working may suit you. Perhaps you really are feeling good about your time at home right now: no commute, longer sleep-ins during the morning, eating your meals at a table rather than on the go and taking your breaks when you please, and so on.
In that case, why not think about working online on a permanent basis? Why not start carving out a niche for yourself during your furlough time?
That niche might be closely related to your current line of work, or it might be something totally different that you have real passion for. What’s your real purpose in life? What do you really enjoy doing that benefits others? What can you offer people that they are willing to pay for?
Even if your job turns out to be safe, thinking these things through and taking action might give you a pleasant sideline of work you can later convert to full-time. It never hurts to be prepared and focused on your talents.
At the very least, consider improving your knowledge, skills and confidence to try something new and ambitious. Even learning how to job hunt is a skill you might want to acquire now, rather than later.
The easiest ways to learn anything is through online learning. Look at Open University, Coursera, EDX, Udemy, Futurelearn, and Google for ideas on what you can learn from home.
Key skills you pick up today might do a lot more than improve your chances of keeping your current job. They might also open the door to a better job than the one you have now.
Use your furlough experience as an opportunity to learn and GROW. It’s so much better to do this when you have the freedom to make your own decisions, rather than have them forced on you. Don’t you agree?
If you need some guidance on the best way forward, do reach out by filling in the form on this page to discover how Career Consultants can help you prepare for a better future NOW.