This conference took place on April 8th and with the nature of the changing advice, be aware that any specific advice relating to government policy may be out of date at the time of reading.
To help you get straightforward and reliable answers to your questions on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact, this month at Famly we ran the UK’s first free digital conference on coronavirus and how the early years industry can respond.
One of the three sessions focused on staffing and wellbeing with a particular focus on the intricacies of furlough. During this session, we spoke to Beverley Bacon from The Key Leadership and Imogen Edmunds from Redwing Solutions all about the government guidelines and how to apply furlough to help clear up any confusion. You can check out the key points below or watch the full Famly Sessions event on-demand here.
The government guidelines state that any employee who is put on furlough can not be asked to do any form of work which provides a service or generates revenue for the business. It’s important to stick to these recommendations as Imogen warns that future audits by HMRC are likely to check to make sure businesses did not unfairly take advantage of the scheme. Imogen also mentions that if you can afford to, offering the 20% top up is great for staff morale, however she emphasised that even if you do, it’s not permissible for you to ask them to do any form of work. It is however possible for staff to choose to volunteer and help with conducting some non-revenue generating tasks.
Hopefully your families and staff have close relationships, yet their desire to communicate can put you in a bit of a confusing position when it comes to ‘work’ and furlough. As mentioned though, staff can do some volunteering whilst furloughed and so particularly casual communication with families by means of instant messaging, through apps like Famly, or phone calls is a great way to keep updated.
Imogen makes a helpful comparison with staff on maternity leave – consider the types of communication a staff member may have with families and ensure that your staff are encouraged to check in with families if they would like to.
During this very difficult time, Beverley highlights how important it is to regularly check in with your team to make sure they’re all going well. For furloughed staff these check-ins should be friendly and professional but not focused on work, this also means that official one-on-ones or appraisals are not appropriate. However, setting time aside to see how your staff are doing is a really valuable way to demonstrate that you’re there for them and this will pay off in future. Beverley also recommended a helpful approach to communication which they use at The Key called ‘The Golden Circle of Communication’ to help in structuring your discussions.
The government guidelines suggest that employers should ‘encourage’ their staff to complete training or development courses during their time on furlough. Imogen agrees that this is a great opportunity for staff members to enhance their CPD but reminds managers that staff can only be encouraged, not forced to undertake training. In that regard, she says it’s also important to remember that some staff members might be feeling overwhelmed or have different commitments such as unwell relatives or children at home from school, so maintaining flexible expectations is key.
In March, the government amended the Working Time Regulations 1998 to allow for holiday to be carried over to the following year, meaning that staff have up to two years to take any holiday they have accrued. When it comes to furlough itself, there is no official guidance relating to annual leave, however staff can take annual leave if it’s been booked during their time on furlough and they’d still like to use it.
Imogen recommended against managers enforcing staff to take their leave now during their time on furlough as this is likely to cause discontent among their team and a perception that management do not care about staff members’ lives outside of work.
If you’d like to watch the full virtual conference, including talks from Roopam Carroll and Tricia Wellings on business sustainability as well as Ruth Swailes and Dr. Sue Allingham on home learning, please click here.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.