Furlough. A word none of us knew existed at the start of 2020 that now rolls of the tongue like we’ve been speaking it since our mouths first uttered words.
Yet, for many in the early years, we’re going to start using it a little less. With the reopening of many providers in England, a lot of staff will be coming off furlough, back into the setting in a staged restart.
And it really matters how we do that.
Imogen Edmunds, one of the UK’s most reliable early years HR experts, is calling it ‘Reboarding’, and she’s making a strong case for having it at the centre of your reopening plans. It’s about handling your team with compassion and care, to make sure they’re ready deal with the tricky road that’s ahead of all of us.
I spoke to Imogen over Zoom just before providers opened up in the UK, about furlough, what we currently know, how to handle your staff with compassion and care, and what reboarding might look like. If you want to see the full interview, just click here to scroll to the bottom of the page, or read on for key takeaways.
If you want more information, Imogen’s company Redwing Solutions are offering a fantastic reboarding pack to help support your efforts. You can find it here.
We started our discussion with what reboarding actually is.
Put simply, it’s the notion that we need to support our staff in getting back to work, and understanding how best to do that. According to Imogen, it includes the formal processes we need to follow, but most importantly it’s the way we support our staff’s wellbeing, how we safely get back up and running.
In this clip, Imogen explains the latest furlough guidance, that the scheme has been extended in its current form until the end of June, and that from July employers will be expected to contribute until the end of October.
There is more information coming from Rushi Sunak over the next week, and his announcement is the one to watch out for to understand the latest guidance.
Given recent surveys of parents, and anecdotal evidence, it seems very unlikely any setting will be going back to full occupancy right away.
With that in mind, there’s some careful rota planning needed. Imogen recognises this is a big challenge, particularly when parents should be able to cancel with no notice if, for example, a child has a raised temperature.
That’s why it’s important to work with your staff to work out who wants to come back, and who is more wary. “The overriding advice is to talk to your staff,” Imogen recommends. That might mean understanding who is keen and who is not. If that’s the case, ask why, and you’ll be able to problem-solve so much more effectively.
It might be as simple as offering some childcare options for their own children, or even just explaining the procedures you’ve put in place. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.
In this clip, Imogen explains why it’s so important to make staff wellbeing and comfort your top priority.
You need to recognise that, just like the children, staff will have had a very different experience of lockdown. You need to be sensitive to those staff that could have suffered financial difficulty, bereavement, or simply struggled with the changes to their lives.
Imogen recommends one-on-one calls with all staff, as not everyone wants to air their feelings in front of the whole team at a staff meeting. That way you can address individual concerns and find solutions.
“If you don’t focus on your staff, you could end up with a wonderful set of policies, but no staff in your setting to look after your children,” Imogen points out.
At the very end of our discussion, starting at around 27:50, Imogen and I discuss those difficult conversations – holiday, reducing hours, and even the prospect of lay-offs.
Imogen rightly points to the importance of getting professional advice before you go down this route. Once you’ve pressed the button on those conversations, she says, you can’t go back. You risk damaging your relationships, and it’s best to be absolutely clear before you going down that road.
Here’s the full half hour interview with Imogen, where she and I discuss:
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.