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The benefits of training and development during furlough 


The last few weeks have seen much confusion surrounding the extension of the furlough scheme and its less favourable replacement, the JSS (Job Support Scheme), announced by the government.  

Initially, the JSS was intended to replace furlough as England emerges from lockdown in December, a source of concern for employers having to close their doors and salvage funds in preparation for the new support scheme, which would see some significant differences to the original furlough. Fortunately for many, it was recently announced that the Job Support Scheme will not be coming into effect this tax year and the Job Retention Bonus has also been scrapped. 


Understanding the furlough extension 


Furlough will remain open until 31 March 2021, however the government will review the policy in January to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more. For now, the good news is that employers across the UK can claim, whether their businesses are open or closed. 

For claim periods running to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.  


The impact of furlough on business 

Reduced staff means reduced productivity, which may result in a lack of skills in critical business areas with inadequate funds to support recruitment to fill the gaps. This is where skills training is critical to the current strategy of SMEs, because it allows employers to redeploy employees at risk of redundancy, with mutual benefit to both the business and the individual.  

Redundancy is not always an avoidable option, but it in many circumstances this can be avoided by reskilling at-risk employees to benefit the business in different ways. 


What can employees do while on furlough? 


So, we’re back in lockdown, winter is settling in fast and employees are facing yet another peak period of unavoidable alone time. But rather than allowing your furloughed workforce to sit anxiously in wait about the uncertainty of their future, there are important, preparatory actions that employers should be supporting and encouraging to maintain morale and activity among employees. 

Under the current furlough scheme, employees can take part in trainingvolunteer for another employer or organisation and even work for another employer (if contractually allowed), the main point being that employees can still work on upskilling, reskilling and maintaining focus during this downtime.  

Scott Young, Director of Corporate Services at RedEye Ltd. says, “We've encouraged everyone on furlough to use our LinkedIn learning subscription and collaborate on the modules they are completing. We've also given them continued access to our internal career coaches and continued their participation in our accredited ILM management training programme. Better skills make a better business.” 

Continued training and development for furloughed staff not only encourages good morale and motivation but is a key contributing factor to assisting employers in the assessment of redeployment needs, business restructure and in safely diverting unnecessary redundancies.  


Communicating with furloughed employees 


It is important for employers to maintain steady communication with furloughed employees to support company loyalty and engagement, to nurture the wellbeing of furloughed staff and to ensure a smooth transition in the return to work. 

The government guidance on furloughed staff does not currently address work email use, however it is recommended that in order to avoid jeopardising the claim, employees should be contacted via a personal email address. It has also been advised that furloughed employees be given an HR contact to communicate through, should they have any HR-related questions or concerns.  


How Skills for Growth – SME Support can help 


Through our fully funded skills support programme, over 4000s employers and 17,000 individuals have access to one-on-one coaching from our skills and strategy advisory team members who will guide you through the process of finding the right skills training provider or training programme for you or your team.  

In conjunction with local authorities, we will also support applications for apprenticeship opportunities and in generating roles through the Kickstart scheme, aimed at getting 16-24-year olds into work. On top of this we are offering health and wellbeing coaching to ensure that employers and employees alike remain positive throughout this difficult winter period and continue to nurture relationships within the team.  

Our team of coaches are here to guide you through every step of the way through your journey in skills training, redeployment strategy, recruitment strategy and in the worst case scenario, through redundancy preparation, but via the combined efforts of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Chamber, GC Business Growth Hub and our dedicated Skills for Growth – SME Support team, there is no case we can’t help. 

It may feel easier to drop the ball during the extended furlough and lockdown period, but with a vaccine for Covid-19 on the horizon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We must not stop, and we must not give up hope, instead we must keep striving for that bright future by proactively investing time and resources into developing the right skills and strategy for the brave new world we are heading for. 


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The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years. 

This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.  

Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit 

About the author

Dawn Duggan

Dawn Duggan

Dawn has been with the Business Growth Hub since September 2014 and is responsible for the design, delivery and evaluation of the People, Skills & Talent Programme which include the Executive Development Programme, Workforce Development, Inclusive Growth, Mentoring, National Be the Business Mentoring for Growth Programme and Skills for Growth – SME Support.