The many faces of furlough: from effective allocation to job-loss fears

New figures from HMRC show that the Government’s furlough scheme has been effective in allocating help to lower income areas of the UK, says accountants and business advisors, Moore.

They come as another report shows that seven in 10 furloughed workers fear they won’t have a job this time next year – an increase of 40 per cent compared to those currently employed and working.according to Google’s social change charity.

Moore says that employees in the 20 areas of the country with the highest use of the scheme receive an average weekly wage of £576, compared with an average wage of £717 per week for the 20 areas of the country receiving the least support.

Blackpool South, fifth in a table of 632 constituencies using it, has the second-lowest average weekly wage in the UK at £450 and is a leader in other measures of economic stress such as personal insolvency rates.

Before the pandemic, the economically weakest part of the country would have had a high percentage of their exiting in jobs in retail and leisure, including pubs – exactly the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19 and most in need of the furlough.

Sue Lucas: good first aid measure

Areas with the highest use of the scheme include Ealing Southall and Feltham & Heston, both close to Heathrow Airport where many thousands of workers have been furloughed by airlines and the airport itself. Crawley, close to Gatwick Airport, is also in the Top 10.

The areas with lowest furlough use include wealthy parts of London, such as Hampstead, Islington, Westminster and Richmond. Moore says that this is likely to be driven by higher employment rates in sectors less impacted by the lockdown and furloughing, such as financial services and IT. Sue Lucas, Partner at Moore, said: “The furlough scheme looks like it is doing a good job in allocating assistance to many of the financially weakest parts of the country.

“While there is much work left to do for both businesses and the Government in bringing employees back from furlough and avoiding redundancies, as a ‘first aid’ measure, the scheme can be judged a success so far.”

See also: Furlough fraudsters given time to come clean

The job-fear findings come from the social change charity, Good Things Foundation, which has been funded by Google’s philanthropic arm to deliver the Make It Click programme, which forms part of the Government’s Skills Toolkit.

A nationally-representative poll of more 2,000 UK adults found that only four per cent of those furloughed are not concerned about their longer-term job prospects and just under half (46%) expect to still have a job and be paid the same as before in six months.

the uncertainty furloughed workers are facing is causing them significant stress and hardship

Many have taken steps to improve their employment prospects: 45 per cent have already started searching or plan to search for a new role and almost seven in ten (67%) are keen to learn additional skills.

Online and IT skills top the list of work skills those furloughed want to master, with more than half thinking they are important for their future career. More than a fifth say they have already improved their online/IT skills since Lockdown to make them more employable and a further 23 per cent are planning to improve them.

Debra Smyth, a 33-year-old single mum from Belfast, is currently furloughed from her job as an office manager for a bus tour company. Worried about her future job prospects, she has been using the programme to learn how to look for jobs online and to learn about website security.

Debra said: “I can get very anxious because of the current situation, but the Make It Click courses have helped me to focus. They have given me a sense of purpose; it’s something I have done for me. It’s empowered me to have goals and I have started writing a blog about my experience.”

Helen Milner, chief executive of Good Things Foundation said: “This is a stressful time for many people, but the uncertainty furloughed workers are facing is causing them significant stress and hardship.

“It’s common for people who have been in the same job or industry for some time to be comfortable using the software or digital tools they need for their current role. However, if they’re missing out on other aspects of digital know-how they’re at a huge disadvantage when job hunting.”