Can We Train People During Furlough?

from Silk Helix
Photograph of Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd
8 March 2021
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The furlough scheme has been running in various forms for over a year. A year in which the world has changed, we have found new ways of working and even moved to new products and services. Business won’t just bounce back to the way it was before, even if it did, a year out would leave anyone a little rusty.

Furlough hasn’t come without a cost to the business, even when the government is paying at its highest level. You’ve supported people to stay in employment. The business will benefit from people ready and able to work when the work is available. You can ensure people really are ready and able by providing training, keeping up existing skills as well as developing new ones.

Can we require people to attend training whilst on furlough?

The furlough scheme does allow people to undertake training whilst being paid furlough. There is no requirement under the furlough scheme to top up to full pay during this time, however, you should consider any requirements of the employment contract. The exception being when 80% pay takes the individual below the national minimum wage, in which case they must be topped up to minimum wage for any period of training.

Whilst an individual on furlough is still employed and should be available for work, employers should act reasonably in giving sufficient notice of a requirement to attend training. Training must be run in accordance with government guidance, which is likely to mean remote. Remote may mean live, using technology like zoom or may be able to be run more flexibly.

What training can we offer during furlough?

Training is not limited in its definition, we could use a wider term of learning opportunities. The key under furlough is to ensure the individual is not creating revenue for the business, which does rule out most “on-the-job” learning.

This doesn’t prevent creativity in learning opportunities, the opportunities that are appropriate will depend on the nature of the individual’s role.

Classroom learning is still available with many providers delivering over video technology. This could be particularly useful if people need to develop new skills such as adapting management skills to managing remote workers. E-learning packages are also available and more adaptable to flexible use as they tend to be carried out at a time convenient to the individual.

Learning doesn’t have to be brought in externally. People with the relevant skills within the organisation can deliver training (although delivery of training cannot be done whilst on furlough). There are also many free resources available online suitable for supporting learning new skills.

Work with individuals and their learning style as well as focusing on the skills the business will need going forward to develop a plan that works for both the individual and the business.

Train for confidence

Maintaining skill is as much about maintaining our confidence. The mind is like any other muscle it needs to be exercised regularly. Regular check-ins, keeping people involved and discussing relevant topics can be as beneficial as learning new skills. Ensuring people continue to receive materials they would normally use to keep up to date, industry magazines and newsletters for example, all helps.

Not just about training

As well as having people ready and able to start work again, learning opportunities helps to keep people engaged. A lot has changed for many people during 2021. Attitudes to work and life will have changed. We know even when people are off sick for prolonged periods they get out of the habit of working. When people are not in contact with the team regularly they lose the team loyalty. Providing learning opportunities helps to keep people engaged, it shows you’re focused on moving the business forward and keeps them excited for that future.

Experts in HR for Small Business

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While this guide covers the basics, every situation has its own complexities so you should always seek professional advice. We can help, so call us on 01245 910 500.
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Article last updated: 8 March 2021

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