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Future of Work Q4 2020

After furlough: Three ways employers can act responsibly

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Nicola Inge

Employment and Skills Director, Business in the Community

As the furlough scheme comes to an end, we look at three ways that organisations can act responsibly.

Times are tough and set to get tougher. Redundancies have risen to an 11-year high. The end of the furlough scheme is widely anticipated to trigger a new wave of redundancies, despite the Job Support Scheme waiting in the wings.

For younger and older people, the picture is particularly dark. Experts predict the youth unemployment rate may hit 27% by the end of 2020, as those industries that provide young people with an important start to their careers suffer the greatest blows. Recent statistics show that the employment growth trend for the over-50s that has continued for over a decade has stopped, presenting a worrying outlook.

For responsible businesses, this is not the time to lose sight of your organisation’s purpose. There has never been a more important time to make sure that your purpose and values are baked into every strategic decision.

Here are three ways in which you can mitigate the impact of your tough decisions; make a positive contribution to a young person’s future; and set yourself up for success in the long-term:

1. Restructure responsibly

Employers are balancing the tough economic choices they need to make now, with longer term business success and sustainability. For some, this will mean reducing employee numbers. However, data shows that the burden of COVID-related redundancies is falling disproportionately on diverse groups, with older workers, younger workers, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people and women at particular risk. We cannot allow gains of the last few decades in terms of gender equality, race equality and workplace inclusion to be undone in our response to this crisis.

In our Guide to Responsible Restructures, we call on organisations to understand the demographic make-up of their staff and conduct Equality Impact Assessments to ensure no groups are being unfairly disadvantaged by decisions about redundancies.

We are also asking employers to ensure that they are acting now to develop essential, transferable skills for employees so those at risk are better placed to succeed if their futures lie outside their business.

There has never been a more important time to make sure that your purpose and values are baked into every strategic decision.

2. Kickstart new careers

Against the backdrop of a rising tide of youth unemployment, the government launched its Kickstart Scheme to create opportunities for meaningful work experiences for young people. Kickstart enables employers to provide six-month paid placements for 16-24 year olds at risk of long-term unemployment. The government pays their wages in return for a quality experience of work from employers. A critical component to ensure a quality work placement is to offer participants the means, motive, and support to develop their essential, transferable skills.

The Skills Builder Universal Framework sets out the eight essential skills that everyone needs to succeed in work. It provides a common language for supporting young people in education, as well as employers in their recruitment, and learning and development programmes. If you are planning to engage with Kickstart, this framework will help young people develop the skills they need.

3. Make every opportunity count

Whilst recruitment has slowed dramatically across most sectors, for some businesses the challenge of responding to COVID-19 is leading to a greater demand for employees rather than a reduction. There is a real opportunity for those employers who are still recruiting to tap into a diverse workforce by working with partners to reach those who may otherwise find it difficult to access the opportunities available. And if employers are serious about attracting a diverse workforce, they need to scrutinise their recruitment processes and remove barriers, such as jargon or the criminal records tick-box

These are difficult times. But we all have a role and a responsibility to make sure we’re taking difficult decisions responsibly and maximising every opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s futures.

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