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What You Need to Know About Training Your Employees on Furlough

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You’re probably well aware by now of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, popularly known as the Furlough scheme, but there have been a number of changes since its creation in March of 2020 and clarifications from the government on what is and isn’t allowed under the scheme.

One of the parts of the scheme that will be of most interest to learning and development departments and HR, beyond ensuring your employees are supported financially during this difficult time for business, is whether your employees can take part in training while on furlough and what are the rules around this.

But before we get into the specifics of the scheme when it comes to training, let’s just cover the basics of what the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme currently means for companies.

The scheme is currently scheduled to run until April 2021, and companies can currently claim up to 80% of the wages for employees on furlough while they are not working. This claim can be up to £2,500 per month per employee.

While on furlough, employees cannot provide services to the company or do any work that provides revenue to the company. This essentially means that most employees would be unable to work for their employer in any normal capacity while they are on furlough and being paid by the government’s job retention scheme.

What is allowed during furlough?

An important caveat to this rule is employees undergoing training while on furlough. The government has clarified since the start of the scheme that furloughed employees can engage in training even during those hours that they are being recorded as being on furlough ‘as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.’.

Employees taking part in training must be paid at least the minimum wage for any time they spend training while on furlough, but in most cases the 80% of their wages paid by the government while on furlough would cover this.

An exception to this would be in the case of a furloughed employee taking part in a full time training course for an entire month who is being paid minimum wage. In this case, it is likely that the payment from the government would not cover their full time spent training, and the difference would need to be paid by the employer. More information on the minimum wage requirements of the scheme can be found on the .gov website linked earlier.

So, now we’ve established that it’s allowed, and even encouraged by the government for employees on furlough to take part in training, what training can employees undertake while on training and what are the benefits of employees taking training while on furlough?

What type of training is allowed?

What you need to know about training your employees on furlough

The type of training that can take place under the furlough scheme isn’t specified, which means most companies are assuming that any type of training can take place. This is fair to assume based on the government guidelines, but it’s important to consider the pandemic itself. This is probably not the best time to be conducting or sending employees on face-to-face training courses.

This leaves us with virtual classroom and elearning as the two most common types of training that employees are likely to undertake, but it isn’t the only type of training they can do. Without necessarily directly connecting to a job role, there are also more informal places to help your employees upskill; YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, educational online courses and reading.

Training for the company’s benefit

While you can’t ask employees to provide a service to the company or work in a revenue generating capacity, employees can undergo training or learning that is necessary for them to carry out their job role such as:

  • Equality and Diversity training
  • Fire safety
  • Manual handling
  • Anti-bribery
  • Sales training

All of these can be seen as having as much, if not more, benefit to the company itself than the employee taking the training; so it’s important to ensure that when you’re communicating with employees on furlough, that you’re not asking them to do too much while they may feel isolated from the company. That’s why it’s really important to also provide the type of training that benefits the employee more than the company itself.

Training for the employee’s benefit

There are a number of ways that you can train your employees for their own personal and professional development that sits outside the standard compliance-based training that they may be used to ask to complete by the company. Some potential types of courses that could benefit your employees are:

  • Mental Health Awareness and Resilience training: successive lockdowns and lack of social contact is clearly taking its toll on the nation’s mental health. Giving your employees the tools to help combat this and aid their resilience to stress will not only help now, but will put them in good stead when they return to work.
  • Skills acquisition: almost every role and employee can benefit from acquiring new skills, even if they’re only tangentially related to their job role. Common popular skills acquisition training includes learning to code or soft skills such as communication and leadership training.

The benefits are clear

The benefits to your company of employees having new or improved skills are numerous. It helps to retain your employees even after they’ve been furloughed, and it also helps to attract talent in the future by showing you remained committed to their professional development even during a time when they could not work.

There’s also the personal benefits of employees learning new skills, and there’s a lot of evidence that shows this can have a positive effect on employee engagement and happiness in the workplace, including helping them to keep their ‘work brain’ engaged whilst away from work.

It’s also an opportunity to show your employees that the company has their best interests at heart and they are willing to put in the time and money to ensure that even in the worst of times, your employees can continue to grow and develop.

Getting your training out to your employees during furlough

If you’re looking at developing elearning for your employees while they’re on furlough, or need a way of delivering that training to your employees in a super simple way, Nimble might be just the tool you need. Whether it’s our easy to use, learner-focused authoring tool, Nimble Author, or our incredibly simple learning management system, Nimble LMS, we’re here to help you when you need it.

Nimble is a provider of elearning tools and courses that make it super simple to deliver engaging learning to your employees quickly and easily.