50% of employers are topping up employees’ furlough pay

Half (50%) of employers are topping up employees’ furlough pay during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, according to research by Willis Towers Watson.

Its survey of 996 UK and Western Europe employers also found that 71% of employers are taking advantage of government support in their local areas to deal with financial difficulties associated with the current climate.

Just over one-sixth (16%) of organisations have offered voluntary unpaid leave or furlough to interested employees, with a further 11% planning to do so. Additionally, 12% have introduced involuntary unpaid leave, with a further 30% either intending to do so, or considering this option.

Furthermore, one in ten (10%) are offering voluntary work arrangements at reduced pay, while 6% have introduced involuntary work arrangements at reduced pay, with just under one in five (18%) having delayed salary review dates.

Additionally, just over one in 10 (12%) organisations in the corporate industry are considering pay reductions, while 11% in sales and business development are doing so, followed by one in 10 (10%) in operations.

Almost half of executives (47%) and broader employees (46%) believe that their bonus plans have, or will be, affected by the pandemic. Despite this, 43% of enterprise-wide businesses have not yet discussed this, with 28% maintaining these goals and 20% delaying goals.

Additionally, just over one-third (34%) of employers have adjusted their policies towards unused annual leave, while 36% are considering doing so. Just over one in four (43%) are intending to carry forward annual leave for employees, with 40% being unsure of whether they will be doing the same.

Hazel Rees, GB leader, rewards line of business at Willis Towers Watson, said: “As our survey showed, organisations have been managing through the crisis with a focus on reorganising where and how work gets done, providing communication and wellbeing support to employees and managing costs (such as freezing, hiring and pay increases).

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“As anticipated, since the survey for those worst affected, for example the airline industry, we have seen announcements of cost cutting in the form of significant lay-offs. Organisations are now starting to think beyond this into restoring stability. How will work get done for the rest of the year and beyond? How can employees return to work? How can we make the organisation more (cost-) effective and sustain employee commitment and engagement?

“To do this well, organisations will firstly need to listen to their employees to understand their concerns and needs. Secondly, they should review their approach to employee reward and understand whether it is fit for purpose and whether they are getting the best return on investment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they must understand how work can be done more effectively by incorporating new technologies, replacing inefficient processes, for instance with RPA or AI, and creating a more agile and robust entity that can thrive in the post-Coronvairus world.”