AROUND 11.5million jobs have been supported by the furlough scheme that the government introduced early in the Covid crisis.

At its peak in May 2020, 8.6m people were furloughed at once.

That number has fallen sharply as large parts of the economy have reopened, with 2.2m on furlough towards the end of May.

But employers are being required to contribute more to the costs of keeping staff furloughed this summer, and the scheme is due to end entirely at the end of September.

Many of those still on furlough will naturally be concerned about whether they will be going back to work at all – and how they should begin the job hunt if they are not brought back.

The big picture

Unemployment is at levels we would have found shocking a couple of years ago.

As of April, there were 14,814 people out of work and on Universal Credit in the BCP Council area and 9,386 in Dorset Council’s patch – far more than double the previous year’s figure in both cases.

Young people bore the worst of it, with the figure for 18-24 year-olds up 144 per cent to 2,369 in BCP and up 187 per cent to 1,706 in the Dorset Council area.

But there were some positives, with more vacancies cropping up, especially in the hospitality sector as it prepared for reopening.

Nationally, the rate of unemployment fell slightly from January to March, while the number of people on payrolls rose 97,000 from March to April. The Bank of England expects unemployment to peak at 5.5 per cent, rather than the 7.75 per cent previously forecast.

Bournemouth Echo:

Frances Miles, right, and Tracey Wood of Jobshop UK

Frances Miles, director at Bournemouth-based recruitment specialist Jobshop UK, said: “As we continue to navigate the pandemic, the good news is, according to the latest Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC) JobsOutlook survey, the market is very buoyant and at an eight-year high.

“Additionally, in the three months to April 2021, employers’ confidence in hiring for their own business rose to the highest level since June 2016. All industries seem to be recruiting, and there’s still an on-going shortage of IT staff and drivers.”


What should you do if you don’t think you’ll be going back to work?

Bournemouth Echo:

“If you think your employer is not going to take you back following furlough, your emotions will be running high, and you will need time to process the situation and also make a plan to move forward,” said Frances Miles.

“Try to look on the positive side. This could be an opportunity to change your career, or maybe re-evaluate your lifestyle and what’s important to you moving forward.

“Firstly, look at your finances. How much money do you need and what help is available?

“Put together a daily and weekly schedule – you’ll feel better if you’re being proactive and have some structure to your day. Set yourself a daily or weekly target for applying for jobs, making calls to agencies and checking career pages on websites of companies you’d like to work for.

“Start talking to friends who may be able to help you build up your professional network and contacts, and remember to update your CV and LinkedIn profile. We’d always advise having a chat with a professional recruiter who will be able to look at your transferable skills. You may be surprised at how the things you have learnt in one industry can be easily adapted into another sector entirely, opening doors into careers you may not have thought possible previously.”


Where can I get help?

Bournemouth Echo:

As soon as you are under notice of redundancy, it is worth contacting JobCentre Plus.

Even before you are out of work and entitled to benefits, its advisers can point you towards help with job-hunting skills, CV tips and vacancies.

The government has doubled the number of work coaches attached to jobcentres.

For young people, who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis, the government has introduced the Kickstart Scheme. It provides six-month placements for people at risk of long-term unemployment, with the government contributing the cost of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week.

The government’s Job Help site offers tips on job-hunting and improving your skills. Its Skills Toolkit site brings together support from the likes of Google Digital Garage, Lloyds Bank and Open University.

What should I tell an employer about my time on furlough?

The rules of the furlough scheme forbid an employer from using you to provide services or make money.

For many people, that has left a long period in which all they could legally do for their current employer was undertake training. You could also work for another employer, or do voluntary work.

That might mean you feel the pressure to show you have done something useful with the enforced leisure time.

Hannah Sills, head of permanent and specialist recruitment at Poole recruitment business TeamJobs, said: “If you can demonstrate a way that presents your own initiative and drive, that can help become your differentiator.

“You don’t have to focus in on something that represents the industry you are within, but anything that shows your attitude, willingness and motivation. It can become a fantastic ice breaker if you have retrained, produced something creative, supported others or produced something that is relatable from cake making to writing.”

Many people, though, will be wishing they could turn back time and emerge from furlough with more achievements to show for it. But it may be worth giving yourself a break.

“Let’s not forget that it is perfectly okay to not demonstrate your resourcefulness and creativity during furlough,” Hannah Sills added.

“To many people, this has been the toughest period of their lives that they have struggled to get through.

“Employers need to be appreciative that it has been hard and extra pressure does not need to be put on candidates. Becoming a part of the flow of conversation is much better than having it as a specific question.”

Job-hunting can be daunting, whether this is the first recession you have lived through or whether you are a veteran of previous downturns.

Frances Miles of Jobshop UK added: “Above all, don’t give up. Keep going, stay focused, and remain positive. You’re job searching in a candidate market, so there is everything to look forward to, and plenty of assistance to help you find your next role.”

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