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    Supporting furloughed workers

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    In these times of uncertainty and worry, employers want to do all they can to support their employees. Though many organisations have had no choice but to furlough staff, this can potentially impact employees’ mental health.

    supporting furloughed workers

    Connecting your people with essential support and resources could not only make a difference to their immediate wellbeing, but play a crucial role in helping to prevent mental ill-health issues in the long term.

    We’ve collated vital resources and consulted key partners to provide a list of practical financial, health and wellbeing, home and relationship support to help your furloughed workforce tackle the difficulties they may be facing during the COVID-19 outbreak.


    Employees are likely to be concerned about job uncertainty and unknown timescales, so it’s important your communication is regular, clear and transparent. Always stick to the facts and avoid making false promises.

    They may also be worried about finances, something which can have significant knock-on effects, so helping them access support and advice may be critical during this time.

    How can you support your employees?

    Remind them that they may be eligible for additional benefits and signpost them to the following resources for support with other expenses:

    Health and wellbeing

    Being furloughed, sudden full-time carer responsibilities, adhering to ‘lockdown’ rules, compounded by prolonged period of uncertainty are all factors that pose a significant risk to mental health.  These create a lack of purpose and routine, reduced social interactions, and increased stress and anxiety which can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing.               

    How can you support your employees?

    Mental wellbeing:

    • Employees can still access LifeWorks, our Employee Assistance Programme service which provides support on a wide range of wellbeing topics including counselling, resilience, mindfulness and meditation.

    • Help@hand from Unum offers access to a remote GP service and mental health services for employees and their families at no extra cost (available to employees insured under Unum’s Group Income Protection policy).

    • The NHS’ Every Mind Matters website has support for anyone experiencing difficulty with their mental health. This site includes self-management resources as well as urgent support for those in crisis.

    • Encourage employees to maintain a daily routine that can include exercise, eating healthily and using technology to connect with other. See MIND for further information on looking after your mental health and wellbeing. Stay informed. but not too informed. Find a credible source you can trust such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and fact check information you get from newsfeeds, social media or from other people.

    • Our Mental Health hub has a number of resources to help employers and employees manage mental health, including our Mental Health Pathway, which can deliver services and support aligned to your specific requirements.

    Other ways employees can help their wellbeing is to do things they enjoy, learn something new, and take time to relax and focus on the present.

    Physical wellbeing:

    To help maintain physical wellbeing during lockdown, encourage employees to eat healthily, limit their alcohol intake and take advantage of the chance to go out for exercise once per day, or use one of the many online exercise apps or videos. Other useful physical activities can include housework or gardening. And setting goals can also act as a motivator. 

    • The NHS fitness centre provides free exercises classes and numerous free workouts can be found online.

    • Tips, advice and guidance on how to keep or get active in and around your home with Sport England #stayinworkout

    Find purpose:

    For those people who are well and able, there are still volunteering opportunities available, which can help your employees maintain a sense of purpose and contribute where possible:

    • Covid Mutual Aid – where local communities come together to offer support to each other.

    • Other groups for good volunteering opportunities include:

      • Volunteering Matters
      • Do 
      • Reach volunteering - for employees with specific professional skills to offer
      • Red Cross Reserves - co-ordinating efforts to support public services.
      • Independent Age - provides advice and support for older people. Telephone volunteering is home based and is as easy as having a 30-minute to an hour chat with an old person, weekly or fortnightly.
      • United Nations Volunteers – change the world through online volunteering. UN Volunteers connects you with humanitarian and development organisations in need of skills like research, writing, art, and design. Opportunities from one hour per week and up.

    Home and relationships 

    You may or may not know about your employees’ home situation and whether being furloughed puts them in a more vulnerable situation. If possible, it’s recommended that a relevant manager keeps in touch with staff about their wellbeing, but where this isn’t possible, here are some essential resources:

    • Covid-19 Mutual Aid community resources offers support for people in vulnerable groups that include migrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with autism, and those affected by domestic violence.

    • For carers of the elderly or those categorised as highly vulnerable, visit Carers UK

    • If people are worried about elderly relatives, they can keep in touch with them via telephone and video apps.  

    • Support for working parents – COVID-19 guide for parents

    • Access to Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services which can match an individual’s needs to local services specific to the home or domestic issue. Your employee may also be eligible for relationship support/counselling via the EAP, or again, they can connect the individual with a local support service.

    If you are a Unum policyholder, click here to find out about support from Unum.

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