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Furlough ends: unemployment looms and millions of workers forced to change careers

Furlough ends: unemployment looms and millions of workers forced to change careers
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The furlough scheme protected millions of jobs during lockdown. The scheme came to an end on 30 September, leaving millions threatened with unemployment and thousands being forced to change careers. Are you feeling stuck? How do you get back on your feet? Here’s what you need to know.

What types of workers were furloughed in the UK?

The Office for National Statistics has released a report giving an overview of workers who were furloughed in the UK. The report reveals that:

  • Employees who had GCSEs as their highest qualification were more likely to have been furloughed than their counterparts who held degrees or equivalent qualifications.
  • Almost one in 10 furloughed employees lost their jobs in the three months to June 2021.
  • Half of the employees furloughed for more than three months were more likely to be unemployed by August 2021 when compared with those furloughed for a shorter time.
  • Women were more likely to be furloughed for more than three months (54% compared to 45% of men)
  • 31% of single working parents were affected, compared to 24% of working couples with children.
  • Those under 24 and over 65 were most likely to have been furloughed at some point.
  • Over a fifth of employees who were furloughed and are currently working have changed jobs.

What concerns are workers facing now furlough has ended?

It’s still too early to tell the full impact of the end of the furlough scheme, but the report from the ONS gives clues as to what employees could be facing. Employees who were still furloughed on the final day of the scheme are understandably worried they might end up losing their jobs. And many are even resorting to changing jobs.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, comments, “The question remains, just how many people were still on furlough when the scheme disappeared from underneath them, and what will happen to them next. It’s always harder to find work when you have been away from work for longer, so there’s a real risk they will struggle, especially if they come from an industry which is still on its knees.”

Some industries were severely affected by the pandemic, and it’s likely to take time for them to recover. Employees furloughed for months as their industries shut down are concerned that these industries may never fully recover.

Many of these workers have resorted to finding work in different sectors altogether. However, this means retraining for new roles and possibly facing lower incomes as a result of working at lower grades.

What can employees do to weather the storm?

Many UK households could be facing a difficult winter ahead. Not only has the furlough scheme ended, but so has the £20 weekly top-up to Universal Credit amid rising inflation and energy bills. So, what can employees do to keep their heads above water?

  • Check whether you’re eligible for government benefits, especially Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Universal Credit and the new £500 million Household Support Fund.
  • Assess whether changing jobs or industries makes financial sense for you. Could you afford a short-term drop in salary for long-term job security? Consider your outstanding debts and whether you will be in a position to pay them off if you switch careers.
  • Start building a financial safety net as soon as you can, if you haven’t done so already.

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