Employers Predict Most Furloughed Workers Will Return by Q1 2021

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Were you one of the many employers that brought workers back in late spring, only to furlough or lay them off in early summer due to rising rates of the coronavirus? If so, you’re not alone, but now that your workers have been furloughed again the next question becomes: when can we really bring them back?


A majority of North American employers expect that most of their furloughed workers will return to work by the first quarter (Q1) of 2021; however, relatively few employers expect this to be the case for laid-off employees. Although employers expect to have significantly more remote workers in the future compared with last year, many have yet to develop policies to encourage working from home. These are among the findings from Willis Towers Watson’s latest COVID-19 employer survey.

According to the survey, 55% of respondents expect most (at least three out of four) of their furloughed employees to be back at work by the first quarter of next year; however, just one in six (16%) expect to rehire most of their laid-off workers by then.

“One of the myriad of challenges employers face as they begin to restore stability in a post-COVID-19 era is deciding which employees to bring back to work and when,” says Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director, Willis Towers Watson—in a press release. “While those decisions will ultimately depend on public health and economic recovery, employers will also need to adapt to having a larger percentage of remote workers, and this will fundamentally change their culture.”


Looking ahead, employers expect that the proportion of their workforce who are full-time employees working from home (19%) will be less than half of current levels (44%) but nearly three times what it was last year (7%).

Despite the expectation of a greater proportion of employees working from home, many employers have not yet taken steps to address this shift. Less than two in 10 employers (19%) have changed policies to encourage more remote work although 60% are planning or considering doing so.

Only two in 10 (20%) have provided tools and resources to employees who may work remotely long term, although two-thirds (66%) are planning or considering doing so. And just one in 10 respondents (10%) have acted to offer employees subsidies to manage costs of working remotely while nearly three times as many (29%) are planning or considering doing so.

Employers, however, are making changes to how work is being done because of the pandemic and its subsequent economic effects. Roughly eight in 10 employers (79%) made adjustments to reflect the new protocol while more than half (58%) adjusted to the definition of the role of the workplace and what work should be primarily done onsite versus remotely. And nearly three in 10 employers (29%) made changes to move work to different jobs…

Source: HR Daily Advisor

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