Employers’ use of furlough in the UK during Covid-19

Presenters: Mark Stuart, Chris Forde, Chris McLachlan, David Spencer

This webinar is cancelled to be rescheduled for after Easter. Please accept our apologies.


The talk will present initial findings from an online survey of 2000 UK employers’ use of furlough and job retention support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Workforce furloughing has emerged as a distinctive feature of employers’ HR practice during the pandemic, supported in the UK by the government funded Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). While job retention schemes are relatively well-established in other OECD countries as a means to address labour market shocks – such as the 2008 economic crisis – the CJRS represents a novel intervention for the UK’s liberal economic model. Take-up of the CJRS has been high, with 11.2 million jobs having been supported since the start of the scheme (in March 2020). Despite this, relatively little is known about employers’ use of the scheme, how it has supported wider organisational change and HR practices, or how it may influence employers’ working practices in the future. The survey findings reveal a tension between employers’ use of furlough as a means of job retention and as a practice that forms part of a wider range of HR responses to the crisis. Notably, while furlough was seen as an alternative to workplace redundancy this did not in itself prevent employers from laying off workers. The presentation will explore the use of furlough in the context of the wider restructuring of work taking place during the pandemic, including the extent of investment in new forms of digital technology. 


Professor Mark Stuart is the Founding Director of CERIC, Montague Burton Professor of Human Resource Management and Employment Relations, Leeds University Business School Pro Dean for Research. He has  published more than 150 monographs, articles, chapters and reports in the field of employment relations and has attracted more than £10 million of external research income. His current interests focus on Digital innovation and the future of work, and, from 2020, he will co-direct, in collaboration with the University of Sussex, a new research centre Digital Futures at Work (Digit), funded by a £8 million grant from the ESRC. A Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Mark is past President of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA), past Editor-in-Chief of Work, Employment and Society and past Chair of the International Section of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA). He is a sub panel 17 member for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercise, and editorial board member for Human Resource Management Journal and Labour and Industry. He has held visiting positions in Australia (Sydney, Monash, Griffith), America (Cornell), Sweden (NIWL) and France (Toulouse).

Professor Chris Forde. Chris’ research interests look at the changing nature of work, with a particular focus on the areas of temporary agency working job quality and the gig or platform economy. He also conducts research into migration, looking in particular at the experiences of migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees. He has published widely across these interests and has received funding for his research from ACAS, BIS, the European Parliament, the International Labour Organisation, and the Home Office.

Dr Chris McLachlan’s research interests are around the consequences of deindustrialization and restructuring for affected workers and communities, along with the associated industrial relations processes. This has led to an empirical focus on responsible approaches to restructuring in the UK steel industry, examining the different forms of institutional support aimed at ameliorating the negative effects for workers. This research generated insights into the experiences of displaced workers, the role of trade unions in restructuring processes and management strategies.

Professor David Spencer. David’s research interests are in the area of the economics and political economy of work. His published research covers several areas, from theories of work and well-being through to automation and the future of work. He also has broader research interests in political economy and the history of economic thought. He seeks ways to extend the understanding of work in social scientific research and to explore ways in which economics can engage constructively with other disciplines in forging a better understanding of work and social reality more generally.


Please read here about forthcoming CERIC webinars. 

If you would like to join our Mailing List, please email ceric@leeds.ac.uk.