- Start date: 1 December 2020
- End date: 31 March 2021
- Principal investigator: Professor Mark Stuart
- Co-investigators: Professor David Spencer, Professor Christopher Forde, Dr Chris Mclachlan (Cranfield University).
The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound effect on the UK labour market. The government sought to protect the labour market through the first national lockdown via the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS – also known as the furlough scheme).
A novel initiative in the context of UK labour market policy, the CJRS has offered employers wage support of up to 80 per cent to cover the furlough of workers. Evidence suggests the furlough scheme has been well received by business groups – including the Confederation of British Industry and the Trade Union Congress – and in financial terms it has constituted the most significant response by the government to the COVID-19 crisis.
Take-up of the scheme has been high, with nearly 12 million claims, and at the peak of the first lockdown nearly a third of the UK labour market was on furlough, helping to prevent a large-scale increase in unemployment.
The CJRS went through a number of changes, revisions and extensions before finishing at the end of September 2021.
Our research looked at employers’ use of the scheme, as well as their perceptions about the future. Uncertainty around the scheme impacted employers’ planning. As the scheme evolved, redundancy levels began to increase as the economy re-opened. Problematically, there was little evidence-base to guide policy makers in terms of employers’ use of furlough (as part of the CJRS or outside it), their experiences and expectations of its effects, their preferences for job support, or their future employment plans beyond furloughing.
In our research, we conducted the first national survey of employers’ use of furlough and the CJRS in the UK. The sample was 2000 employers in the UK, including firms of all sizes and across all sectors. The survey explored firms’ responses to COVID-19, their perceptions and attitudes towards planning, recruitment, retention and HRM, and their use of furlough and the CJRS. The survey was distributed in February and March 2021. Findings were summarised in our report, published in April 2021.
Our employers’ survey generated vital new primary evidence on the use of furlough and the CJRS, generating an evidence base of significant interest to policy makers and external beneficiaries.
Ongoing research in CERIC is exploring employers’ job retention strategies during and beyond the crisis.
Publications and outputs
Furloughing and COVID-19: assessing regulatory reform of the state, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, https://doi.org/10.1093/cjres/rsac026
- “Furloughing and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”, final report, April 2021
- “COVID-19 and the uncertain future of HRM: Furlough, job retention and reform”, Human Resource Management Journal, July 2021
- “Furlough and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”, Research and Innovation Podcast, October 2021
This work was supported with funding from Research England QR-SPF (01/12/20 – 31/03/21).