September 17, 2021
With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) coming to an end, should you start looking for a new job now or wait it out?
If we look at some figures released recently, it seems that just 11% of workers have begun the search in earnest, which is a much lower figure than anticipated. As for the job market, there are far more vacancies than before the pandemic, so the lack of activity is not down to a shortage of supply.
People still on furlough
If we look at the number of people still on furlough, half of them are not actively seeking a new role. But what is the reason for this? It appears that 71% are sitting tight, expecting that when the furlough scheme ends, they will be able to return to their pre-pandemic position. 12% don’t feel okay about going back to the office due to the presence of Covid-10 and 6% are involved with looking after a family.
The research also revealed that those who are looking for jobs are taking their time and preferring to wait for the ideal position to come along. 17% are finding that they can cope with their spouses’ or partner’s salary, hence there is no need to return to work quickly.
Employers are struggling
The problem is that this laid-back attitude of job seekers is resulting in a problem, with businesses’ vacancies exceeding the number of candidates. Employers are finding themselves in a difficult position, unable to find suitable staff to fill posts. However, this scenario is bound not to last; there are nearly two million people currently on furlough and the likelihood is that many will be disappointed when it ends, finding that they will not be returning to their previous role. Some might be relying on the financial support currently on offer from the government, feeling that there is no need to rush as they can bide their time without an income. The truth is, even this will gradually be eroded, resulting in a sudden need to find a suitable job.
Finding a new job before the end of furlough
But is the current feeling amongst the UK workforce the best one and is being picky about your next job move the best bet? Maybe not. Those currently on furlough are in effect on a form of unpaid leave, possibly receiving benefits. For some, perks of the job will continue, such as health insurance. Finding a new job before the end of the furlough scheme might be the wisest decision, particularly if there is going to be a sudden surge of people hitting the market when current jobs cease to exist. Looking for a new job now can help you to beat the rush. All of us know that looking for a job whilst you already have one is far less stressful than waiting until you are unemployed, plus you will have your pick of the ‘cream of the crop’ of new positions.
Can you legally seek work whilst on furlough?
The answer is yes, as a furlough is not a legally binding contract. All it means is that your employer ‘intends’ to rehire you, but there is no end date. If you want to avoid being left without a job, it might make far more sense to look around at what other posts are available whilst still on furlough.
In fact, for those receiving unemployment benefits, you are supposed to be actively seeking work to qualify. By keeping an eye on the job market and scanning for suitable vacancies whilst still on furlough, you can be ready to move should you find yourself out of work.
It also pays to bear in mind that some employers might restrict the type of work you can look for, such as looking at a role with a direct competitor. This is more likely to be the case if you are still receiving benefits, such as a company car or health insurance. If you want to be sure that you are not contradicting the terms of your furlough, check with the company HR department. They should be sympathetic, particularly if it looks as if you will not be able to continue working with that organisation.
Taking another job whilst on furlough
If you take another job whilst on furlough, even a part-time position, you will have to report your earnings to Jobcentre Plus. The amount may be deducted from your benefit or you might be able to keep a percentage before your income is reduced. Much depends upon how many hours or days you work so if you are not sure, check online or speak to your local JSA department.
Some employees are unsure as to whether or not they can quit their current job entirely whilst on furlough. You can certainly do this if you find a replacement job elsewhere. Do remember however that when you leave your job voluntarily, you will no longer be able to claim unemployment benefits.
So now we can answer our question: “Is waiting until the end of furlough for a new job the right move?” The reply has to be that much depends upon your circumstances. If you have a partner working, their income may act as a cushion so you don’t have to rush so much to guarantee you have enough to live on. However, if there seems to be some doubt about your current job continuing after furlough, and you are the sole breadwinner, beginning your job search early makes sense. With most people seeming to prefer to sit back and see what happens, the current job market is tough for employers and good for employees. Fast forward a few weeks to the end of furlough on 30th September and you might find yourself caught up in the rush of candidates, all aiming for the best positions.
The pandemic has caused chaos and confusion the world over, so it is no wonder that those in the UK job market are feeling insecure. Take a look at your current situation and where you expect to be by the time furlough ends. If a job move seems to be on the cards, better to begin looking for work now, rather than later.
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