Small businesses suffer most furlough stress

furloughNew research from absence intelligence company e-days, claims that stress levels have spiked twice in 2020 following the changes to the furlough schemes. These peaks were especially noticeable in organisations with fewer than 250 employees as the effects of the pandemic proved more challenging for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

In April this year when 42 percent of the workforce at companies with fewer than 250 employees were furloughed, only 0.85 percent of leave was stress-related in companies of this size – the lowest figure of the year. However, in July and August, just as the government job retention scheme was updated to allow a more flexible return to work for an increased proportion of the workforce and furlough uptake figures reduced, stress-related absence figures in SMEs grew to 3.4 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Businesses need to prepare for a spring stress spike.”[/perfectpullquote]

The trend carries through to October when, prior to the announcement of a second nationwide lockdown, the furlough scheme was due to end. It was during this month, when uncertainty around the future of many roles within SMEs especially was at a high, that stress-related absence hit its highest peak of 4.3 percent. This figure is made all the more stark when compared to the fact that stress-related absences in organisations with 250+ employees dropped to 1.7 percent – the lowest since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, March this year recorded the highest levels of sickness, compared to data from 2019 which showed January as the highest rates for sickness.

“Businesses need to prepare for a spring stress spike, whereby a number of factors are looking to combine to create the perfect storm for SMEs,” comments CEO of e-days, Steve Arnold.

“Employees returning from furlough, the promise of a springtime vaccine and related appointments, the possibility of reduced rules and a return to normal sickness levels, and the rush to book holidays – this could cause the most dramatic absence management challenge of the pandemic so far. As we approach the end of 2020 it would be wise to review patterns from the year and use them to plan for the year ahead, to ensure absence management strategies are in place to manage shortages in resourcing, as well as wellbeing and productivity among staff.”