#82: No, being furloughed should not influence recruitment

This episode is based on LinkedIn poll which asked the question: "Will you be judging jobseekers on whether or not they were furloughed during the pandemic?"

I talk about my own response to the question and explore reasons why a "yes" response may be provided.

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Published: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 16:01:31 GMT



Hello and welcome back to The Better ROI from Software Development podcast.

In this episode, I want to talk about a question that was asked on LinkedIn. It was asked as a poll and asked the question, when recruiting should whether an employee had been furloughed impact any decisions.

The writer of the question was quite obviously quite biased in their thought process. They phrased it very much as someone had suggested, and the answers they gave were:


"No, of course not."

And "What on earth?"

I'm very pleased to say, at the time at least I saw the poll, that nobody had actually selected "Yes".

The majority had selected "No, of course not". And with a number of obviously clicking on the "What on earth?".

And reading through the comments, they all followed a similar vein of why would this make a difference? This seems an incredibly inappropriate thing to use as part of the recruitment process, and I have to agree with them.

It doesn't seem an appropriate thing to use during recruitment, but it did get me thinking as to why at some point somebody had obviously thought that it was probably a good idea to actually use that furlough information.

So I wanted to explore as to what those possible motivations could be.

Are they potentially making assumptions? By being furloughed, are they assuming that the employee wasn't valued by the organisation? I'm not sure how we'd know that.

It could be that the organisation was just purely in a difficult position to operate during the Covid-19 situation.

Maybe they furloughed their entire workforce. Maybe they only furloughed a portion as a cost saving exercise.

I think it's very difficult to make an assumption that because an employee was furloughed that they weren't critical enough to the business's operation.

Maybe we're assuming a furloughed employees lazy. Although I can't see how.

During the crisis, during the global pandemic, it's been a difficult time for everyone. And I can't see how you can attribute laziness to someone that's been furloughed, it isn't their decision.

They are furloughed as a result of their organisation.

And I'm also not a great believer that they should have used the time to write a book or learn a new language or maybe master the violin.

Asking somebody what they did during furlough seems unfair.

During such a difficult time for everyone; the worries about your own health, your family's health, your future prospects and, if you've been furloughed, whether you even have a job to go back to, potentially having to live on greatly reduced wages.

Yes, you might be getting 80% of your wages. And many people might think, wow, by the time you haven't had to commute and do everything, it probably balances out. That's not always true.

Not all jobs are being paid directly out of wages, some of them a commission based. You can't make that assumption that just because they were being paid 80% that they were happy, they were content, they were capable of being able to support and maintain the lifestyle for them and their family.

Plus, of course, the overriding risk of will they have a job to go back to? Would have an organisation to go back to.

So, no, I think it's very unfair to assume that they're lazy.

Maybe there's a little bit of jealousy in there.

There are those employees that worked all the way through - that sometimes looked at their furloughed colleagues, and seeing them being paid 80% and looked possibly to have had basically a very long holiday.

Many workers had to work all the way through.

Many workers had to continue to work even harder because there were reduced people there.

Many workers still actually had reductions in their pay or their working conditions.

I've certainly known organisations which reduced their staffs working hours to 80%, while at the same time having staff furloughed off at 80%.

It starts to feel very unfair for those who worked during that period to be getting paid the same amount of money, the same amount of income as those people that are seen as sitting around doing nothing - as almost having a holiday.

Again, I would say that's still an unfair assessment. During that time, you've got no idea whether those furloughed staff would even have a job at the end of it, would even be able to go back, would have an organisation to go back to.

So, yes, I can understand why there may be an element of jealousy, maybe a feeling of almost unfairness from those people that kept the organisation running, I don't think it is correct for them to lay that blame at the people that have been furloughed.

Maybe there's an assumption of ring rust. Maybe there's an assumption that with an employee being out of the working environment for such a long time, they've lost skills. They've forgotten how to do their job. They become less capable as an employee.

Personally, for me, that doesn't hold water. You don't suddenly forget how to do your job even if you have been off for a prolonged period of time. Yes, granted, it may take them a little bit longer to get back into the swing of things, but we're talking, what, days, weeks maybe?

Assuming that somebody that has been out of work for maybe six, nine, 12 months possibly no longer has the ability to work - it's just plain unfair and unrealistic.

We have to remember these people were not furloughed on their own choice. They were put into that position, they would have much preferred to have been working all the way through that period.

Again, you've got to come back to the fact they have spent a long time having negative feelings and worry about their health, their family's health, their friends health, and whether they've got a job to go back to. So look beyond potentially that maybe a week, maybe two weeks where they just came back up to speed.

Many of the things that we could possibly see as negatives against an employee that have been furloughed isn't the fault of the employee - it's the fault of the employer.

Only the employer understands why they were furloughed.

It was the employer's decision to furlough them in the first place - and that could be for a variety of reasons.

Hopefully, most of them for good financial reasons. Some, depending on what you read, maybe more questionable - and I don't doubt there have been some poor practices out there by employers in terms of furloughing people because they feel that's the best way to make income rather than the best way to survive the pandemic.

I really wouldn't be surprised over the coming years that we hear of organisations that have profited by using things like the furlough scheme.

Interesting, we've seen a number of forward thinking, moral organisations actually coming forward and paying the furlough money back because they've done so well during the process and felt that it was inappropriate to take that money.

So blaming the employee for the employer's actions just feels if it's likely to lead to unfair outcomes and potentially you passing on what could be an exceptional employee.

In this episode, I have talked about whether or not a candidate had been furloughed was important during the recruitment process.

I've argued you can't use that furlough status as an indicator of that individual, it's outside of their control, so much of it was their employer imposing on them.

I think it's very difficult and dangerous to make any assumptions based on why they were furloughed, what they were doing, why they were furloughed and whether or not they're ready to return to the workforce.

There will always be stories of people that have played the system, that have played the game. There will always be stories of people that effectively asked to be furloughed so that they could have what is perceived as a long holiday.

Personally, while I'm sure that there are exceptions to the rule, that isn't what's happened for most people. It isn't what happened for every single person I've known that has been furloughed. They've been furloughed because the organisation has decided, rightly or wrongly, that that's the right thing for the organisation.

Now, long term, that may work in their favour because they may have an organisation and to return to, but ultimately it is not the employee's fault that they have been furloughed.

Thus, I certainly will urge you in the years to come, if you have a candidate coming to you that had been furloughed during the Covid-19 crisis; please, please, please do not look on it negatively that they were furloughed during that period.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this podcast.

I'm going to take a couple of weeks off, so I look forward to listening to me again in early May.

Thank you very much again. And look forward to speaking to you then.