Opinion

The ‘F’ Word…

Usually it’s only bookish opinions here on Online Blanket Fort.  But today we’re having something a little bit different…

The ‘F’ Word – Is furlough a dirty word?

Furlough. The word that, until a few weeks ago, very few people had heard of.

Furlough. Possibly now one of the most searched for terms in the UK.

Furlough. Uttered across phone calls, Zoom, Face-Time, What’s App, texts and emails across the country.

Furlough.  The word on everyone’s lips.

A Definition

Type ‘furlough’ into Google and it comes back with 49.3 million hits.

The top hit is the lexico.com definition:

Furlough

Noun

    • Leave of absence, especially that granted to a member of the armed services.
    • A temporary release of a convict from prison.
    • A layoff, especially a temporary one, from a place of employment.

Verb

    • Grant leave of absence to.
    • Lay off (workers), especially temporarily.

Now.  I don’t know about you, but I am neither a member of the armed forces nor a convict.  Therefore, I’ve gone with the 3rd option – ‘A layoff, especially a temporary one, from a place of employment.’

Nobody wants to hear the words ‘lay off’ when talking about their own employment.  However, in terms of furlough it’s not a bad thing.  In fact, it’s a GOOD thing.

To be furloughed by your employer means that you still have an employer.  It means you are still being paid.  It means you have a job to go back to.  It’s not a slight on your performance at work.  It’s not an insult aimed at you personally.  It’s not a sly way to get you out the door.

By being furloughed it means your employer is making sure you have a job to come back to.  They are ensuring the future of your company and your job.  Had furlough not become the buzz-word of 2020 the alternative would have been unthinkable.

Picture the scene (this shouldn’t be too difficult):

A deadly virus has swept the world.  Causing severe illness and death across every continent, every city, every town, every village.  It doesn’t care what colour you are, what religion, what sex, your age, your medical history, if you like to sleep with men, women or both.  It doesn’t care if you wear matching socks, if you like to peel the chocolate off a Mars bar before you eat it, if you hate pineapple on pizza, or if you prefer dogs or cats.  It cares not if you’ve had your flu jab, if you take insulin daily, if you are suffering from or recovering from cancer.  It doesn’t care if 2020 was going to be your year, of your plans or your hopes or your dreams.  It’ll have you no matter what.

Imagine if you will that the UK has been put in lock down.  You can only leave your house:

  • To go for essential groceries
  • To pick up medicine
  • To take one form of outdoor exercise a day
  • If you are classed as a ‘Key Worker’ – NHS, supermarket employees, delivery drivers, refuse collectors, public transport…

The majority of the UK workforce is not classed as a ‘Key Worker’.  The majority of those employed in the UK work in retail (book shops, travel agents, department stores), in office based roles, in hospitality, or they have a trade (joiners, labourers, mechanics).  All of these places have been shut down.  Shopping centres have locked their doors, office workers now try to work from their living rooms, construction sites are now silent, High Streets are deserted.  

The companies these people work for have less money coming in.  They still have staff to pay.  They eventually make the decision that they simply can’t pay people when there’s not enough revenue coming in.  They start laying staff off, making them redundant.

Scary stuff, eh?

The Reality

This is why furlough isn’t a dirty or a scary word.  Because of furlough we’ll be paid 80% of our salary.  We will, hopefully, still have a job to go back to when the world gets back to some form of normality.  We are essentially being paid to stay at home, wash our hands and stop the spread of the virus.  Some employers have made the commitment to pay their employees the remaining 20% which is fantastic.  Some employers will be relying on the Governments 80% furlough provisions – this is also fantastic.  Either way, these companies are making sure they are in the best position to survive this and in turn they are protecting their employees and their jobs.  

Your Options

In my opinion you have 2 options.

  1. You can take being furloughed personally.  Wallow in a pit of misery and dig yourself into anxiety and depression.  You can get angry.  HOW VERY DARE THEY LAY YOU OFF!  You can do that if you like.  It won’t solve anything though.  And you’ll make the next few weeks or months more miserable for yourself than they have to be.
  2. You can allow yourself to be sad but understand that this has to happen for the UK to survive and for you to have a job to go back to.   

Everyone is anxious right now.  Those who already suffer with their mental health are still suffering, some to a more acute degree than before.  Why add to your own misery by choosing Option 1?

By choosing Option 2 you can help yourself.  Indulge yourself in a long neglected hobby, read all those books you’ve been hoarding for the past goodness knows how many years, take a short course online, learn a language, volunteer for local charities delivering food and supplies to those self isolating, volunteer for our NHS, make a point of contacting friends and family on the phone, video call or email… your options are endless.  

If you choose to see being furloughed as an opportunity then I don’t think it can be a ‘dirty’ word.

I’m choosing Option 2.


This public service announcement has been brought to you by Jo of The Fort, First of her Name, Mother of Cats, Believer in Books, Saint of Sarcasm and Fortunately Furloughed.

3 Comments

  • Kelly

    Great post and very spot on! Both my dad and sister are at risk of being furloughed in the coming week but I’m just grateful (as are they) that they have a job to go back to when it’s all over. My dad already has plans in place for when he’s furloughed, like decorating his spare room and napping! It’s not an ideal situation because it means the world is in a bit of shit but I’m encouraging them to see it as an extended bit of annual leave and make the most of the spare time.

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