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Negative attitudes to people on furlough scheme insulting, says worker

A retail manager says he has found the “growing narrative” on social media and elsewhere, suggesting that those on furlough may lose their work ethic, “insulting”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was preparing to “wean” workers and business off the programme amid concerns that the nation was becoming “addicted” to it earlier in May, before extending it until the end of October.

Mr Stringer, 54 from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland – who did not want to give his full name, is a retail manager who has been furloughed along with his colleagues.

He said he had noticed a “growing narrative” on social media and elsewhere suggesting those on furlough may lose their work ethic.

“One statement was ‘this will create a new wave of dole lovers’,” Mr Stringer told the PA news agency. “I can’t see it.

“I personally find it insulting. The people I work with in the main would cash in holiday entitlement if it was possible. They mostly live to work, including myself.

“We keep in contact on an almost daily basis through a few WhatsApp groups. I regularly ask them how they’re coping and keeping busy etc. They all, to a person, cannot wait to get back to work.”

Mr Stringer said that furlough had “undoubtedly saved our jobs”, and that he had “experienced many things – but nothing like this”.

“It’s a lifeline everyone with an ounce of sense knows will end at some point,” he said. “For me I’d be happy if it ended by a return to work sooner rather than later. Providing it’s safe and there’s no second wave of Covid-19.”

The furlough scheme – which pays 80% of a worker’s salary up to a £2,500 monthly cap – currently supports around 7.5 million jobs, although employers will be expected to pick up a share of the bill from August as the economy reopens.

Clarke Roberts, 28, from Scarborough, works in a marketing team for a business based in North Yorkshire.

Clarke Roberts, 28, from Scarborough, whose colleagues have been furloughed (Clarke Roberts)
Clarke Roberts, 28, from Scarborough, whose colleagues have been furloughed (Clarke Roberts)

While Mr Roberts has not been furloughed, his colleagues have been – he currently runs the department and said his colleagues have offered to help him out, while some have struggled with their mental health.

“I’ve kept in touch with my team throughout this crisis, and they’ve always offered to help me out wherever possible, obviously within the limitations of the furlough scheme,” he told PA.

“But when I’ve chatted to them on a personal level, I know they’re struggling mentally.”

Mr Roberts said that his colleagues miss the human interaction they would normally get at work, and was critical of the notion of furlough addiction.

“The caricature of people who are ‘addicted to furlough’, and who are refusing to go back to work is nonsensical,” he said.

“Employees can’t refuse to go back to work, as furlough is the decision of the employer. If people refuse to go back to work, they will sacrifice their pay and potentially their jobs.”

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