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Micebook summit reveals agency worries with furloughing

Micebook has hosted a summit for event industry leaders, which revealed a number of events industry agencies feel elements of the government’s support package remain unclear. 

Government support 

The biggest topic discussed was furlough, what it means and who is eligible, after the government announced a support package that will enable private companies to claim for up to 80% of their employee’s wages to a set limit through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

Some agencies said they have already made redundancies in a bid to cut costs immediately out of the business, while others have asked staff to work reduced hours. Several agencies sent out a survey to all employees asking what they could do to help the business through this crisis, from reducing hours to agreeing to furlough. 

The majority of agencies are looking at furlough options in the hope that they can hold jobs open for staff. One agency head described the government announcement as very timely, so much more than expected, and the difference between making redundancies and not making redundancies. 

It was suggested that the biggest headache for agency leaders is how to decide who to furlough and who to keep working from a business planning perspective when there is so much uncertainty. Agencies with film, production and editing teams obviously need to keep those in place, because they are busiest right now. But how do you decide what other team members are essential, from client facing account management staff to ops teams, in these unprecedented times. It’s about getting the right blend of different skills needed to run the business on a skeleton staff. 

Selected Q&A responses 

Staff who are on furlough will not be allowed to work and you can’t ask them to, however one agency said it will give employees the opportunity to take part in self-development, which will be totally optional. 

There is no maximum number of workers than can be put in furlough. It totally depends on the size of company and your situation is. 

Can you rotate workers on furlough? Technically you can – once someone has been furloughed, you can take them off whenever you want, but you can’t put them back on furlough. 

You can top up the 20% (or some of it) to take employees up to full salary but there is no obligation to. 

Furlough is voluntary and you can’t force someone to take it. You have to have their consent. If they refuse, you would have to go through the usual consultation process for redundancy. 

Will the government be ready to process furlough payments in April? The consensus was that they might not have things up and running in time, so businesses need to be prepared to step in and cover April salaries or take a bridging loan if necessary. 

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