Can automation help businesses with furloughed employees?

Rishi Sunak announced today that the government’s furlough scheme to help employers cover the cost of employees salaries would be extended for a further four months until October.

The government furlough scheme allows companies to temporarily stop employees from doing any work without laying them off. In return, the government pays 80% of the employee salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The big drawback with the scheme is that the employee is not allowed to do any kind of work for the business during this time.

With many businesses beginning to think about re-opening again over the next few months, it may be tempting to start bringing some employees back to work. At that point, the business will be unable to claim under the furlough scheme for those employees. So is there an alternative?

If you need help with everyday office admin work - the things like creating and updating spreadsheets, entering data into your company databases, handling initial requests for information by email - then it’s more cost effective to employ automation software: virtual automated employees.

Right now, it’s critical for businesses to keep costs to a minimum. Keeping employees furloughed means that a large part of your company costs - your employee salaries - is covered by the government. By using virtual automated employees you can retain that income while still getting the important everyday work done.

Let’s look at an example, Sally works at a business full-time. Her work includes receiving an Excel spreadsheet by email each day and update the price of each product in the spreadsheet in the company database. On average, around 250 items are updated each day. Her salary is £18,500 so the government covers approximately £1,230 per month. Bringing Sally back into the office costs your business £1,230 per month.

While building agility and resilience have been dominant themes for much of the past decade, the unique nature of the current situation has left many companies unprepared. More than a third (36%) are accelerating their investments in automation. - Steve Krouskos, EY Global Vice Chair

What if you used automation software? Well that job that Sally does could be done without bringing anyone back into the office. Additionally, it could be done faster and sooner as the virtual automated employee works 24/7 - the email would be processed as soon as it arrives in the inbox. As a business owner, your costs are kept to a minimum and you still benefit from the furlough scheme. The company’s future - including Sally’s job - is more secure.

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