Understanding the Unemployed: COVID-19’s Impact on the Workforce

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By now, your company or organization is making efforts to bring workers back on the job as states and cities lift stay-at-home orders and start phasing in the “relaunch” of the American economy.

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Many experts have said that workers are fearful of coming back due to safety concerns over contracting the coronavirus, while others say some employees are making too much money on unemployment and refuse to come back to work until employers can match their “new” salaries.

According to new research conducted by CareerPlug, however, these may be two of the most common employment-related myths the coronavirus has created so far. In May 2020, CareerPlug surveyed 500 American workers across a range of industries to better understand how their employment and income have been affected by COVID-19 and to gauge their sentiment about returning to work during the pandemic.

Addressing Safety Concerns

A vast majority (80%) of survey respondents say their current employer has done enough to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers, in comparison to the roughly 55% of respondents who are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with how their state government intends to reopen the economy. 

Creating a safe and healthy environment is a surefire way to keep workers happy and engaged during this crisis, but how do you show this to potential new hires you’re trying to attract into your workplace? Communicating during the recruiting process is one place to start, but also consider updating your company website or career page.

If your website shows a bunch of your employees gathered around a table doing teambuilding activities, try showcasing what these activities look like now that social distancing guidelines are in place. Or better yet, show how your company or organization has implemented social distancing guidelines. Are your desks or cubicles adequately spaced apart? Are you using the proper signage and directionals to corral workers around the office?

Using images of your new office layout and the safety measures you’ve implemented in light of the pandemic will prove to jobseekers and candidates alike that you’re listening to their concerns and are taking actionable measures to address these concerns to keep workers safe.

One additional measure you can take is providing a brief paragraph on all job advertisements or posts that inform candidates of the measures and guidelines your organization has in place. Using this digital real estate, you’ll be able to hit jobseekers with important information before they can even click “apply.” This can also help reduce the number of questions your recruiters will have to answer to help calm candidates’ fears.

Are the Unemployed Really Making More?

To help unemployed workers who were laid off because of COVID-19, the federal government is offering a weekly stipend of $600 on top of their normal unemployment “salary.” However, after July 31, 2020, this extra payment will disappear, and unemployed workers will be forced to make do with what they would normally collect.

As mentioned above, some experts are claiming that because of the “bonus” payment, many are refusing to come back to work. It’s worth reminding everyone that if an employee refuses to accept a suitable offer of employment, he or she will lose his or her unemployment benefits. Check out this article for more information.

With that being said, are there that many candidates who are turning down job offers because they want more money? According to CareerPlug’s survey, 32.5% of respondents say they are making more money on unemployment, but when broken down, the data reveal that 18.75% say it’s “slightly more,”and 13.7% say it is “significantly higher” than what they were making before they were laid off.

CareerPlug even points out that over 32% isn’t all that much. “32.5% is certainly a noteworthy figure, but it falls far short of the majority of our survey respondents,” says Desiree Echevarria, Content Marketing Manager at CareerPlug, in a blog post. “While our survey data is self-reported, this finding could provide clues to indicate that the majority of workers are declining to return to work not specifically due to higher income from unemployment benefits.”

CareerPlug’s data indicate that workers are actually making less on unemployment—as it should be. The report finds that over 58% are receiving less than their normal income, and just 8.75% are receiving an amount equal to their lost earnings. With this in mind, the next statistic should come as no surprise.

Employees Want to Go Back

If a majority of unemployed workers say they can’t make ends meet on their new unemployment salaries, then it’s not surprising to hear that roughly 39% of respondents say they were asked and have accepted an offer to return back to the workplace.

What’s worth noting is the 41% of respondents who are eager to get back on the job but weren’t asked to return. Respondents were asked: “If you were previously laid off, furloughed, or you quit due to COVID-19, did your employer ask you to return to work?” CareerPlug reveals that:

  • 38.69% said, “Yes, and I decided to return.”
  • 12.50% said, “Yes, but I decided not to return.”
  • 41.07% said, “No, but I would have returned if they asked.”
  • 7.74% said, “No, and even if they did, I would not have returned.”

Final Thoughts

While there is no cure for COVID-19 yet, this pandemic will not last forever. The findings from CareerPlug’s survey show that employees just want to get back to work and continue on with life. However, there is still a real fear of contracting the virus, and that is keeping some from reentering the workforce.

To help calm fears and keep workers engaged and productive, be sure to communicate with employees about the steps you’ve put in place to keep them safe and what you’ll be doing in the future as your local government keeps putting new guidelines in place.

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