Life on furlough during the third national lockdown

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar has been making papier maché pots to keep herself occupied while on furlough

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar has been making papier maché pots to keep herself occupied while on furlough - Credit: Supplied

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar has spoken about her uncertainty of the future after being furloughed during lockdown.

For me the third national lockdown has a different feel to the previous two. Furlough, for those on it, brings both temporary security and potential future uncertainty.

The majority of my time during the first lockdown was spent enthusiastically seeking any form of employment. Due to the coronavirus situation this mainly comprised of warehousing positions, for which I felt very unqualified.

In the summer I was fortunate to be hired by the Dutch Nursery to work in the Dutch Café. Coming back into the hospitality sector allowed me to use the skills and experience I'd built up over the last three years. These include a Level 2 certificate in food hygiene, food preparation skills and my modest talents as a barista!

I've been furloughed since mid-December, and have been trying to enjoy and make use of the time as much as possible - especially because it's been such a relief to be financially stable, with my furlough wages enough to cover rent, food and heating. The pandemic brings a wealth of uncertainty and having a stable income remains a key pressure.

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar, wearing a hat she knitted while on furlough

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar, wearing a hat she knitted while on furlough - Credit: Supplied


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I've been able to put my energy into learning new skills: knitting, writing, making chocolate fondants, propagating houseplants and learning a little conversational German. These have provided a distraction from the outside world and given me a sense of satisfaction that ordinarily would predominantly come from my work.

However, having had to confront my employment prospects during the first lockdown the probability that I will still be in employment at the end of the furlough scheme is on the forefront of my mind.

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Jobs like mine, customer-facing roles at the lower end of the pay scale, feel particularly precarious. This is as true in Hertfordshire as in any other part of the country. The reporting of mounting unemployment figures and the collapse of high street stores puts these fears into sharp relief.

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar with the succulents she has been growing while on furlough

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar with the succulents she has been growing while on furlough - Credit: Supplied

The pressures that businesses are having to endure just to stay afloat, balancing expenses and much smaller incomes, makes me wonder what the jobs market will look like when the furlough scheme draws to an end.

There is talk of Rishi Sunak extending the Job Retention Scheme beyond the spring to avoid this cliff edge and possible mass redundancies. But this is just a potential measure and offers no certainty. If jobs like mine are not viable what, if any, alternative employment will there be?

There must be a lot of other like me who have little experience with any other types of work to whom the thought of trying to find alternative career paths seems very difficult to envisage.

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