Give employers a break – they’re not all bad

I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments in recent days about how unscrupulous employers are going to be taking advantage of employees, forcing them to go to work in unsafe conditions and putting profits before health.

There’s no doubt that some employers might take advantage of the easing of the lockdown, but most employers are putting huge efforts into making sure that they can go back to business safely. From deep-cleaning their premises to buying PPE; encouraging working from home where possible and taking caring responsibilities into consideration, they are doing everything they can to ensure that people feel safe if they can, or have to return.

Here are just some of the things that we’re helping our clients plan for:

• Managing childcare – the suggestion that we return to work has come ahead of re-opening schools. That means that many parents still have childcare responsibilities and there are no safe alternatives, because we are discouraged from visiting other households. If childcare prevents people from returning to work immediately, employers need to make suitable arrangements, such as continued working from home, if possible.

• Encouraging flexible working – most employers know that working practices are not going to immediately return to pre-COVID levels. Social distancing measures mean that office and working set-ups are going to be different for some time. This means that there will be some flexible working required – either retaining some people as home workers, or splitting staff into teams so that fewer people are in the office at any one time.

• Listening to employees’ concerns – employers are aware that there’s a difference between someone just not wanting to return and being seen as being obstinate, versus someone who just wants reassurance and time before they come back to work – and that they will have to be able to manage both situations.

• Helping vulnerable staff – many employers will have staff members who are considered as vulnerable, either because of their age or because of pre-existing conditions. These staff are likely to either be shielding for a longer period, or may be extremely anxious about coming back to work. Again, employers need to talk to each person who is considered vulnerable to work out a way of working or managing the employment until that person feels it is safe to return.

• Understanding COVID-19 recovery – staff members who have had the virus could still be in a period of recovery. They could not be well enough to return to work, and may struggle when they do, particularly if they are involved in physical work. Employers need to think about how to manage sick leave and a phased return.

• Reconsider productivity – employers should be thinking about reviewing their existing processes and ways of working to see if they can maintain or even improve productivity with new ways of working. Businesses who see this period as an opportunity to change things for the better can streamline their business, benefit from more engaged employees and boost both their internal productivity and their customer service to put themselves in the best position to succeed.

• Think about recruitment – this period may have a knock-on effect on staffing and recruitment. Some staff members may choose to retire early; some may have used this period to reflect on their positions and decide they want to re-train, change careers or spend more time with their family. So employers may be facing the need to recruit new people or move existing staff members around to ensure that all functions are covered. Maybe this is a good time to take a temperature check survey, to see how your staff are feeling now, compared to when the lockdown first started, and what their concerns are for the future.

Employers all over the UK are working hard to keep their businesses running, keep their staff safe and healthy and do their best for the local and national economies where they operate. We’re here to support employers as they plan how to return to work and how to manage the many and varied staff issues that are involved. Just email us at hello@objectivehr.com.

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