It’s totally understandable that many employers faced with thinking about getting back to the business as we start to move into the Covid-19 recovery might feel like heading for the hills.
Expect the unexpected
Richard Owen, Society Matters’ employment law and discrimination specialist, recommends that businesses need to plan hard – expect the unexpected and do your best to think about all of the eventualities in advance – and to get advice about anything you aren’t sure about to help you to make socially responsible decisions that get the best outcomes for the staff as well as the business.
“It’s a challenging time for everyone, but employers have to shoulder responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of their staff as well as their customers, so there’s a lot to think about. Then of course none of us have been here before – we’re in un-chartered territories which makes it that much harder.”
So here’s our 10 point checklist to get you started
1. Can the business afford to continue to operate with all the pre-lockdown workforce or will redundancies have to be considered? We’re living in uncertainty at the moment, so the more clarity you have on this point the better – try to make this decision sooner rather than later, then do everything you can to stick to it. It may be that you have to start from determining the minimum essential workforce you will need to continue to carry out the business function and work from there.
2. Should you start discussions with the continuing workforce over terms and conditions (including temporary changes until things pick up to near pre-lockdown levels)? Consultation is key, so the earlier you start these conversations the easier it will be for everyone involved.
3. How will the way you manage the business day to day need to change, in the short and possibly even the long term, and how would you expect these changes to affect your staff?
4. Can you change working practices to enable more homeworking, and if this will improve business viability what investments might you need to make to improve access to IT and telephony? Can you start talking to your suppliers now to evaluate some options?
5. What changes will you need to make to your policies and procedures associated with staff and safety if you do plan to change your working practices?
6. If homeworking isn’t practical for some or all of the time, what social distancing and health measures need to be put in place in your workplace to ensure you provide a safe working environment (think about the layout of work stations and furniture, machinery, break out areas, public face to face areas/interview rooms, washing and hand sanitising facilities). Check the latest government HSE guidelines for safe working so you cover every aspect.
7. Think about the adjustments that may need to be made or altered in respect of any disabled employees, and also for staff with health conditions which do not amount to a disability under the Equality Act, as well as staff with caring responsibilities and pregnant women. Talking openly to the staff who may be affected is definitely a good starting point as they are highly likely to be able to help you to understand the barriers they may face that you may not even have considered.
8. You’ll also need to consider whether restrictions on use of public transport could affect staff getting to and from work. Can you provide some flexibility on start and finish times, and help people to consider alternative forms of transport such as bike or car (do you have car parking space you could offer to staff that previously wouldn’t have been available)?
9. There’s no doubt that for lots of reasons you will encounter employees who are reluctant or refuse to return to work because of their concerns about becoming infected. How are you going to anticipate this and what policies can you put in place to alleviate their concerns and support them with their transition?
10. Back the first point. Now you’ve considered all of this, what are the practical, logistical and importantly the financial implications of the decisions you’ve now made, and what help or advice do you need to make further progress with your plans?
If you need to talk through any of your concerns, or get advice on employment and discrimination issues to help you to make the right decisions to get back to business please get in touch with Richard and the team here at Society Matters cic.