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6 months ago by Helen Doughty

The BIGGEST challenges employers may face

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As the UK Government has gradually started to ease lockdown measures, employers and HR professionals will be turning their attention to formalising return-to-work plans according to an article from HR Grapevine.

This will involve communicating with staff and redesigning office spaces to adhere to health and safety and social distancing measures.

According to new research, this is the part that employers feel most challenged by.

One-third (36%) of UK employers cited implementing safety measures in line with the UK Government’s ‘COVID-secure’ guidelines as the biggest challenge when returning to work.

The research from law firm Winckworth Sherwood also found that the need to address the concerns held by staff members about the return to work was also a challenge for employers (29%).

Blair Adams, Partner, Employment Team at Winckworth Sherwood, said that the survey results show the need for adopting clear and considered approaches when it comes to getting staff back to a physical workplace.

“Where possible [employers] should seek the proper legal advice to ensure they meet all their obligations and minimise the risk of employee disputes,” Adams added.

In addition, 16% of survey respondents felt that the financial pressures or a loss of work were tough challenges for employers to contend with.

When it comes to returning staff to work, Dawn Moore, Group People Director at Murphy Group previously told the HR Grapevine Podcast that, because staff at her firm are based at different offices and on varying infrastructure sites, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

“Start with the Government guidelines and recognise that all employees’ circumstances will be different,” she explained.

“There are some fantastic learnings from our site-based teams where their work cannot be done from home."

These include innovative office layouts to maximise social distancing, one-way systems and personal wellbeing support for colleagues that we can learn from to support the wider organisation,” Moore added.

In addition, Adrian Binfield, HR Director for Business Continuity at BT previously told HR Grapevine that the telecommunications firm is looking at the return to work through three lenses.

Binfield said that this includes: a safety perspective in accordance with Government guidelines; a consideration of business requirements and finding out which roles can and can’t be completed from home and, finally, gauging colleague preferences and individual circumstances.

What measures have employers put in place?

Winckworth Sherwood’s research also delved into the measures that employers intend to implement, or have already implemented, to weather the current COVID-19 crisis.

According to the study, 55% of respondents said that they had either furloughed or plan to furlough staff members, with 25% stating that redundancies or restructures were on the cards.

Pay cuts (24%) and altered working patterns (17%) were also cited as measures that employers have either carried out or had plans to execute.

The research was collated during a virtual event where senior executives and HR specialists from various sectors were polled about returning to work post-lockdown.

Non-essential shops to open from next week

Business Secretary Alok Sharma previously announced that shops in England selling non-essential goods would be able to re-open from June 15, 2020.

Providing that they follow the COVID-secure guidelines set out by the UK Government, high street retailers and department stores will be able to open their doors once again.

“This is the latest step in the careful restarting of the economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life,” Sharma said at the press conference.