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about 2 years ago by Debbie Lloyd

Top 5 issues HR will face as workplaces reopen

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Today will see zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas open, as well as all non-essential shops and department stores, meanwhile a recovery strategy document published on May 11 shared details indicating that the hospitality sector – which includes pubs, bars and restaurants – could start to reopen ‘no earlier than 4 July’, reported the BBC.

But with this news comes several challenges all HR professionals, business owners and managers will have to face. As such, lawyers from Aaron & Partners have highlighted the key issues HR leaders may come up against in the coming weeks.

With concerns and anxieties around coronavirus still increasingly evident, workplace policies and practices will now need careful consideration and will likely require several changes before they can formally reopen.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have been significant, and businesses have had to make considerable changes to the way they operate. For HR professionals and managers, this has meant making business critical decisions whilst managing a range of unfamiliar people issues presented by the pandemic,” explained Claire Brook, an Employment Law Partner at Aaron & Partners.

“As the Government begins to ease its lockdown measures, employers will no doubt be planning for some form of return to the workplace in the near future, with some sectors already allowed to return as long as it is safe to do so. However, it’s clear that the workplace will be very different from the pre-lockdown situation and employers need to consider the government guidance regarding the changes they need to make.”

HR Grapevine has revealed Aaron & Partners’ top five things all employers must consider:

Mental health

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the need to support employees’ mental health, due to the struggles of working in lockdown. For example, the CIPD previously reported that mental health-related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces and expects it to increase as a result of the current crisis.

Therefore, employers should consider how they can support their staff during this time who may have experienced bereavement, financial pressure, lack of motivation or feelings of isolation.

Health and safety

Layla Barke-Jones, a Senior Associate in the Dispute Resolution team at Aaron & Partners, added: “Health and safety will be one of the greatest concerns for employees returning to work. Carrying out a risk assessment is a statutory requirement for employers and businesses need to carefully plan and implement measures to ensure their workplace is safe for employees to return to.”

With this in mind, employers should ensure they are actively communicating with their staff to ease any concerns they may have when returning to work. Aaron & Partners recommended that employers carry this out as regularly as possible, considering how quickly things change, while also keeping in line with the changes in Government advice too.

Flexible working

Aaron & Partners points out that while there is no right to flexible working, employers should consider the appropriate response to requests and consider health and safety requirements.

Furloughed and non-furloughed staff

Throughout the crisis, some employees will have faced the experience of furlough, while others will have continued to work.

Therefore, careful considerations should be made to return to work relations as each employee will have had a different experience throughout this period of time.

In order to support these staff members, HR has an opportunity to build a supportive culture, while also reducing any tensions that may have built up between furloughed and non-furloughed staff.

Bereavement issues

“Many employees will have suffered bereavement during this period and beyond the existing framework on bereavement leave and pay, those affected may have been faced with the trauma of saying goodbye to their loved one remotely (or may not have even had that chance at all),” Aaron & Partners explained.

Employers should consider how best to support staff during this time and the potential long-term support they could offer. This could include offering flexible working hours, additional mental health support or a phased return to work if necessary.

Source: HR Grapevine