Four key areas to consider as businesses emerge from lockdown.

1. The wellbeing and mental health of your people.
2. Will you need to restructure your business?
3. What if employees want to make changes to how they work for you?
4. Maintaining a safe working environment.

The employment landscape has changed, and you will need to make decisions and manage changes that will impact upon your people and your business.
Here is our take on what you need to be considering and the action you need to take.

Don’t forget that SME Advisor has experienced and talented HR and Health & Safety people to help you make difficult decisions and steer change in a safe, productive and economic way.

1. MENTAL HEALTH

The unseen impact of lockdown, working remotely and long-term furlough cannot be ignored. As an employer you need to be alert to this, intervene and take steps to manage it.

  • Relationships with colleagues may have changed.

  • How we now interact may present issues.

  • Some people will fear returning.

  • Absenteeism is likely to rise.

Manage holiday leave. The rules have changed but an employer has rights too!

  • The Working Time Regulations are there to govern working patterns and work breaks. Taking holiday means your employees (and you) rest, return refreshed and keep your body and mind healthy.

  • Changes in the law last year allowed employees the right to roll over holiday for a further two years. BUT if it suits the business for employees to take holiday during the current year then they must.

  • The law has always maintained that an employer can instruct an employee to take holiday leave if they give notice equivalent to twice the length of the holiday. If you want an employee to take one weeks’ holiday, then you must give them two weeks’ notice.

2. RESTRUCTURING

How might your business change in the future?
Lockdown has meant that many businesses have suffered financial and organisational disruption.
It may be that you want or need to make permanent changes.

  • Remote working, will it become permanent?

  • Work patterns may need to change.

  • Potential savings on commuting and premises costs?

  • When Government financial support stops, will redundancies be necessary?

All these changes need to be managed correctly, procedure and good communication will make for a better and safe outcome.
Getting it wrong can be very costly and professional intervention later on may mean starting the process again, so take advice from the outset it’ll save you time and money!

 

3. FLEXIBLE WORKING REQUESTS

Most employers will have encountered a Flexible Working Request perhaps without even realising it. The most common tends to be mothers returning after childbirth and asking to change their working pattern.
Who can apply & how do they do it?

  • An employee must have been employed for at least 28 weeks; some employers may choose to permit an application even though they are not obliged to do so by law.

  • Previous requests, the law says only one request can be made every 12 months.

  • The employee should do so in writing and give their reason and how it may impact. Employers should be aware that some requests may be covered by Equality laws, for example, requiring the employer to exercise “reasonable adjustment”.

What must you do?
Like most things within HR procedure is critical. The process will therefore involve.

  • Arrange meetings, understand the reasons for the request.

  • Best practice says (but not the law) allow the employee to be accompanied.

  • Consider the application and impact that it will make.

  • Allow time for an appeal as the whole process should be completed within 3 months.

  • If you say “yes”, then maybe give it a trial before both parties commit to it becoming a permanent change.

  • If you say “no”, then there are only a few specific financial and operational reasons.

Ask us for help. We have dealt with these situations many times and will help you find a solution that works well for both the business and the employee.

4. SAFE WORKING

Managing COVID-19 is like any other workplace hazard, so the same rules apply as with any risk assessment.

  • What is the hazard?

  • Who might be affected & how?

  • Introduce control measures.

  • Communicate, train & monitor.

With COVID-19 remember.

  • Whether the workplace is an office, factory, warehouse, transport, or a construction site the COVID-19 hazard will present itself differently and you will potentially therefore have to manage it differently.

  • Ordinarily risk assessments are reviewed no less that once a year or when something changes. With COVID-19 the recommendations and legal obligations are changing frequently and so will your control measures.

  • Remember when you change because of COVID this is likely to impact upon how you manage other risks, for example moving furniture or equipment will impact upon emergency evacuations and your fire risk assessment.

Fines. Our friends at the Health & Safety Executive are already on the prowl, checking how employers are managing COVID. Customers have had visits to building sites, body shops, and offices. A breach means a fine, plus Fees For Intervention at £154 per hour while they inspect, report, and write to you! If you’re prosecuted, then you must then notify your insurers, and this may impact on future premiums.

It is great that we are emerging from lockdown and businesses will start to reopen but there are tough times ahead.
For help on this or any HR, Management Training or Health & Safety contact us for a free initial consultation.
0330 333 4997
info@smeadvisor.co.uk
www.smeadvisor.co.uk