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Work from Home – Latest Advice from the Prime Minister

The latest advice, announced in a statement by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Tuesday 22 September, is for office workers to work from home wherever possible. For professions where this is not possible, such as care work, people should continue to attend their workplace…

Following a significant rise in the number of positive cases of Coronavirus since August, decisions have been taken to try and slow the spread of the virus once more. Otherwise, warned the Chief Medical Office and Chief Scientific Adviser, the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections next month. As a result, the alert level was raised from 3 to 4 – the second most serious stage, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.

The number of new cases is growing fastest amongst those aged between 20 and 29, although it is still spreading to other more vulnerable age groups. In the last fortnight, hospital admissions across England have more than doubled each day – leading to a bleak forecast for October and November when Covid is likely to spread faster as autumn turns to winter.

Key Takeaways

The PM was clear to reiterate that this was not a general instruction to stay at home, and that schools, colleges and universities can stay open – and just as importantly that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way. The key principles for business are as follows:

  • Office workers are asked to work from home where they can do so
  • In key public services and where homeworking is not possible, such as education, construction and retail, people should continue to attend their workplace
  • From tomorrow, Thursday 23 September, all pubs, bar and restaurants must operate a table service only (except for takeaways obviously) and all hospitality venues must close their doors at 10pm
  • Staff in retail should now wear face coverings, as should users of taxis and private hire vehicles and both staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink
  • Covid guidelines within the retail, leisure and tourism sectors, for example, will become legal obligations

As a result of all of the above, business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be able to re-open on 1 October as planned. Additionally, businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’ at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September).

More detail on this can be found on the Gov.uk website.

Legal Obligations

In addition to the changes to legal obligations within the business arena, mentioned above, the fine of up to £10,000 for those failing to self-isolate will also extend to businesses. And the penalty for failing to wear a face covering or breaking the rule of size will now double to £200 – for a first offence. To enforce the new rules, we will see a greater police presence on the streets backed up by military support where necessary.

There is no recommendation for shielding, other than in those areas in local lockdown. And, unlike the lockdown earlier in the year, the vast majority of businesses can continue to move forwards to support the UK economy.

New Support Packages

On 20 September, the government announced a Test and Trace Support payment scheme to support those people required by law to self-isolate from 28 September. The payment of £500 will be for those people on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 and could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences. This includes business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.

Furthermore, on 24 September, the Chancellor announced a ‘Job Support Scheme’ to help subsidise the wages of people in work, which will start in November. This new scheme will replace that of the previous ‘Furlough Scheme’ and means that the government will pay part of workers’ wages who have lost hours. The worker must complete at least one-third of normal hours and the government and the employer will pay one-third each of the lost hours. Fundamentally, this will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages.

Working Safely

The government produced an extensive set of guidelines for businesses operating in England back in May, covering a variety of different types of industries and work. These guidelines are constantly updated and can again be referred to on the Gov.uk website. Employees can use this guidance to check what their workplace needs to be doing in order to keep people safe.

It’s important for businesses to use the learnings from lockdown to think about the future structure of their organisations and how best to work under the ‘new normal’ – not only for those continuing to work from home, but also considering those peoople’s wellbeing and family responsibilities.

If you have any concerns about the recent announcements and how it might impact your business or organization, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Redundancy guarantee for furloughed workers

New rules will ensure that furloughed employees are not ‘short-changed’ if they are made redundant…

The government has introduced new rules that will protect furloughed workers in the event of redundancy.

The changes, introduced on 30 July 2020, will see employees receiving statutory notice pay calculated using their normal wages, not their furloughed rates of pay.

In the case of any future unfair dismissal claims, potential settlement would also be based on their pre-Covid wages, not the furlough rate they have been receiving.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “New laws coming into force will ensure furloughed workers are not short-changed if they are ever made redundant – providing some reassurance for workers and their families during this challenging time.”

The announcement follows on from the Job Retention Bonus plan, which was announced in the Mini Budget in July. The scheme has been designed to help stop mass redundancies as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) winds down. It could cost the government as much as £9bn.

The plan will see each company paid £1,000 for each person that returns to work from furlough.

The bonus will be paid for staff who return to work between November and January – and who are paid at least £520 per month.

Employers encouraged to take on young staff

Also announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Mini Budget was a £2bn ‘kickstart scheme’ aimed at creating jobs for young people – dubbed the ‘new lost generation’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme is part of an emergency package designed to stop mass unemployment as the UK economy is hit by the effects of lockdown.

Young people aged 16-24, on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, will receive six-month work placements funded by the government.

These kickstarter jobs will cover 25 hours’ work each week at the National Minimum Wage (that is, £4.55 for those under 18, £6.45 for young people aged 18 to 20, and £8.20 for the 21-24-year-olds). These payments can be topped up by employers who must offer training and support the young people in finding permanent employment to qualify.

Employers can apply for the scheme, which covers Wales, Scotland and England now, with jobs expected to start in the autumn. The scheme will run until December 2021, with the possibility of an extension. The government has pledged funding for a similar scheme for Northern Ireland.

The scheme could provide hundreds of thousands of jobs as no limit has been placed on numbers.

Apprentices and trainees

The government has also devised a scheme to increase apprenticeships, with employers being paid £2,000 for every apprentice they take on (the sum drops to £1,500 if the apprentice is aged 25 or over).

It has also promised to create 30,000 traineeship opportunities in England for young people aged 16 to 24. These are not paid positions, but instead offer unpaid work experience along with lessons in maths, English, and CV writing. They last from six weeks to six months and companies in England will be given £1,000 for each new work experience place they offer. A £21m fund will offer similar schemes for Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

Companies are required to offer the young people an interview for a job or apprenticeship if available at the end of their traineeship.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate these new government schemes, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Recruiting – keeping it fair

When you are hiring new staff, your goal is to find the best employee you can, someone who will do a great job, progress within your company and become a successful team member.

Unconscious bias, can, however, influence your decision. It is not always easy to identify when this is happening, and it can be reflected in a workforce that is not as diverse as it should be.

Why do you need a diverse workforce you may ask? There are a number of reasons; it can enhance a company’s reputation, and make it a better place to work, which in turn can help to attract better candidates, and widen the pool of talent from which you can recruit. Having employees with diverse backgrounds and experience can also help increase creativity, employee engagement and even increase your bottom line [Independent: Businesses perform better when they have greater ethnic and gender diversity, study reveals 19/01/2018].

In the wake of Black Lives matter, perhaps what we should be looking at is something called Togetherism. According to UrbanDictionary.com: ‘Togetherism is when people do things together, the act of such an activity is togetherism. Maintaining a cohesive relationship and unity is togetherism.’

In the workplace we need to keep striving to make Togetherism a focus, to make places where ‘cohesive relationships and unity abound’. This means it doesn’t matter what your background is, where you come from, what you look like or indeed what your name is, you have an equal opportunity to succeed.

So, what better place to start than at the very beginning, when you employ someone. The time when you start your recruitment campaign. And as we step out of lockdown into a new normal, where many people’s lives have changed what better time to start it?

Here are six ways to ensure that your recruiting process is not affected by bias or prejudice and aims to create Togetherism in the workplace:

1. Teach recruiters about hiring bias

As we have said, recruiters can operate using ‘unconscious’ bias. You need to be able to make them aware of this by training those responsible for recruiting to identify bias, acknowledge how and why it is happening, and help them learn to change their behaviour.

2. Edit job descriptions

The language used in a job description can put off a number of good candidates. Avoid referring to gender or age and try to talk about the sort of skills you want a person to have, rather than being restrictive about their experience or ability to use a certain program. You could narrow down candidates so much that you miss out on the ideal person for the job.

3. Put on your blindfold!

Not literally, but if you are concerned that you or others involved in the hiring process use unconscious bias when hiring, take away the risk. Ensure that applications come to you after names, ages, ethnicity or other identifying details are deleted, so that you can instead concentrate on applicants’ skills and attitude. Make your first contact by telephone, not a Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp or other video call. By using the phone you will listen to the person and be less likely to make snap judgements on what they look like, or what they are wearing, or whether or not they have a tattoo that you like or dislike. You form an opinion on what you hear, how engaging they are, what questions they ask, how interested they sound. You get to know the person before you see them. And isn’t this how many relationships are formed these days on social media?

4. Create an interview standard

Ensure that each candidate gets the same interview experience. If you create a standard format for your interviews, with the same questions, you will help to remove any unconscious bias on the part of the interviewers. In fact, you should standardise the entire recruitment process to this end.

5. Ensure hiring is not based on interview alone

It may be easier, for example, for men to form a rapport with a male interviewer, allowing the bias to skew away from female candidates. If possible, ensure that you have more than one interviewer and make that panel as diverse as you can. However, by making sure that hiring decisions are not made entirely on the result of an interview – and instead is based on a skills test or an interview held while ‘on the job’- you take away another opportunity for bias to win through.

If you are aiming to make your company more inclusive and diverse, you will need to set goals, whether you want to have more BAME staff, increase the proportion of women, younger or older staff and so on. For some inspiration, the BBC’s reports and strategy on diversity and inclusion make fascinating reading.

In a small company, it can be hard to achieve this on your own and bringing in an expert in HR and recruitment can be hugely worthwhile if you are serious about making your workforce reflect your local community.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate diversity issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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The new way to work – life after lockdown

The world of remote working may well have been an eye-opener to many companies – and their staff – and, as we begin to get back to normal, we take a look at how employers should support their staff as they come back to the ‘real’ world…

For companies who did not furlough their staff, but instead asked them to work at home, the benefits of remote working may have changed some attitudes. After all, remote working can reduce overheads, allow greater flexibility – and it might even have changed the minds of  those managers who believed that presenteeism was the only way to get the best out of their staff.

Now, as some employees begin to come off furlough, come back into the workplace, or work from home, it is time to prepare your company so that it can help manage the next transition for employees.

Risk assessment

Your first task will be to make sure risk assessments are carried out; working out how to facilitate social distancing, cleaning communal areas such as drink preparation areas and toilet facilities, changing rooms and so on.

You will need to put in place different arrangements for meetings and briefings. Perhaps you can hold meetings outside, or use a video conferencing system instead? Many of us have become familiar with Zoom and Microsoft Teams but there are other popular platforms in addition to these.

If your business and workplace require your staff to work closely with each other and/or the public, ensure that the correct PPE is ready and waiting for them when they first arrive.

Hygiene

You must ensure all COVID-19 hygiene protocols are in place. This includes putting wipes, disinfectant and hand sanitisers in prominent areas, removing shared tools and equipment, making sure staff can clean and sanitise their own desks and equipment, and introducing low-or-no-touch door handles.

Staggered shifts

In order to allow room for staff to be in an office or workplace together, you may choose to operate some kind of split shift pattern.

If your workplace is small, staggered shifts can allow your staff to come in at varied times so that you do not have everyone in at once. You may ask people to come in later, especially if they have to use public transport to commute, stagger lunchtimes and home times too. Or you might arrange for them to come into the workplace for part of the week and work from home for the other part – keeping staff in ‘bubbles’ so that they have contact with a smaller number of people.

Remember that staff have rights if their working hours vary from those stated in their contract. Statutory rights cover flexible working, working times and anti-discrimination legislation. You must explain why the changes are happening, how long they are likely to be for and facilitate a forum for employees to discuss any concerns.

Also remember that flexibility clauses in contracts do not mean that changes can be made without consulting with and getting agreement from staff. And, of course, do make sure that working hours and rest breaks are considered within any changes made.

For more information on making a contractual change see the Acas website [ACAS: Changing an employment contract].

You also need to be aware that changing shift patterns that affect those who have childcare responsibilities can result in discrimination claims, so ensure that you are listening to any parents who are juggling childcare while schools are closed.

According to the Prime Minister, parents and guardians who are unable to access childcare, should not be expected to return to the workplace. Boris Johnson said that parents and guardians who can’t go back to work for this reason “must be defended and protected on that basis”.

Communications

Communication will be key as we all return to the new normal. Not knowing details or understanding new regulations can make people nervous, especially if they are already concerned about coming back into the real world.

Make sure you have a business plan that can be shared with staff and which explains when and how employees will go back to work, your strategies to keep everyone safe, extra hygiene and distancing implementations and what special provisions are in place for those staff classed as more vulnerable.

Vulnerable staff

You may well have staff who are classed as vulnerable or highly vulnerable and for the moment need to stay at home – whether they are working or furloughed. Employees who are shielding will no longer be able to receive Statutory Sick Pay after 1 August 2020, so you need to contact them and discuss their plans for returning to work safely. They may be very anxious, and employers should be open to listening to their concerns.

When planning their return to the workplace, you must be particularly stringent in ensuring that social distancing is adhered to and around them. Other options are to let them work from home or continue to be furloughed.

What about staff who are afraid to go back to work? 

Employees may have different reasons why they are worried about going back into the workplace and we should not underestimate the effect of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing. They may have their own health worries or be afraid for the more vulnerable members of their family. Others with mental health issues or disabilities such as autism may also find it hard to make the change in their working routine. It is important that staff have an opportunity to be listened to, and to express their concerns without fear of discrimination or job loss. As we have discussed before, encouraging willing staff to train as mental health first aiders is going to be even more important now.

If your staff are in a public-facing role, and are concerned for their safety, they do have the right to not come into work but can’t expect to get paid. However, employment law says that employees are legally allowed to walk off the job if they fear they are under threat from “serious and imminent” danger.

What if your staff do not want to return yet or ever?

According to a report by Okta among 6,000 office workers across Europe, only a quarter of UK workers wanted to go back to work full-time [ZDNet: Three quarters of workers don’t want to go back to the office full-time 20/05/2020]. Lockdown has opened their eyes to the benefits of flexible and remote working, and the way they view their working life may never be the same again.

So you need to be prepared for staff who want to work from home permanently, divide their time between home and office, or who want to switch to a part-time role.

You might go one step further and emulate Twitter, which told its staff that they don’t ever have to go back to the office if they don’t want to and can continue to work remotely!

 

It is important to note that the information and recommendations may not be appropriate for all sectors, such as the care industry for instance.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Key Points of Furlough Scheme Extension

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced details of the extension of the furlough scheme – here we round up the key points for HR professionals…

Following the original furlough announcement at the beginning of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, details have now been released for the extension of the scheme, which will run until the end of October 2020.

We are pleased to see, as we suggested recently that from July it will be possible to bring staff back to work part time, so that they are partly furloughed and partly employed. This will be vital to help companies keep things moving and to ensure that important preparation, maintenance and admin work is done.

June continues as before, but changes start from July, when furloughed employees can work part time, and then we see the scheme tapering off, with more of the burden of paying salaries returning to the employer.

Here’s our month by month guide

June

The government will continue to pay 80% of furloughed workers wages for this month. This is capped at £2,500, plus employer pension contributions and national insurance.

Your company does not have to pay out anything, although some businesses are topping up the 20% of their employees’ salaries.

This is the last month when you can furlough an employee – the cut-off date is 10 June. The scheme is closing on 30 June to new applications, but you must show that your member of staff has been furloughed for three weeks up until that date, so ensure to keep clear records.

July

The government will continue to pay 80% for wages as detailed above.

Companies will also be able to start bringing back employees on a part-time basis. In this case, the company will pay them for the hours they work (including pension and national insurance contributions), while the government will continue to pay 80% for the furloughed hours. The capped figures will apply in proportion to the hours not worked.

August

While the government still pays 80% of wages, the burden for pension and employer national insurance payments reverts back to the employer.

September

This month, the government will drop its percentage payment to 70% of salaries, with a cap of £2,190. Your company must pay the extra 10%, along with pension and national insurance contributions.

October

This month sees the scheme winding up. The government payment drops again, to 60% with a cap of £1,875. So, your business will need to make up the extra 20% plus pension and national insurance.

 

To apply for the furlough scheme for your company, visit the gov.uk website.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Returning to Work during COVID-19 – Things to Consider

As the government encourages construction and manufacturing businesses to get staff back to work unless they can work at home, we take a look at what SMEs need to consider to ensure their staff are kept safe…

The current message from the government is now for businesses to start getting back to work if they possibly can. And with a clearer idea of how long the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is to go on for, and a plan for getting people gradually back to work in place, now’s the time to look at how to manage staff back.

For now, anyone who can work from home should do so, but the government is suggesting that other employees get back to work by June where appropriate. The CIPD has said that employers should meet the requirement of a three-point checklist before bringing staff back to work. These are as follows:

  • Firstly, that it is essential for employees to be present in the workplace
  • Secondly, that it is safe for them to be there
  • And thirdly, that both employers and workers agree that they should come back into the workplace.

The workspace

The key questions to pose before your office staff return to work are:

  • Can they still work from home?
  • When they do come back to work how will that be achieved to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk and spread of infection?

You must consider how staff can safely distance from each other, not just when sat at a desk, but when walking around the office, using the toilet and drinks areas. You need to work out safe walking routes around the workspace and, if space is tight, consider splitting shifts or alternating days so that you don’t have all of the staff in at all times. Screens should only be used if you have no more space to distance employees, and meetings should be avoided. If they must take place, keep everyone distanced or take it outside if possible. Hot desking is also to be avoided. If someone has to use another desk, computers and phone, or other equipment, these should be thoroughly cleaned between users.

Changing the way you work

Perhaps this whole situation has made you realise that your staff can work from home. Maybe you don’t need an office or can utilise a smaller space. Now is a good time to consider how your business might look in the future. Start looking at the implications of people working full time from home – what do you need to do to make this happen – for instance:

  • Do you need a more robust IT provision in place?
  • What extra insurance cover will you need?
  • Have you been using Microsoft Teams or other collaborative software? Can this work in the future? If not, consider what sort of software and systems you need to make the shift in order to work more effectively and efficiently.

Getting to work

The message is that the youngest school children and those in Year 6 (age 10-11) will go back to school first. For some of your staff this will mean that they have children who cannot be left at home alone. Remember that even if your staff have slightly older children, they may have needs that mean they cannot be left at home all day either. Also, staff who need to use public transport may be unwilling to do so. In both cases, you need to have an open discussion with them about what the alternatives are:

  • Can they continue to work from home?
  • Can they work different hours to avoid going on busy transport systems, or work around a partner’s work hours to enable childcare?

Keeping safe

Government guidance says that all employers should be carrying out risk assessments on returning to work, consulting both with their workers and trade unions where applicable. If you employ more than 50 people you will be expected to publish the risk assessment on your company website.

To keep any contact to a minimum, staggered shifts and keeping staff in the same teams are good ways to minimise the number of people with whom they come into contact.

On construction sites, staggered arrival times and multiple entrances are suggested, along with screens to separate workers. Where social distancing is not possible, workers should work back to back or side by side. Swapping of tools should be avoided to lessen the risk of contamination.

In addition, in factories, plants and warehouses, employers should look at how people can work away from each other, in order to maintain the required social distancing, and to stagger the times and locations of breaks.

Working in other people’s homes

If your staff work in people’s homes, such as carers and support workers, or even nurses, they should discuss how social distancing will be achieved. However, working with people means often being close to them. They may require personal care which means that social distancing is not possible. There are other areas to consider. Recommendations can be to leave all internal doors open to minimise touching door handles; restricting the number of people working in normal busy areas such as kitchens and bathrooms; and the mantra of ‘wash hands on arrival and regularly throughout’ cannot be repeated enough. And, of course, it should go without saying that everyone – whether in the home or workplace – should try and minimise the spread of infection.

Restaurants

Keep kitchen access limited to essential staff to minimise any contact. If the kitchen is large enough, install screens to separate workers and only allow one person to enter walk-in freezers and pantries at one time.

Shops

Shops should limit customers in the premises to maintain social distance, use contactless payment where possible and reduce customer service to enable the safety for staff.

Vehicles

If your staff use the company’s vehicles, they should be provided with hand sanitiser and cleaning products. Keep staff in teams so that contact is minimised and supply screens to keep them separate if possible. Contact for deliveries should be kept to a minimum, using online payment and pre-arranging for goods to be dropped off in a safe and secure area.

 

You can read the full government guidance on working safely here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you with work from home contracts, risk assessments, staff safety, the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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What? When? Why? Where? How?

Innovation happens in times of crises

Think World Wars. Diseases. Catastophes brought on by climate change. It is no different for us today living in the COVID-19 situation. We have been in lockdown. We are now considering a return to normal life. A life that will never be as ‘normal’ as that which we left behind some months ago.

In the UK, as in other places across the globe, we have to think about what normality is for us. In particular, this blog is about some questions to consider, and my humble opinion, about getting back to normality in the workplace during and after COVID-19. But, what is normality in the workplace? For each workplace, in my opinion, it will be different. How will your workplace differ? What are your views, as the country discusses return to work?

One such innovation is that of a local pub in our area who started a drive-through bbq service. I only found out about it after the date, but I will be watching out for the next bbq! Another is the ‘big boys’ working with the ‘little boys’ – M&S a well-known British organisation, met up with Deliveroo, part of the gig economy delivery service.

What?

What are you going to do now that your workforce will be able to return to work “tomorrow” as our erstwhile Prime Minister indicated in his statement last night.

Work being your normal place of work. Your office. Your workspace.

What does your organisation look like today?

What will it look like tomorrow after COVID-19?

When?

When is this going to happen?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement last night intimated that it will be sooner rather than later. In fact, he said the word “tomorrow” that being today, Monday 11 May.

How many of us are ready for a return today?

How practical is it?

Where will your people return?

How will you transition back to work?

So many questions. So many questions.

Why?

Now that most organisations have experienced first-hand that working remotely, from home, has advantages, will this become the norm? It is not for everyone, but everyone can be trained to work remotely. They have had to do so very quickly.

Not all organisations can work remotely. Think of our carers, doctors and nurses in the NHS as well as other Key Workers. Think of the organisations that need hands-on care.

BUT, even now we have virtual appointments with our doctors; we have a helpline to the NHS where we describe our symptoms and we are provided with a solution!

It is efficient, if not more so than being in an office.

Is it time to ask – why haven’t you considered this form of working before? 

Presenteeism has been a word bandied about often in the workplace. By working remotely, work has to be outcome-based. That is important.

What have you done today that has been productive?

Why have you not been able to complete that in the time that you have available?

Does it matter where you work? Does it matter when you work?

Not really. Provided you get the job done, in the time that it is needed to be done. And you are available for your customers when they need assistance.

Do you realise that some of your workforce may not be back at work? 

Why?

  • They may have childcare responsibilities and do not want to send their children to school until the COVID-19 situation is clear.
  • They may have experienced working in a different way, and decide that it is what they want to continue to do.
  • They may be considering another option, to become self-employed, or to take up a new job.

You may decide that you don’t need the same workforce that you had pre-COVID-19. You may diversify. You may find that your product is not viable, but you have something different to offer.

Where?

Where will you meet to discuss the way forward with your employees? So often it is your employees who will have suggestions and ideas to help you along.

Video conference, training videos, webinairs have been available for many years. But, they have now come into their own. They are growing businesses. Zoom, Skype, Teams, watching theatre productions from your home, as has been shown in The Shows Must Go On based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions and The National Theatre, as well as virtual visits to museums are different ways of working.

Are these the workplaces of the future?

This is how new employment begins.

A catastrophe. A solution.

Think – Wars. Foot and Mouth Outbreaks. Disease.

How?

How will we get back to ‘normal’ work?

It’s the practical things to consider.

What is legal?

What is best business and HR practice and what the government considers is necessary.

How can these be dealt with in practical terms?

It is not simply a matter of come in and start working.

We have to consider whether work spaces need deep cleaning.

How many of us can be in the workspace at the same time.

How do we employ social distancing?

What happens when you feel ill? A headache? A cold? Coughing?

Innovations

Innovations happen in times of crises.

Whilst we have been in lockdown, we have seen many innovations and different ways of working.

  • Supermarkets using different methods for shopping. Different timings for shopping for vulnerable people or older people. ‘One way’ human traffic systems.
  • A local pub in my area, last week, offered a ‘drive through bbq’. You HAD to place your order beforehand, you were given a drive-through time to collect your burger (and they looked like very good burgers even if I don’t eat meat – there was a veggie option too).
  • The gig economy boomed. The self-employed delivery company, Deliveroo, came into it’s own. How fabulous to see the big organisations such as M&S having to link up with the smaller self-employed person.
  • I watched a programme on TV on Sunday – farmers supplying customers direct with their vegetables, rather than through a supermarket.
  • Bakers supplying customers direct with their flour, because the wholesalers do not have packaging to make up the smaller amounts required by the ordinary person.
  • Workplaces have increased sanitiser stations.

Social distancing means putting in place ways and means for employees to be able to do so on an everyday level.

Are we moving back to buying local?

We have always known that the economy of the country depends on the small business.

Now is the time to show how we support our small businesses.

 

What are your views, as the country discusses the pros and cons of returning to work, and how we do so.


You may like to read our previous articles relating to COVID-19

If you would like to discuss any employment matters further and find out how we could help you  please contact us Embrace HR Limited. Phone us or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Woman sitting on luggage flexible furlough Embrace HR
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Being Flexible About Furlough

With so many companies furloughing their staff so quickly, there is now some essential work that needs doing – some flexibility would help companies, especially SMEs, to keep afloat…

With two-thirds of British companies using the furlough scheme during the COVID-19 crisis, it is no surprise that important tasks that should have been done before everyone left the office have been missed. It all happened so quickly that, especially for SMEs, who do not have a lot of manpower, many important back-ups were not put into place.

The problem is that once an employee has been furloughed, they are not supposed to do ANY work whatsoever. However, in real life, business cannot just come to a full stop like that, and there is work still to be done. For example, out-of-office replies need to be set up on emails, calls and emails need to be redirected, websites and social media need updating, and clients need to be contacted. Loyal and conscientious staff may want to ‘volunteer’ to undertake these roles so that things don’t fall through the cracks, and in the hope that there will be a business for them to go back to when this is all over. However, under the current rules, this is not possible.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) is calling for increased flexibility within the scheme, so furloughed employees can work reduced hours for their existing employer where possible.

Flexible furlough

It is in these situations where we at Embrace HR would support a scheme that allowed for a more flexible furlough scheme – one where employees were 50 per cent furloughed and 50 per cent employed, for example. We appreciate that there would be some additional administration required for this to work, but as the situation continues we believe it would be more realistic and give smaller businesses more opportunity to help keep their companies afloat until we can all get back to work. It would also help employees to keep abreast of the business and client requirements and would enable them to ease back into the workplace. Many people have had to adjust to working remotely, and those with children have had the added responsibility of having to find time to school them. This has caused changes to working in a ‘traditional’ office, and daily commuting.

“Flexible Furlough will, in my opinion, go some way to supporting both businesses as well as employees”, said Embrace HR Director Cecily Lalloo.

Holiday allowance

Something that has been updated within the scheme is the Government’s guidance about annual leave during the furlough period. The new guidance will make it easier for employers to plan ahead. It states says that employees will still accrue their holiday allowance while on furlough. The government has relaxed the regulations and now permit 4.6 weeks’ holiday to be carried over to the next two years.

Something else that has been made clear is that staff can take holiday during the furlough period. This would mean that they would be paid 100 per cent of their usual renumeration salary. The employer can still claim 80 per cent of the holiday pay from the Government but would have to top up the other 20 per cent.

We have been lucky that the weather in the UK has been glorious since lockdown began, and many people may feel like they are on holiday anyway. But the real concern is that once people go back to work, they may still want to take their holiday time. Many staff will not have claimed any holiday during the first part of the year. If a small company has five employees, with the statutory paid holiday entitlement of 5.6 weeks (in normal circumstances), they will be expecting to take a total of 140 days’ holiday between the end of lockdown and the end of the year. This is quite a lot of time out of a small business.

For smaller companies, especially those struggling to recover, this may be difficult to manage and is going to be unsustainable, particularly if they have to pay for temporary or freelance cover when staff take holidays. It is a good idea for business owners and managers to consider how they will manage holidays, and to talk to their people.

Rolling over holiday allowance

At the end of March, the Government announced that staff who did not take all of their annual leave – because it was not practical for them to do so – because of the virus, would be allowed to carry it over into the next two years. This applies to most businesses with a few exceptions.

You may like to read our previous article on furloughing staff – good news as furlough deadline is extended.

To apply for the furlough scheme for your company, visit the gov.uk website.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Woman Wearing Face Mask Coronavirus Embrace HR
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Good News as Furlough Deadline Extended

Your newest employees may now be eligible for furlough, after the deadline was extended to 19 March 2020…

If you have new employees who were not initially eligible under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), now’s the time to take another look, as the rules have just been revised. The eligibility date for furlough has now been extended to 19 March 2020, which means tens of thousands of people who thought they had missed out will now be eligible.

The furlough scheme is designed to help companies struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. If you furlough staff, they remain employed by you but mustn’t actually work. The government will repay employers 80% of an employee’s salary (up to £2,500 a month) and it is up to the employer if they top up the pay to 100%.

However, it is not enough for a member of staff to have been employed by your company by that date. In order for your employee to be eligible you must have made a payroll notification to HMRC on or before 19 March.

If any staff were employed on 28 February, but were made redundant before 19 March, they can also qualify for the scheme if you choose to re-employ them and then put them on furlough. It is expected that a quarter of UK workers – that’s more than 9 million people – will be furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a  survey published by the British Chamber of Commerce, (BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker dated 15 April 2020) two-thirds of British companies have used the scheme, and a third of companies have 75% of their staff on furlough.

Do’s and don’ts of furloughing

Here is a quick reminder of the things to consider if you are furloughing staff:

  • You must instruct your employee in writing that they are to cease all work in order to be eligible under the scheme.
  • We asked Embrace HR’s employment law solicitor IBB about the rules for rotating furloughed employees. They told us that it is allowed ‘provided that the employees are furloughed for a minimum of three weeks at a time’.
  • Anyone working in a full time, PAYE job – even if on a zero hours contract – is eligible.
  • The grants to businesses are due to be paid out some time in April and will be backdated to 1 March.
  • If staff are self-isolating, they must receive Statutory Sick Pay. They can then be furloughed when they return to work. However, those who are shielding due to health conditions can be furloughed.
  • If you have staff who earn variable pay due to zero hours or flexible working contracts, the 80% will be calculated one of three ways: using figures from the same month in 2019, average monthly earnings for the 2019/2020 tax year, or an average of monthly salary since they started work. The highest figure will be used.

You might like to read our other blogs on the matter of Coronavirus:

Please contact us for more advice on the furlough scheme. To help businesses during the pandemic, we are pleased to be able to provide, free of charge, a template document for notifying your staff about the furlough scheme.

If you would like to request a copy of the free template or to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you comply with new laws, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.