HR considerations for returning to work after the COVID-19 lockdown

13 August 2020

As we see the relaxing of the lockdown restrictions, the planning and implementation around health and safety concerns and the measures required within their premises has understandably been at the forefront of businesses’ concerns.  

However, there are other areas which may also require consideration, which we look at below.


Possible tension / animosity between staff

Conflict could arise between employees who have had different experiences during lockdown, for example those who have been furloughed and those who haven’t. You could also be met with resistance from employees who feel they are being recalled too soon and those who have not been recalled earlier. The challenge will be to reintegrate different groups into the workplace to ensure unity.


Recruitment and retention

As recruitment has been frozen over this period, there will be a need to review how it will be done going forward with the continuing restrictions, for example the consideration of online video links for interviews and remote inductions.

When the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme come to an end, organisations may unfortunately have to look at reducing their workforce through redundancies. Also, some employees may decide they no longer wish to return to their pre-lockdown job or previous way of working.


Flexible working

If employees have demonstrated that they have adapted well to working from home, continuing to fulfil their job requirements, employers could see an influx of requests from people asking to work flexibly. 

It could prove difficult for companies to prioritise multiple requests. More adaptable working practices may have made it easier for certain employees to manage caring responsibilities or save on the cost and stress of a daily commute. Alternatively, the increase in flexible working across the industry may come from businesses who decide that some elements of the current way of working would be beneficial to continue with.

The circumstances to consider will be individual to you and your brokerage and, ultimately, up to you decide what works best for your business and people.


Annual leave

As employees return, the challenge will be to balance the potential influx of annual leave requests at the end of the calendar year with managing business needs. You’ll need to decide on a strategy of how to accommodate employees leave entitlement, looking at whether or not you would wish to allow staff to carry their holiday entitlement over to 2021.


Mental health 

Across the industry and our network Members, a lot has been done to support employees’ wellbeing and mental health during the lockdown and this should continue as staff return to work. You will need to look at what changes may need to be made to carry on supporting your people. 

Our HR consultancy team always advise treating people with compassion, reminding them of the help and resources available to them, including any employee assistance programmes, mental health first-aiders and counselling services you may have in place.


Training needs

Some employees may not have been in your workplace for some time, this could be because they have been working remotely or on furlough. As a result, they may have reaccreditations and training needs to help them in coming back, this could include specific skills they need to carry out their role, return to work inductions,  as well as information on your health and safety, social distancing, fire drill, first aid and other office protocols.


Reputational issues

You may need to consider the impact of any decisions made over the course of the lockdown on your brand; use this as an opportunity to capitalise on any positive impressions made during the pandemic. Be aware, some employees may look for alternative employment if they feel their organisation has not handled the pandemic well.


Contingency planning

As many businesses across the UK have opened their doors once again, employers should make contingency plans for a possible second wave of Coronavirus cases and the reintroduction of restrictions. Lessons learned from the March lockdown should be used to ensure an easy transition should it become necessary in the future for businesses to temporarily close or work more remotely again.

For further information on this and other issues around Covid-19, ask your Business Development Manager for an up to date copy of the HR Consultancy Team’s FAQs.

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