A whole new world….

A whole new world….

March 2021

Katherine Watkins, our HR Consultant, outlines some considerations for firms when we come out of lockdown.

The media has been quick to say that people are missing the social aspects of being in the office and some are almost desperate to return to that little piece of normality. Others we know, are enjoying the change and almost dread the thought of standing on a cold train platform, laden down with work bags, a coffee in hand and negotiating a space on the crowded train.

However we recognise that the pandemic  has had a massive impact on everyone, and its more than just getting people back in the office that will ensure we are on the road to recovery.

We advise clients to remember that some staff will be feeling anxious about lockdown easing and coming in to contact with so many people outside their household/social circles again. Do we fist-bump or elbow-bump “hello”? Do we shake hands? How close do we stand to colleagues? Is it safe to stand in the lift together? All the things we took for granted before the pandemic.

The guidance we am giving to our clients, is consistent on this: Do you trust your staff to work from home in the long-term? Is it essential they are office-based and why? Some will give an upbeat valiant response to both questions, while others are a bit more hesitant to reply. We remind clients that trust is critical; the past year has offered plenty of opportunity to manage performance of staff working remotely.

Now is a good time to start looking at your workplace policies. Take a slow and measured approach to how you get people back in to attend work. Communication and consultation is the key here. We don’t mean just look at your ‘flexible working policy’ (which more commonly is used for staff who want to alter their hours/work patterns) but look at what “remote working policy” you can put in place to accommodate staff not being office based. We have written “The 3:2 office” policy for clients. The policy gives staff and leaders greater parameters of remote working with appropriate clauses and guidelines on how to make it effective for both parties.

If you worry as a leader that by having a new remote working policy will mean you are inundated with requests, then this is understandable.  An employer must remember that employees are eligible to make formal flexible working requests. How you handle the response is key and it must be dealt with in a ‘reasonable’ way.

If the employee is able to prove that the quality of their work performance has not been negatively impacted by working from home during the pandemic, then it would seem harsh not to permit it.

And what about the considerations around Covid-19 vaccinations?

Much has been circulated on social media and trade press regarding employer and employees’ rights with regard to having a Covid-19 jab before coming back to the office. Some of our clients have had staff speak to them and share their worries about working with colleagues who have not yet had the vaccine (for various reasons including not being on the JCVI list). How an employer handles these concerns is very important.

The ICO has given some incredibly useful guidance on this that we direct clients towards.  Employers need to be clear about what they are trying to achieve and how recording staff vaccination status will help or hinder them. Whether your employee has been vaccinated is their private health information (GDPR should be ringing bells). As an employer, how you use this data must cover these three areas: fairness, necessity, and relevance.

If you would like support to create a remote working policy to accommodate pandemic issues, please get in touch  with Katherine and her team. Email kwatkins@ihrsolutions.co.uk , call her direct on 07566 766954 or call the helpline on 01604 709509.

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