Five steps to prepare for life after lockdown

Peninsula Team

June 12 2020

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Recent COVID-19 Government guidance for businesses advises that those who cannot work from home go into work. That is, of course, assuming your business is open.

If your business has reopened, you may be thinking about bringing staff back to work. In doing so, it’s vital that the return to work is done as safely as possible. And to help you do that swiftly, we’ve outlined five steps for you to follow….

Step 1: Plan for a safe return to the workplace

Prior to bringing staff back to the workplace, it’s important to make sure your business is ‘COVID-19 secure’. That could mean having to make changes to your operations, including: 

  • Deep cleaning of your workplace.
  • Implementing two-meter distancing for employees.
  • Limiting visitors and contractors to your workplaces.
  • Using contactless payment methods, such as contactless card terminals.

Remember, it’s crucial to carefully plan how you’ll reduce the risk to your employees and protect their safety. 

Step 2: Decide which staff to bring back

Once you have a plan in place to make your workplace COVID-19 secure, you can start to think about who comes back to work and when.

For example, staff who are shielding or who class as vulnerable may need to continue working from home for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, staff who can work from home effectively should continue to do so.

There will also be those who prefer to work from home ─ even if they need to come into the workplace to do their jobs. This is a different matter, which we’ll touch on shortly.

Once you’ve decided who to bring back, send the chosen employees letters to recall them. Then, conduct a ‘return to work conversation’ to address any concerns they may have and make sure they’re fit to work.

Inform your staff of the steps you’ve taken to make your workplace COVID-19 secure. This will help to ease any worries and demonstrate that you’re following Government guidelines.

Finally, write rules for how you’ll handle work-from-home or flexible working requests from people that don’t want to come back in. And prepare yourself for difficult conversations with staff…

Step 3: Consider extending staff furlough

The Chancellor has announced an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until October 2020. However, from July 1st, you’ll be allowed to bring back employees that had previously been furloughed while still being able to claim the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for their normal hours not worked.

Regarding the extension, the good news is that you have time to reshape your HR policies and staff contracts to achieve more flexibility in your workforce when lockdown lifts.

Step 4: Amend employment contracts as needed

Like many business owners, you may find that your business takes time to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. That may lead you to review your workforce in an attempt to reduce costs. However, there are ways to save and keep your employees.

These include reducing working hours, asking staff to job share, or even putting people on unpaid lay-off. Remember, the ability to do these depends on the terms and conditions in your employees’ contracts.

If you don’t have the right T&Cs, then you’ll need to tailor your employees’ contracts. In doing so, you should always seek the consent of your employees first.

Step 5: Prepare for tough choices

Even if you’ve taken every step you can to retain your staff, it’s still wise to plan for the worst should it happen, including the need to make redundancies.   

Remember, there are different routes you can take to reduce the size of your workforce. For instance, you don’t technically have to go through a redundancy process with staff who have been with your business for less than two years.

While that may seem like an easy way out, it’s not an approach we recommend.

Firstly, it doesn’t account for your employees’ skill sets or the value they bring to your business. And secondly, it puts you at risk of a discrimination claim.

So, while a formal redundancy process takes longer, it’s important to help protect you against tribunal claims.

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