HR Generalist Forum: Preparation for Returning to Work | 15th & 19th May

In response to the Covid-19 Health and Developing Economic Crisis FWB Park Brown (FWB PB) is working closely with the Scottish HR Leadership Group to provide constructive support which also includes discussion forums and Q & As.

On Friday 15th and Tuesday 19th May, Alix Meekison hosted two HR Generalist forums, bringing together HR professionals across a broad range of industry sectors. The forum aims to enable connectivity and knowledge sharing across the HR discipline, as businesses navigate through a number of people related challenges throughout this period. Organisations are increasingly focusing on the return to work and the challenges and opportunities this presents for employers in the coming weeks. Discussion points included:

Many organisations are looking at the return to work from two perspectives. Firstly, what are we doing now to ensure the safety of those returning to work and secondly, what does the office of the future look like. The majority of organisations rapidly and successfully transitioned to home working and it is hoped that this will mean an increase in flexible working practices for employees in the future. Whilst there is much focus on the short term, there are long-term strategic pieces of work happening in the background to ensure learnings from this lockdown period are captured and utilised.

In the short term, businesses are focusing on establishing what percentage of the workforce can feasibly return to the physical workplace. For the majority of organisations participating in these forums, office capacity is somewhere around 35-45%. Looking at various selection criteria for bringing people back into the office has been high on the agenda and methods discussed included:

  • Establishing which office-based employees cannot physically work from home – e.g. inability to access certain software or technology required to do their job.
  • Taking into account personal circumstances of employees – e.g. they have a vulnerable household member, childcare issues
  • Mileage distance
  • Setting up rotational teams – one week in the office / one week working from home

Employers have also started the process of having one to one conversations with furloughed staff to ascertain the appetite to come back to work. Where furloughed employees are returning to work, many organisations have mandated a week of annual leave to be used the week prior to their return.

There is a concern that there may be some future tension between employees who have continued to work and furloughed staff (particularly within organisations who have topped up salaries to 100%), due to perceptions around this being a period of extended leave for those on furlough. Whilst this does not seem to be causing too many issues right now, it is anticipated that this could pose a challenge when the workforce starts to return to work. Some mechanisms to alleviate this potential issue were discussed, including rotating individuals on/off the furlough scheme, as well as ensuring furloughed staff are taking annual leave during the furlough period.

Some businesses are providing guidance to employees who utilise public transport to commute to work, advising that they continue to work from home in the meantime. It was anticipated that the UK rail system will struggle to get employees to work via this method in the short term. It was advised that there will be social distancing in place across all stations including queuing and crowd flow mechanisms in all major stations and dedicated standing points on all platforms.

Many organisations initially approached the situation with a ‘temporary’ outlook on lockdown. This has now evolved, with most considering home-based working for the majority of the remainder of 2020. As such, more organisations are starting to put in place home working risk assessments for employees as well as producing guides on safe home working environments.

From a legal perspective, the landscape is evolving considerably. Law firms are dealing with many queries and concerns from clients around the return to work phase. Largely these have been around how to manage employee anxiety and concerns around coming back to work and dealing with questions employees have around childcare issues (in particular, challenges around the continuation of school closures). It was also highlighted that there has been an increase in employers looking at making structural changes, redundancies and changes to employee contracts. Participants were also reminded that ACAS have now stipulated that employers have a duty to consult with staff before they return to work.

For a downloadable copy of the above article please click here.

The Scottish HR Leadership Group

Primarily the Scottish HR Leadership Group will focus on the advancement of the profession in Scotland plus have a development and mentoring framework.  Our aim is to ensure an interesting, diverse and experienced group of senior practitioners across all sectors who can develop talent and as business leaders contribute and influence the broader societal agenda.

The purpose of this forum is to allow Senior HR Leaders to share their own experiences and gain further insight, thoughts and ideas and to allow more connectivity within the HR community given the evolving global Covid-19 pandemic.

Summaries of the discussions will be posted on our news section and also on LinkedIn.

For further information about any of these forums please contact us via:
Alix Meekison
Director, FWB Park Brown & Secretary, The Scottish HR Leadership Group
secretary@scottishhrlg.com
t. +44 (0)131 539 7087