Back to Business – Part Three

Facing the possibility of reducing your workforce

Sadly, some companies are going to have to reduce their workforce. There could be several reasons for this – most commonly, it will be because of the straightforward impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown period on business trading.

For some businesses, however, reducing the workforce may be a strategic decision: the lockdown period may have uncovered areas of the business that are over-staffed or unproductive, or the implementation of remote working may have highlighted that fewer people will be needed to carry out the same tasks. Whilst no business – and no business owner – wants to make people redundant, it’s likely to be a very real consequence of the inability to trade properly since March.

That’s why we’re holding a special Chatinar to discuss the processes, procedures and frequently asked questions about how to reduce your workforce legally and with dignity for those who are impacted.

Held from 10.00 – 11.30am on Monday June 1st, the Chatinar is an informal opportunity for employers and HR managers to learn more about how to approach the redundancy process from both a legislative and internal communications point of view. Topics will include:

• The legal framework
• The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and how it may impact your decision making
• Timelines for redundancy
• Practicalities – including guidelines on communication
• Your questions answered

However, we know that some businesses are looking for 1-1 support right now, helping them to make key decisions and put practical elements in place.

We have complete packs to help employers and HR managers, including timelines, sample letters And FAQs, and we can tailor these to any industry and sector, giving you all the information you need to take the next steps. And we also help with outplacement – helping those employees who are facing redundancy to prepare CVs, get some interview training and give them advice about securing a new position.

If redundancy is on your list of potential scenarios either now or in the future, depending on the ongoing effect of COVID-19 on your business, contact us today. It could be that there are ways you can avoid making people redundant, and we can talk through all the issues with you to make sure you are comfortable with your decisions in the long term.

Back to Business – Part Two

Conducting a risk assessment before re-opening your business

Whatever encouragement you’re getting from the UK Government to get back to work, you shouldn’t re-open until you’ve conducted a full risk-assessment. In fact, the expectation is that all employers with 50 or more employees should publish their COVID-19 risk assessments, and it’s something that you can expect employees to ask to see before they return.

In addition to ensuring that all your standard risk assessment and Health and Safety processes are still in place and that the workplace is safe in general, you need to conduct a COVID-19 specific risk assessment to make sure that your people are going to be confident about their personal safety.

Government guidance

The government has recently published a set of guidance on its website, to help businesses of all types get ready for a safe return to work. The guidance covers eight separate types of working environment:

• Construction and other outdoor work
• Factories, plants and warehouses
• Labs and research facilities
• Offices and contact centres
• Other people’s homes
• Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
• Shops and branches
• Vehicles

Guidance includes things like assessing social distancing risks and requirements. So employers should be thinking about how staff arrive and leave, how they move around buildings, how to keep workspaces and workstations safe, how to manage in-person meetings, how to adjust to new rules for common areas such as kitchens or break-out spaces, and how to process accidents or security issues.

It also suggests that employers should think about the need for PPE, and when it should be used, how to clean workspaces so that they are as hygienic as possible and how to manage potential visitors to the building.

Protecting vulnerable workers

It’s also crucial that employers consider who should return to work – not just when and how. Workplaces are all likely to have employees who are self-isolating, who are shielding because they are vulnerable, who currently have COVID-19, and who are just nervous about having more contact with others. This may involve individual conversations rather than a blanket policy, and employers should be clear about this before they encourage a return to work.

Employers also need to start thinking about how they are communicating return to work to employees, and demonstrating that they have undertaken a full and comprehensive risk assessment, and the results of that assessment in terms of new ways of working. Employers may also want to consider putting up posters or notices that explain and remind of new measures, demonstrating that they have assessed current risks.

Finally, risk assessment in this situation is likely to be on-going, as more people return to work, or the situation changes, so be prepared to conduct regular reviews for the time-being.

Give employers a break – they’re not all bad

I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments in recent days about how unscrupulous employers are going to be taking advantage of employees, forcing them to go to work in unsafe conditions and putting profits before health.

There’s no doubt that some employers might take advantage of the easing of the lockdown, but most employers are putting huge efforts into making sure that they can go back to business safely. From deep-cleaning their premises to buying PPE; encouraging working from home where possible and taking caring responsibilities into consideration, they are doing everything they can to ensure that people feel safe if they can, or have to return.

Here are just some of the things that we’re helping our clients plan for:

  • Managing childcare – the suggestion that we return to work has come ahead of re-opening schools. That means that many parents still have childcare responsibilities and there are no safe alternatives, because we are discouraged from visiting other households. If childcare prevents people from returning to work immediately, employers need to make suitable arrangements, such as continued working from home, if possible.
  • Encouraging flexible working – most employers know that working practices are not going to immediately return to pre-COVID levels. Social distancing measures mean that office and working set-ups are going to be different for some time. This means that there will be some flexible working required – either retaining some people as home workers, or splitting staff into teams so that fewer people are in the office at any one time.
  • Listening to employees’ concerns – employers are aware that there’s a difference between someone just not wanting to return and being seen as being obstinate, versus someone who just wants reassurance and time before they come back to work – and that they will have to be able to manage both situations.
  • Helping vulnerable staff – many employers will have staff members who are considered as vulnerable, either because of their age or because of pre-existing conditions. These staff are likely to either be shielding for a longer period, or may be extremely anxious about coming back to work. Again, employers need to talk to each person who is considered vulnerable to work out a way of working or managing the employment until that person feels it is safe to return.
  • Understanding COVID-19 recovery – staff members who have had the virus could still be in a period of recovery. They could not be well enough to return to work, and may struggle when they do, particularly if they are involved in physical work. Employers need to think about how to manage sick leave and a phased return.
  • Reconsider productivity – employers should be thinking about reviewing their existing processes and ways of working to see if they can maintain or even improve productivity with new ways of working. Businesses who see this period as an opportunity to change things for the better can streamline their business, benefit from more engaged employees and boost both their internal productivity and their customer service to put themselves in the best position to succeed.
  • Think about recruitment – this period may have a knock-on effect on staffing and recruitment. Some staff members may choose to retire early; some may have used this period to reflect on their positions and decide they want to re-train, change careers or spend more time with their family. So employers may be facing the need to recruit new people or move existing staff members around to ensure that all functions are covered. Maybe this is a good time to take a temperature check survey, to see how your staff are feeling now, compared to when the lockdown first started, and what their concerns are for the future.

Employers all over the UK are working hard to keep their businesses running, keep their staff safe and healthy and do their best for the local and national economies where they operate. We’re here to support employers as they plan how to return to work and how to manage the many and varied staff issues that are involved. Just email us at

Back to business – Part One

We’re going to be issuing a series of articles to support businesses as they start to plan a return to work.

Whether you have furloughed your employees and closed your business during this period, or have been operating remotely, with all your people working from home, you’ll need to put careful thought and consideration into ways of returning that protect your people and help to keep your business running.

These short guides are for guidance only – if you’d like us to support you with individual practical help and advice, please contact us on

How could you do things differently?

If there’s one thing that most business owners agree on, it’s that things will not return to pre-COVID ‘normal’ for a long time.

So that means thinking more widely about ways you can keep your business running as changes to our ability to move around and work together are phased in. Our top things to consider include:

• What has worked well during lockdown? Could some of those practices become more permanent for your workforce?

• Have you had to diversify your business to stay afloat and will your new services continue? How will you train and communicate this to your staff so that business processes are seamless?

• Does all your work have to be done during standard opening hours? Perhaps there’s an opportunity now for some of the less customer-facing work to be done in evenings and weekends, giving you access to a wider pool of talent.

• Have you revised your opinion of remote working? Could that lead to more flexible workforce planning, meaning fewer people need to be in your offices at any one time?

• Has this experience actually proven that you’re overstaffed – how can you leverage talent and productivity without reducing service?

• Are there options to reduce hours, encourage sabbaticals or unpaid leave in order to reduce your workforce and payroll bill?

• What re-training might you need to do to ensure that your workforce is more multi-skilled, bringing more flexibility to your business?

• How will you social distance back in the work place? It is possible with the space you have?

• How will you interact with clients – from meetings to networking; lunches to corporate entertainment – will you have to re-think this?

• How will you communicate with and re-orient your workforce when we start to get back to work?

These are just some of the considerations in your new business planning. You are probably already some way down the line with many of these – particularly the practical ones – but it will pay to take all these things into account so that you are as prepared as you can be for the next stage in your business’s life.