Coronavirus Crisis Options for EmployersNatalie Lewis
Do you know your coronavirus options as an employer?
At the time of writing this, we are just completing our first working week in lockdown. I’m frazzled! I’ve been fielding calls on a minute by minute basis – mostly from companies wanting to furlough their staff.
Furlough – a new word that we have encountered and a new set of guidelines which have been rather lacking in detail and clarity. Us HR consultants feel like we’re wading through treacle with goal posts moving from day to day.
We’re now starting to gain more understanding. I have been working with various companies in different stages of action.
So at the end of this week, where do you stand? What are your options for your business and staff?
Keep calm and carry on from home
Many businesses will be able to keep going through this crisis, albeit on tighter purse strings and perhaps on fewer staff.
- Implement the crisis plans you’ve put in place and communicate to all employees
- Keep marketing (you might have to adapt your message, products and services)
- Remember to check in on staff and be mindful that they may be struggling to work in isolation
- Let staff schedule in their daily exercise into the working day
- Get on with it!
Keep on from your premises
Some businesses don’t have the luxury of keeping going with staff at home. If you’re one of those businesses, there are things that you can do to keep going. Consider only using a skeleton staff – the fewer people travelling to work and on your premises, the better.
- Go through your staff role by role decide who is a key worker and who you can side line for now (more info on this later)
- Pick staff with seniority and multiple skills – make sure you can justify your choices and consider using a skills matrix to help you make this assessment
- Determine how to keep them safe in the workplace e.g. 2 metres apart, additional PPE etc.
- Ensure you’re cleaning the premises on a daily basis, focusing on hard surfaces in particular.
In previous times like this, lay-offs and redundancies would have been the natural option and this option is still there and may be relevant in a few months’ time, however, a better option may be to furlough staff (more below).
This has been introduced under the government’s crisis initiative and sits under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. If you choose to furlough an employee, they will remain on your payroll and continue to accrue holiday, length of service etc. but they cannot carry out any work for you. You will be able to claim a grant (you won’t pay need to pay it back) of up to 80% of your employees’ wages for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This amount will be based on whatever you paid them in February 2020’s payroll.
Rather than putting an employee on lay-off, this is a win-win situation to preserve people’s jobs. This is available for the next 3 months unless the government choose to extend it.
Be aware that at the time of writing this, the portal where you will register furloughed employees has not been set up yet and is unlikely to be up and running before the end of April. You may have to sub your furloughed employees’ wages until early-mid May. If you cannot do that, you will need to get written agreement from your employees.
It is important that you get a written and signed agreement for any employee you furlough – this is a legal and temporary change to their contract of employment therefore it is essential that you get it right to avoid future claims.
You should be using furlough in the first instance but at some point you may need to make redundancies when furlough runs out and if you have no work for your employees to do. This is again, another legal process and you may need to pay out Statutory Redundancy Pay. You must get professional advice to make redundancies to avoid claims for unfair dismissal.
Plan, adapt, do, grow
Now, this is a pretty bad time for many businesses but through adversity, some businesses thrive. It is more important now than ever that businesses work on their resilience. I have two clients who are currently going through my Foundations process in order to ensure maximum resilience and increase their potential for growth. These are the areas that you should be working on.
- Adapt your products and services to take advantage of the current situation
- Develop a strong, positive workplace culture
- Know and communicate your vision and company values
- Set up systems and processes
- Have ‘how to’ manuals for each role (if people get sick or you need to down size, capturing important knowledge and having the ability to pick up a job and run with it is even more important)
- Give regular feedback to your staff (especially now that we’re all working remotely)
- Focus on your marketing, never stop marketing!!
- Map your customer journey and make sure it’s easy for people to buy from you
- Focus on training your staff and encouraging cross-skilling
- Review your spending; utilities, rent, rates, software costs etc.
- Provide your managers with leadership training
- Ensure you have up-to-date, professionally written HR documents in place
The workplace and working practices will change following this crisis. For years I’ve been saying that society is changing and what people want from their work is changing. This crisis will highlight this more than ever.
Employees want interesting work that makes a difference and aligns with their personal sense of purpose/values.
They want leaders who care about them as an individual and they want the opportunity to learn and grow.
The youngest of our working generation want experiences and they want to be inspired.
With people spending more time at home with family, more time outdoors and exercising, I believe the 4 day working week is just around the corner. Working fewer hours, being more productive through technology, working from home – all of these will become the norm in many businesses. This is just one big test of new ways and workplace cultures. Managers will learn to trust their employees and employees will respond positively.
I wonder if we’ll even get some sort of Universal Wage?
One thing I can guarantee is that if your business is not resilient, you are going to struggle over the coming months and years. Investing in your business now, using one of the grants or loans could be incredibly savvy move….
How about having a chat about your coronavirus options as an employer? Or if you are interested in my support to grow and increase your business resilience during these unprecedented times, get in touch.