With increased calls for the government to let businesses and the public know when the rules on lockdown might be loosened, Kent-based law firm Brachers, is advising its clients that it is never too soon to start planning for the reopening of the economy.
Current government coronavirus guidance has seen businesses either close, operate with a reduced workforce, or have the majority of their staff working from home or furloughed.
Brachers’ Employment Law team is urging business owners to consider a number of key issues, including:
- How to facilitate a return to work
- Creation of a safe working environment
- How to implement changes to the workforce
Antonio Fletcher, Partner at Brachers, said: “It is vital that everybody continues to comply with the on-going guidance in order to protect our communities and NHS.
“Business can’t be switched back on overnight and owners and management teams are now starting to plan ahead for when the government says we can return to work after the pandemic.”
Risk assessments, staff furloughing, and remote working arrangements have been among the key topics around virtual boardroom tables in recent weeks, with businesses keen to obtain as much information as possible to support their preparations. This has included embracing webinars on the HR implications of covid-19, as proved by a fully-booked Kent Invicta Live webinar involving Catherine Daw, Head of the Employment Team and partner at Brachers.
Many employees will be looking forward to getting back to more normal working practices, seeing colleagues and returning to a full wage packet. However, an equal number of workers may be reluctant to do so or will face pressures and challenges from other areas.
Antonio Fletcher added: “While schools remain closed it is important that employers are mindful of the challenges faced by those with additional childcare responsibilities, who may find it difficult to work full-time or at set hours.
“Other workers may be continuing to care for elderly or vulnerable family members. Clearly, there is a need for employers to brush up on their knowledge of parental and dependant leave, and to ensure their policies are fit for purpose.”
Employers will continue to have an ongoing obligation to provide employees with a safe working environment and preserve their health and safety at work. This applies equally to when staff return after the pandemic, as it has done in putting in place homeworking arrangements including providing workers with instructions on how to set up workstations, or access to wellbeing resources and helplines.
Antonio Fletcher, added: “Time needs to be spent undertaking risk assessments around working conditions, which may require putting in place guidance for employees returning to their normal place of work on issues such as social distancing, maintaining a clean working environment and what to do if staff show any symptoms of coronavirus.”
The impact of the length of the lockdown on businesses – and the future demand for their services and products – may require organisations to make more challenging decisions over the coming months.
Catherine Daw, Partner, added: “Businesses may need to recruit and train new staff or, on the flip side, to only reintroduce parts of the workforce or even make redundancies.
“Careful planning and the allocation of resources will need to be made and must be taken in accordance with both government guidance and the business’ legal powers and obligations.”
Brachers is urging employers to remain up-to-date with employment law and the ever-evolving entitlements the government is providing to those who are unwell, shielding or self-isolating as a consequence of the virus.
Catherine Daw added: “Ultimately businesses need to be prepared for when the lockdown is relaxed.
“This will ensure employers know which employees they should be asking to return to work; their rights and entitlements for both parties, and to ensure the workplace remains safe and that any changes to the workforce are implemented legally.”
For further information on how the employment law team at Brachers can support your business visit: www.brachers.co.uk