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Life After COVID-19 – ‘THE BIG RESET’
The last of Covid restrictions have been removed by the government in England and organisations are now working out how best to move forward as we all start to ‘Live with Covid’.
Two years ago none of us could possibly have imagined that we along with the rest of the world would be taking part in a huge social experiment. Can work, work, if it’s not face to face? We had no time to prepare before we were mostly plunged into remote working. Organisations that had invested in technology to support home and remote working, did better. But everyone caught up and life was very different.
We saw more of our family and spent less time commuting. But we also experienced social isolation and many developed mental health issues as a result which has not gone away.
THE NEWEST SITUATION
The requirement to test and self isolate if positive for Covid has now ended. This will have a huge impact for two reasons.
- Greater availability of staff. We had a shortage of front line workers especially like NHS workers and teachers and this will make more workers available.
- Increased concern from anyone clinically vulnerable, living with someone that is, or who has just suffered due to lack of social contact and can’t bounce back so quickly.
New guidance expected from the government will instead advise people who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. If they test in the first place. It is expected that the new guidance will lapse on 1 April 2022 when free testing will be scaled back.
- From 24 February 2022 – Mandatory self-isolation for all positive COVID-19 cases (irrespective of vaccination status) has ended along with the guidance for fully vaccinated close contacts to take lateral flow tests for 7 days.
- The requirement for workers to tell their employers if they are required to self-isolate has ended, together with the duty on employers not to allow a self-isolating worker to attend a workplace outside of their home.
- From 24 March 2022 – Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will no longer be payable from day 1 if individuals are unable to work because they are unwell or self-isolating due to COVID-19. The pre-pandemic SSP rules will apply which is eligibility from Day 4.
- From 1 April 2022 – The Government will provide new public health guidance and is removing the requirement for employers to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their health and safety risk assessments. The Government continues to advise employers to identify poorly ventilated spaces and take steps to improve fresh air flow. From 1 April, the Government will also no longer provide free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing to the public and employers may consider providing these if relevant.
It would be a missed opportunity to fail to reflect on what the last 2 years have taught us. We already knew that employees valued flexibility and that we as individuals wanted a better work life balance. But to rush back to the old normal would be foolish without taking some time to look to the future and decide what is going to give us the most competitive advantage.
Employers more than ever need to provide a working environment that is safe and so need to take care that the needs of all their workers, clinically vulnerable or not, vaccinated or not, physically or mentally ill, are taken care of. You may wish to introduce an ‘Infection control’ policy or update your existing Sickness Absence and Sick Pay policy. Be clear about when you will pay people and how much.
If your standard contract says you only pay SSP but your usual custom and practice is to pay in full, take care that you take a view on this and are clear with your workforce about what they can and can’t do. Ambiguity creates misunderstanding and disputes that are always something to avoid.
The ‘Great Resignation’ is something that all employers are aware of. With the opportunity to work in roles and access them remotely, many have moved on. Some sectors are facing serious skills shortages. Employees are in high demand at the moment and employers need to talk to their workforce and understand what is important to them if they wish to retain and attract good people.
Without any doubt, working remotely some of the time will be in their Top 3. But so will things like career fulfilment, flexible and individual terms, and the culture of the organisation. Is it a good place to work? Are the salary and benefits fair? What could be changed to make the employee experience even better? Often all the answers are already in your organisation. Like any Change Management project it is important to remember the 3 C’s:
Consult – listen to your workforce
Communicate – what you are considering and what your process is
Clarity – about what you have decided and what your employees and workers need to do
Take this opportunity to engineer a ‘Big Reset’ in your organisation to enable you to move forward by attracting and retaining happy workers and gaining competitive advantage.
Author: Ruth Cornish, Co-Founder and Director of HRi