HR and legal experts needed for Daily Mail

ended 11. February 2022

A journalist at the Daily Mail is seeking views from HR experts and business owners in a follow-up piece to this story. Essentially, what will firms do when Boris scraps the rules? He would like answers to the following Qs ASAP if possible.

  • What will/should businesses do for vulnerable people going back to work?
  • How are bosses/HR team approaching the changes?
  • What are the (potential) legal issues companies are facing?
  • Will they force all staff back to the office, or adopt a hybrid approach?

Please respond ASAP. No need for an essay. Short and punchy comments best!

6 responses from the Newspage community

Star Quote
"It would be corporate suicide to force workers back into the office unnecessarily, as you can almost guarantee that a rival business will be only too happy to offer a flexible working solution given the difficulty across the jobs market in recruiting top talent. Now more than ever it's a case of taking each employee’s situation on its own merits and finding a solution that works for all. For some, working in the office is a must for their own wellbeing but for a lot of office-based workers, the hybrid approach could well be here to stay."
“Businesses need to ensure that any vulnerable staff going back to work have the support they need by getting occupational health advice. I have been using an occupational health nurse to support my clients and she has been invaluable. It’s imperative to evaluate what you need to do as a business and make your own mind up about what is safe based on feedback from your staff. Talk to your team and find out their views on what they are comfortable with alongside the needs of the business and make decisions based on that - getting all-important buy-in will make any changes easier. Long COVID is very real and can be classed as a protected characteristic so employers need to ensure they are doing the right thing or may find that they end up in tribunals in certain scenarios. Employers need to tread very carefully.”
“Many of our clients are adopting a hybrid approach and plan to retain this. With rising wage inflation, hybrid working can help employees both financially and non-financially. It reduces the cost of travel to work and provides increased flexibility. In a tight labour market, candidates applying for roles expect hybrid working as a given. As with any change, it’s all about engaging employees with the ‘plan’. The approach will vary based on the business context. Listen to your employees, some will have genuine concerns and employers should seek to get to the bottom of these before taking action. “Yes there will always be legal issues, but most cases fail or succeed on the reasonableness of both the employer’s and employee’s actions, and their justification for why they took the approach they chose. We always advise clients to make contemporaneous notes of key decisions.”
"This whole issue of returning to work requires a mindset shift, especially among employers. We are not in the same place as two years ago. In fact, the world of work has changed beyond recognition. Fortunately most people are now vaccinated and consequently the symptoms of Covid are like any other mild illness. Vulnerable people, of course, are susceptible to all illnesses, whether flu, chest infections or pneumonia, and companies have managed these sickness issues well over the years. Covid should be dealt with the same way moving forward and precautions regarding individual staff members taken on a case by case basis. It's important logic prevails and companies do not try and revert to pre-pandemic mode. That whole world is now long gone. We need to ensure that the people who genuinely need support get it but the issue for companies now is making sure they know who genuinely needs the support and those that are just looking for a meal ticket."
"Once again, Boris is letting down UK businesses by unreasonably delegating responsibility for working practices that should be a national policy rather than variable by business. Many firms simply don't have the HR and legal resources to make informed decisions about the implications of setting their own health policies. Lots of companies want their staff to return to the office full-time but lack the resources to put in place infrastructure to do this in a safe way for vulnerable workers, so a two tier system is emerging with "healthy" people able to work on-site, with many others left isolated, and unable to go out let alone go to work."
"After the past two years, anyone who forces employees back to the office, Covid or no Covid, will only hurt their business and add fuel to the Great Resignation fire. Just because Boris says we can all go return to the office doesn’t mean turn the lights on and get everyone back in. Common sense and communication are key to getting this right. Our advice to clients is to view this as you would any other form of illness. If you would ordinarily force an employee to come in if they had another illness then go ahead, see where that gets you. It won't end well."