6 HR considerations when returning to premises
Health and Safety
Having carried out the COVID risk assessment, share it and discuss it with staff. Consider it in consultation with staff at individual level, perhaps using a survey, to understand individual circumstances, thoughts and queries about returning to the workplace and what that means for them. Consider mental health as part of the risk assessment process and what support measures can be put in place. Ensure the risk assessment process is not treated as a static document but work in progress that is continually reviewed. Document and record decision making. Issue clear guidance/protocols to staff on what has been agreed as a result of the risk assessment to ensure everyone is clear on the expected behaviours and new policies/procedures. Ensure you do what you say you will, the risk assessment is not a tick box exercise. HSE Risk Assessment template
With a return to work in mind, consider the use of annual leave. Legislation was brought in to allow annual leave not taken because of coronavirus (up to four weeks) to be carried into the next two holiday years. Think about the use of annual leave in your organisation and agree the organisational approach. Be mindful that is preferable that annual leave is used in the leave year but agree approach and communicate clearly with staff. See NICVA’s article here
These may differ/continue to differ from the norm. For example the risk assessment may recommend staggered start and finish times for those returning to the workplace. Remember to discuss and agree changes to working patterns with employees and keep a clear record, confirming if the change is temporary or permanent. Home working, furlough/flexible furlough and a more flexible approach to work may be undertaken for some time to come. Take time to review whether or not your employment documentation reflects the current practice in your organisation?
The impact of the spread of coronavirus on the operations of many organisations will be challenging to navigate and it is important to make sure that HR policies and procedures are in place and fit for purpose such as your Flexible Working Policy and Redundancy Policy. In some cases the work of the organisation may have reduced and that may have an impact on the workforce. The Labour Relations Agency have useful information on their website about dealing with redundancy and a key aspect is for careful consideration of all available options to avoid redundancy where possible and these may include continuing to avail of the furlough scheme, reducing working hours for all or some, implementing recruitment freezes, offering secondments/sabbaticals or seeking volunteers for redundancy.
With the workplace now configured differently with perhaps some staff in the workplace, some on furlough leave and some working from home or doing a mix of all, it means that organisations need to try to maintain the organisational culture and engagement of staff. Key to that is developing innovative communication strategies that are inclusive for all. Keeping the vision and values of the organisation at the heart of the work being carried out will be a priority.
Non discriminatory decision making and practice
With organisations now making decisions about staff and work on an almost daily basis, it is worth taking the time to ensure that no decisions being taken are inadvertently discriminatory against any groups of employees. An inclusive approach will help to foster a positive approach to fair and reasonable decision making.
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