Useful Related Articles from CIPD & People Management publication

CIPD Website 19/3/2020

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development comments:

“The Government’s decision to close schools will have a massive impact on working parents. Those that are able to work from home should continue to do so as far as they can. However, this is an exceptional circumstance. Employers must accept that there will be disruption and that working parents will struggle to be a productive as normal."

“Employers need to make allowances for this and take a flexible approach, especially for people with younger children who will inevitably need more care. With many schools looking at remote teaching, parents will have to juggle their work with helping their children to access school activities. There may be limited space and limited equipment to manage both parents and children working from home each day. There will be disruption."

“Employees should speak to their line managers and HR teams to understand how they can best balance family and work commitments, especially as this stands to be for a prolonged period of time.”

 

Trade body calls for government-funded temporary staff redundancies

16 Mar 2020 By Siobhan Palmer

UK Hospitality has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak, urging him to introduce measures to make it easier for employers to make staff temporarily redundant by funding this through universal credit.

The industry sits at “the heart of the storm” created by coronavirus, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said. Nicholls said in her letter that the sector was at a “critical stage” as reducing social interactions has resulted in people avoiding settings such as pubs and restaurants, while travel bans have seen hotels negatively affected.

She urged the chancellor to take a range of actions to support the sector, including permitting temporary staff redundancies “where demand falls substantially, with universal credit covering wage costs”.

Temporary redundancies, also known as layoffs, are currently allowed under employment law. However, unless an employer has a layoff clause in their contract, they are required to pay full wages during this period – making such measures inaccessible to many employers. If a worker is laid off for more than six weeks over a 13-week period, a temporary layoff can be considered a full redundancy and eligible employees could claim statutory redundancy pay.

Where a business is forced to make temporary layoffs, can’t afford to pay staff their wages in full and has a clause in contracts allowing them to pay reduced rates, Herbert suggested they could support employees by offering them evidence to show they were not in receipt of full pay and so could not necessarily afford bills at this time. “That gives the employee something concrete to say ‘look, this is not just me saying I can’t pay, this is a company saying we are where we are at the moment, but it will pass once everyone goes back to work’,” he said.

Separately, a CIPD survey has found that a quarter (23 per cent) of workers who were entitled to statutory sick pay or no sick pay at all would face financial hardship as a result within a week of being absent from work, and a third (33 per cent) would face difficulties within two weeks.

The CIPD called on the government to extend SSP entitlement to all workers during the coronavirus epidemic, and to increase sick pay to a similar level to the national living wage rate of £294 per week. SSP is currently £94.25 per week.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, told People Management that this extra obligation to support struggling workers would have to be funded by the government. “You certainly wouldn't want employers to have to take up a further financial burden... the government would need to step in to make up the difference of any uplift to SSP,” he said.

Willmott emphasised that such exceptional circumstances required the government to support employers. He said financial backing from the government would be important to “help [employers] and to minimise the need for them to make redundancies and to protect people's jobs”.

 

IR35 Reforms postponed in wake of Coronavirus

18 Mar 2020 By Francis Churchill

The rollout of changes to private sector off-payroll rules has been delayed as part of the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, said the changes to IR35 due to come into force at the start of next month would be pushed back a year and would now begin on 6 April 2021. “This is a deferral in response to the ongoing threat of Covid-19 to help businesses and individuals,” he said.

Barclay added that this was “not a cancellation and the government remains committed to reintroducing this policy to ensure people working like employees but through their own limited company pay broadly the same tax as those employed directly”.

 

Five tips on running a remote working drill

16 Mar 2020 By Maggie Baska

As the threat from coronavirus increases, employers around the world have been running remote working tests. For example, Coca-Cola Company asked all employees at its worldwide headquarters in Atlanta to work remotely last Tuesday (10 March), while Vodafone NZ last week (12 March) announced it was pleased overall with the results of a massive work from home drill, which saw 1,200 of 2000 staff work remotely. In the UK, MediaCom, the nation’s largest media agency, announced it would be trialling all employees working from home on Friday 13 March.

So as the UK potentially moves closer to a lockdown, all employers have been urged to stress-test their capacity to eventually oblige staff to work from home. People Management offers some top tips on running such a drill:

Run home-working tests as soon as possible
The situation is moving very rapidly and businesses need to move quickly in terms of testing and checking the resilience of their remote working systems, says Jonathan Hemus, managing director of Insignia Crisis Management. “In this situation, the clock is ticking before even more significant restrictions are put in place,” he warns. “It is critical organisations act now and do that testing and planning, because you don’t want to find out that what you thought would probably work doesn’t actually work in practice.”

Choose teams at random
Alastair Woods, partner in PwC's people and organisation practice, says as a minimum employers should ask teams or individuals to work from home at random to find out where there might be challenges and take steps to address them. “For most of my clients, they have asked individuals where working from home is possible to be put in a team at random and then that [team] spends the next week at home,” Woods explains. This way, employers can test their workforce’s capacity to work remotely in stages.

“For others, there will be certain teams where the nature of their work makes home working slightly easier, and companies may send those teams home entirely,” says Woods.

Make sure drills test IT system capability
Ranjit Dhindsa, partner and head of employment at Fieldfisher, says many of her clients were conducting audits to see what technology staff needed to operate completely digitally. Part of this means shutting down offices to run drills to see if IT systems or other internal servers can handle remote working. IT departments also need to test their capacity to ensure they are set up to handle the extra technical support their workforces would likely need, she says.

Drills should also focus on testing whether those working remotely would have sufficient phone signal and wifi to be productive if eventually forced to work from home for long periods, she adds: “The challenges will be individuals working in areas of poor reception, or where wifi slows because of the volumes.”

Ensure staff have the right equipment ahead of running the drill
A good rule of thumb just generally at the moment is to ask staff to take equipment home each night that would allow them to work from home the next day if suddenly required to do so, says Dhindsa. This would also ensure employees’ readiness to test their capacity to work remotely if notified that morning that a drill was taking place.

For staff with laptops, this process should be relatively straightforward, and has been happening for “a few weeks now and has been normalised”, says Dhindsa. For those who don’t, employers should consider now whether they need to send ‘home office kits’ to employees containing headsets, screens and other pieces of equipment, says Woods.

Employers must also test equipment that will allow staff to maintain more personal contact with each other when working from home longer term, says Hemus. “In an ideal world, everybody should have access to video conferencing, and the camera should be turned on because we all know emails are very cold,” he says, adding: “I would encourage employers to make sure that face-to-face contact, albeit virtual, is part of what they put in place because it makes a huge difference.”

Remind staff of data protection and GDPR-related policies
Most employers will already have data protection and flexible working policies in place, but Dhindsa says it is critical employers communicate the importance of such practices. “There are multiple policies that need to dovetail together and that a good employer should already have an avenue to put in place now, which will guide how you work at home,” Dhindsa says. These include policies about confidentiality, keeping work property safe, having IT facilities at home and health and safety.

Dhindsa stresses it isn’t about creating new rules but reminding staff of existing policies, which could be communicated through existing channels: “It’s about using staff newsletters or emails to stress that staff shouldn’t be transferring stuff to their personal devices without permission, storing and encrypting sensitive data and being careful who you share it with.”