The return to work: managing the fallout from furlough

By Alastair Currie, Partner at Bevan Brittan

Owing to the pandemic, an estimated 7.5 million UK jobs were put on furlough between 20 April and 10 May 2020. With that figure coming close to almost a quarter of the British population, the Government has already started to lift the restrictions first put in place.

Organisations need to be particularly sensitive when reintroducing furloughed members of staff back into the workplace. Alongside the apprehension of managing individual’s health and safety, there may also be some resentment from employees about the initial decision.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced phase two and the roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday 10 May, giving specific advice on how organisations could navigate through this transition. But what steps should businesses be taking to ensure their employees remain safe and are given all of the necessary support when returning to work?


Physical and mental health risks

To address any health and safety concerns, employers must stringently carry out risk assessments to ensure the Government measures are abided by. Transparency is key, so businesses need to communicate with other organisations  to share best practice and knowledge on the outcomes of workplace assessments. Assessments must highlight the correct social distancing procedures and implement measures such as staggering work spaces, to ensure that the 2-metre guidelines are being followed throughout the workplace.

Mental health is also at risk and could have a long-lasting effect on staff. Managers must be wary of any equality issues that may arise and ensure the needs of different groups of workers are met. Mental health, anxiety and stress levels will be on the rise, so it’s important that employers understand this and are fully supportive.


How technology can help solve the problem

The coronavirus has led to the pausing of many employee relations cases, resulting in a backlog of unresolved processes, such as grievances, disciplinary allegations, or bullying and harassment. Managers will be faced with the challenge of supporting staff as they return to work, as well as resolving ongoing cases. The danger is that more cases could arise, adding to the workload and consuming managers’ valuable time.

With an inevitable back log of employee relations cases, employers will need to make the most of the technology solutions available to alleviate the burden, speed up processes and prevent a rise in unresolved cases.

Using a case management solution such as Selenity ER Tracker can help organisations to track, record and manage employee relations cases, providing a transparent view of the entire workforce. These types of technologies not only help employee relations teams to streamline processes but it also provides them with a wealth of data to help pinpoint key trends and identify issues much quicker.


A positive return to the workplace

Throughout COVID-19 organisations have had to adapt and become more agile by relying on different technologies to enable workers to continue operating remotely. Employers must understand the physical and mental health challenges that staff will be facing in the return to work, offering help and support will be essential in ensuring a positive return to the workplace for all.

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