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Now nearing two months into lockdown and having recently conducted many of our Spring HR Workshops, it has been fascinating to hear the challenges faced by employers in different sectors.

Whilst much of March was spent solving the logistical issues of remote working and communications, April was more focused (for many) in terms of furloughing a proportion of their workforce. There is no doubt the current situation has increased pressure on already-stretched HR departments, at a particularly busy time anyway due to pay and bonus reviews.

The longer the current situation goes on and company finances are stretched – provisional results of our UK Reward Management Survey show that over 55% of employers expect revenue/income to reduce in the next 6 months – the more drastic measures are having to be applied. You only have to look at the aviation industry to demonstrate the unprecedented economic challenges at the moment.  Indeed, furloughing is a good example. Some employers have told us they started April by paying 100% of furloughed employees’ salaries, but then reduced this to 80% (i.e. topping up if above the £2,500 monthly cap), or even stopped topping up any gap in pay all together. Hours or salary reductions are also becoming more common and many July pay awards are either being postponed by 3 to 6 months or not going ahead at all.

Whilst conversations have been dominated by what HR has achieved in the past two months, I was interested to hear that the focus is very much turning to planning for a return from isolation.  Whilst Construction and House Building companies were at the forefront of this, many office-based companies are also now looking at how people may return to work safely. For example, staggered working hours or days, office capacity planning, or whether there is a need for people to have face-to-face meetings at all, when they have Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Team Meetings. In Construction in particular, where there are considerable project management challenges for major civil engineering projects anyway, they have detailed procedures and software to enable them to plan their resources effectively.

It is not only a logistical, environmental and operational focus for employers; many are looking ahead 6 to 12 months to plan for the downturn at an overall business level, hence the warning about redundancies in some sectors. Most commentators recommend organisations have 4 to 5 different scenarios in mind when planning for the future. For example, a partial recovery by the end of this calendar year, a recovery by the end of 2021, or further in the future.

HR have also been discussing employee morale and wellbeing. The longer the current situation goes on, the greater the pressures on employees. Indeed, Care providers have told us that their people are very much focused on doing the best job they can at the moment. However, they expect the mental impact of Covid-19 to emerge in the coming months, perhaps later in the year when hopefully the worst is behind us. With over 90% of people in a recent construction news survey saying they felt the current situation had had a negative impact on their mental health, HR will need to address this in the future. Indeed, whatever happens in the future, HR is likely to remain front and centre of planning and communications for the remainder of the year.

I hope you have found this helpful.

Take care and best wishes,

Tim


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