The 2021 workplace: Reflecting on the Past and Looking to the Future

AULD LANG SYNE – Reflecting on the Past and Looking to The Future!

What a year we have had! And as we head towards the new year, the phrase ‘Auld Lang Syne’ springs to mind, which roughly translates as ‘for old times sake’. The song is all about preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year, quite poignant for the year we have had.

At this point, we think everyone would agree when we say that we will be glad to see the back 2020, but bear with us as in this two-minute blast we wanted to review some of the HR challenges we have faced over the last year and highlight some of the issues that we need to be aware of as we plan ahead for hopefully a brighter festive period and 2021.

A-U-L-D   L-A-N-G   S-Y-N-E

VACCINE

The COVID-19 Vaccine became a reality for us all this week with 90-year old grandmother Margaret Keenan becoming the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.

As the vaccination programme is rolled out across the UK, no doubt you and your employees will have questions regarding it’s implementation and potential enforcement. As with any changes to terms and conditions, if employers want to make the COVID vaccine a contractual requirement, changes would need to be agreed to avoid breach of contract claims – just be aware you could find it difficult to show this as a reasonable change and may struggle to introduce this for existing employees. If you have any questions about this, please contact us.

Employers should also always be assessing health & safety risks and ensuring any COVID risk assessments are kept up to date.

FURLOUGH

A new word which we added to our vocabulary in 2020. Unfortunately for some businesses, furlough remains a reality for a lot of their staff. It is worth noting that the scheme continues to be flexible and you can bring your staff in on a part-time basis and still benefit from the scheme. The deadline for the scheme coming to an end is 31 March 2021 but we may see some changes to the rules in the New Year, watch this space. As a reminder Employers can still access grants up to £2,500 per employee if you have no work or less work for them to do.

LEARNING

Learning in the workplace continues to evolve as more and more of us continue to work from home. Don’t leave learning, training and development for your workforce behind just because it can’t necessarily be delivered face-to-face. You can still provide training for your staff and Jaluch continue to deliver our training adapted for the virtual world via Zoom, Teams or on your preferred platform of choice, we are happy to adapt. We also have a range of e-learning courses available to purchase or can write bespoke courses to suit, talk to us. Training can still be interactive and fun even if you are not in the same room!

VIDEO CONFERENCING

Whether we like it or not video conferencing is here to stay. Here at Jaluch we are thinking of getting T-Shirts printed saying ‘You’re on mute’ but to be fair it happens to us all. Spending time ensuring that we can all get the best of these experiences is vital, we all know how frustrating it is when someone’s screen buffers or their camera never works or they are struggling with their broadband. Simple things (generally dealt with off line) like switching all other devices off when you are on a call can really help the experience for all and ensuring that meetings are spaced out is also important, we all need some screen down time.

WATER COOLER MOMENTS

These are the casual conversations that we are all missing and help with team building, creativity and a lot more. Don’t be afraid to encourage your staff to take time out to talk to each other and not because they need something but because it’s good to talk. This can be done via a socially distanced walk round the block or an unannounced phone call… whatever suits.

CHRISTMAS PARTIES

For employers thinking about organising Christmas parties this year, the current guidance not permitting large gatherings and keeping socially distanced means that the Christmas party might not look the same. But you don’t have to cancel Christmas!

If you’ve decided to take Christmas online, you need to avoid making your party/activities seem like one long Zoom meeting, instead think of some creative ideas for activities – baking, making, gaming etc. You could even take a leaf out of the Brownies book who organised a ‘virtual house party’ with a range of fun activities that could be done online. Not all of us relish being wrapped as a snowman in toilet paper (all to be recycled of course!) but you get the idea, or virtual bingo (with actual prizes) is something that is always good to bring out the competitive side of us all. Go on you know you love it!

MENTAL HEALTH

Not surprisingly emerging findings from the mental wellbeing and health (MHW) surveillance report show that self-reported mental health and wellbeing (including in anxiety, stress and depression) worsened during the pandemic and still remains worse than pre-pandemic levels. Interestingly young adults and women have been more likely to report worse mental health and wellbeing than older adults and men however it is important to understand that challenges with our mental health can affect anyone at any time. It is more important than ever to look after the mental wellbeing of our staff. Involve staff through corporate values and ‘walking the talk’, promote a work/life balance and strengthen links between staff regardless of location. Ensure staff know how to access any employee assistance programmes if needed and support efforts to get help.

HOME WORKING

More workers than ever are working remotely and since employers are still being encouraged by the government to allow employees to work from home if possible (which doesn’t work for all businesses or employees) this period of home working has extended far beyond the timescales we had ever imagined. It sounds great if you have a dedicated space in which to work but for some working in a cramped space is no fun. The internet provides a mountain of top tips on working from home but here’s just a few of the best….

  • Try and maintain regular hours/schedule, having clear guidelines on when to work and when to call it a day really does help maintain a work-life balance.
  • Ensuring your colleagues know when you are working and when you are not.
  • Take a break and leave the house – recent news stories have talked about people putting back in their ‘daily commute to work’, the time it would have taken them to get to work, albeit it may just now be a walk round the block or listening to the radio…. putting back that thinking time at the beginning and end of the day.

JOB RETENSION SCHEME

As detailed above the Job Retention scheme has been extended until 31 March 2021. You can claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

It is worth noting that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance was updated mid November with an important change: For claim periods starting on or after 1 December 2020, an employer cannot claim for any days on or after 1 December 2020 during which the employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period for the employer (this includes also includes people serving notice of retirement or resignation).

REDUNDANCY

Unfortunately for some organisations redundancy has become a reality as the impact of the virus on business operations takes it toll. Remember if you are contemplating making more than 20 employees redundant in a 90 day period you do have to commence collective consultation, elect staff representatives and abide by minimum consultation periods (30 and 45 days depending on the number of impacted staff). Staff Representative training continues to be our most popular course and is delivered fully on line, please get in touch if this is of interest to you.

TRAIN THE VIRTUAL TRAINER

This past year the majority of training has had to go online, and online training requires a different skill set so a lot of trainers were dreadfully unprepared for this change. But moving forward, will this online training trend continue? We recently conducted a survey and the majority of the respondents said they now prefer to learn using online training.

We have been running ‘train the virtual trainer’ courses since the beginning of the first lock down and have some truly amazing feedback from our attendees. If you want to develop you online facilitation skills for 2021 then let us know.

BREXIT

If you listen to the news or have read our immigration rules Blast, it will not have gone unnoticed that the UK will finally exit the transitional period from the European union on the 31st December 2021. If E.U. citizens are not living in the UK on that date they will no longer have the right to live and work in the UK.

If you haven’t already discussed this with your European staff they will have until 30th June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. If their application is approved they’ll get either settled or pre-settled status. If they fail to do so they will become unlawfully resident in the UK after that date. It is important as Employers you do everything to support your workforce if this applies to them and to ensure you and they do not fall foul of the changing immigration regulations. If you need any support or help please get in touch.

How we can help….

Jaluch is open for business between Christmas and New Year, we’re always here to help with any staffing headaches or, in the worst case scenario, any dismissals or tribunal cases. If you’re feeling positive and want to crack through some paperwork, why not enlist our support to get any employment policies or contracts currently buried in your inbox and in need of review, ticked off your to-do list before we hit January 1st? Get in touch.

to top button