Three out of 10 employers in England are now actively reopening their workplaces for employees who cannot work remotely, according to a survey today from employment compliance specialists XpertHR.
The survey of 275 HR professionals conducted over a period of 24 hours to the end of 20 May found that while 38.9 per cent said nothing had changed following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a return to work, 30.2 per cent were reopening for some or all staff.
The survey found that many employers were moving cautiously, indicating that they would try to get employees back in to work team-by-team to keep people safe or would allow employees to continue to work from home where they wanted to do so.
However, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland employers are holding back and waiting to reopen only once the devolved governments change their advice.
Among those organisations currently using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, 42.9 per cent hope to reduce the proportion of their workforce on furlough by bringing them back into the workplace over the next two months.
Among the measures being taken to protect employees as workplaces reopen, 81.1 per cent are adopting Covid-secure measures including enhanced hygiene procedures and social distancing, 70.2 per cent are limiting numbers of workplace visitors, 64 per cent are staggering start and finish times and breaks and 56.4 per cent are ending hotdesking or equipment sharing.
Despite these precautions, HR professionals anticipate a range of problems as they ask people to return from home-working or furlough arrangements after two months in lockdown. Among the issues raised, 72.4 per cent expect employees to be unable to return due to child/family care responsibilities, 66.5 per cent think employees will be reluctant to return to the workplace and 46.9 pe cent say there will be problems balancing annual leave requests with business needs, as many employees have built up a substantial backlog of holiday entitlement that would normally have been taken over Easter and the May bank holiday weekends.
XpertHR content director Mark Crail says: “While nothing has changed in law, the UK government is now encouraging employers in England to get employees back into the workplace where they cannot reasonably work from home. Many organisations have now actively started to do this and are putting in place all the measures they can to keep people safe – from socially distanced offices to staggered shift times.
“HR has shone throughout this crisis and continues to do so. But even as workplaces tentatively reopen, their expertise will be crucial in reassuring workers that it is safe to come to work, and helping them to deal with other problems that arise – from a shortage of childcare to a possible slump in morale as redundancies inevitably take effect.”